Democrats should act like they believe their own rhetoric on Republican extremism

By | June 8, 2021

Alex Pareene writes:

The average consumer of political news can be forgiven for not being entirely sure how much to panic about the state of our democracy. On the one hand, one can read in the mainstream press that “more than 100 scholars of democracy have signed a new public statement” warning that “the future of our democracy itself” is in jeopardy. The president, a kindly old moderate who touted his ability to work across the aisle, even echoed this line, calling on Congress to fight back against the Republican “assault on democracy.”

One can then read, from the same outlets, a White House statement saying that “the President hosted Senator Capito for a constructive and frank conversation in the Oval Office about how we can drive economic growth and benefit America’s middle class through investing in our infrastructure.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito is a Republican from West Virginia. The subject of her conversation with the president was the White House’s current legislative priority, an infrastructure bill, the size and contours of which the administration is currently negotiating with the Republican minority that it also casts as an existential threat to representative democracy. Capito and Biden had another call on Friday and agreed to “connect again” on Monday. These negotiations have not only delayed action on an infrastructure package, they have sidelined every other piece of the ambitious agenda Joe Biden and congressional Democrats ran on last year. But even if the negotiations are doomed, they serve an important political function, according to insiders: “White House advisers like Steve Ricchetti have told Democrats that a concerted bipartisan attempt would benefit Democrats politically.”

Does this “concerted bipartisan attempt” perhaps contradict the president’s call to resist the Republican assault on democracy? Our hypothetical consumer of political news—upon hearing both that Republicans are hell-bent on curtailing democracy and that it is politically important to be seen negotiating with them in good faith—might conclude that Democrats don’t actually believe the first claim, no matter how emphatically they state it. [Continue reading…]

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