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Joe in Fantasyland

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Soon to be a major motion picture of bygone comity:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been trying to run as a more pragmatic Democrat relative to his 2020 opponents, but his latest comments suggesting post-Trump Republicans will have an “epiphany” and become more willing to work with Democrats on policy come straight from Fantasyland.

“The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke,” Biden told reporters while campaigning in New Hampshire. “You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”


The idea that the nation will somehow return to the glory days of bipartisan action after Trump is out of office ignores the tremendous changes that have happened not only within the Republican Party, but in American politics more generally.

As far as Trump, while up through sometime in 2016, it may have been reasonable to dismiss him as some sort of aberration, at this point, the GOP is the party of Trump. He’s now at 90% approval among Republicans, and many of his most acerbic critics from 2016 no longer identify as Republican or have been completely marginalized. Sure, whoever succeeds Trump is inevitably going to be different in personality alone, but the populist current that he marshaled is still going to be an influential force within Republican politics, as it existed before him. In the 2012 Republican primary, you had the boomlets of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum — all of whom represented different populist arguments: against the elites, the media, Washington politicians, and/or recognition of white working class economic anxieties. Even Mitt Romney, who was the establishment choice and ultimate nominee, fed into populist attitudes on tradeand immigration in his march to victory. Trump was able to harness many of these strands in his own unique way, but the forces that led to him existed before and will not disappear once he exits the scene. At a minimum, the post-Trump GOP is likely to be closer to Trump than it is to, say, Max Boot or David Brooks or John Kasich. . .

Recent political history has shown that there is nothing but upside for an opposition party to resist everything a president is trying to do. In 2008, when Barack Obama won a sweeping victory, and gained huge majorities in both chambers of Congress, a lot of people were arguing that Republicans needed to moderate and work with the popular incoming president. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, clinging to a small minority, did everything in his power to block as much of Obama’s legislative agenda as he could, and in 2010, Republicans were rewarded with control of the House, which allowed them to block Obama from passing any major legislation. They also managed to extract spending cuts from Obama by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.


“I believe that If we’re successful in this election, when we’re successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that,” Obama, like Biden today, mused during his 2012 reelection campaign. “My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn’t make much sense because I’m not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again.”


Instead, after he was reelected, aside from a brief flirtation with an immigration compromise that failed, Republicans went back into opposition mode, with a push to defund Obamacare that ended up with a government shutdown. Were they punished for this? No, the following year, Republicans took over the Senate, which allowed them to block Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Were they punished for that? No, Trump was elected and has been able to appoint two Supreme Court justices.

Who do you suppose wrote this? Matt Yglesias? Jon Chait? Jamelle Bouie?

Nope, arch-conservative executive editor of the Washington Examiner Philip Klein.

I realize that there’s a theory that Biden’s bipartisan burbling about how, if we just get rid of Donald Trump, Nelson Rockefeller or George Romney will suddenly become major forces in the Republican party again is nothing but a clever schtick. Even if that’s true, which I doubt, it’s not going to work, because nobody is going to go for it.

Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea — sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.


“O, I never said such a thing!”
“O, but you did!”
“O, but I didn’t!”
“Didn’t she say that?”
“Yes. I heard her.”
“0, there’s a . . . fib!”


Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:


“No, thank you.”


The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.


I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.


Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.James Joyce, “Araby”

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