I am truly baffled as to why Democrats continue to search for bipartisan support that has not only been illusory but nonexistent — with the exception of a predictable few and only on a few issues with them.
Democrats: Republicans don’t want you to win. It’s that simple. They want no successes on your watch, and they certainly don’t want to participate in said victories.
And yet the reports keep pouring in of Democrats bending over backward and gutting their bills in a desperate effort to win Republican support.
It seems to me that this has all been a performance, a going through the motions, a checking of the boxes so that Democrats could say that they tried, that they extended a hand but were rebuffed. Democrats always seem to want to win the moral advantage, to say that they played the game with honor.
But that is meaningless when Republicans no longer care about that form of morality, when they no longer want to play the game by the established rules at all. Democrats are playing an honor game; Republicans are playing an endgame.
Republicans are in win-at-all-costs mode. They don’t really care how they sound today or will be judged by history. The only thing that matters is winning and retaining power, defending the narrative of America that white people created and protecting the power and wealth they accrued because of it.
As The Washington Post reported Sunday, “the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin,” has stalled because of “sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship, and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.”
Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., offered some changes and reductions to the voter rights bill called the For the People Act, changes that he could support and that he hoped would win some Republican support. His compromised stance was quickly rebuffed by Republicans. Manchin had also offered alterations to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which seeks to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act.
But, as Talking Points Memo wrote, Manchin’s changes would basically gut the bill. As TPM put it, “One of those proposed changes would decrease the attorney general’s ability to deem a voting practice discriminatory without a judicial finding.”
Politico reported on Friday that the White House will lean more on the bully pulpit as its voting rights bills grind to a halt. This includes engaging the public more, partnering with corporations and leaning on the Justice Department to challenge some state laws.
Politico is also reporting that Democrats are preemptively scaling back gun control legislation — preemptively taking the compromise position — to avoid a Republican roadblock that will most likely still remain. According to Politico, “Democrats are preparing to vote on a scaled-down guns bill — most likely a curtailed plan to boost background checks for firearm buyers. The goal is to unite the party and pick up a limited number of Republican votes, even as their effort appears headed towards the same doomed fate as previous proposals to curb gun violence.”
Rather than continuing to peddle a false optimism that bipartisanship on most major legislation is truly possible with this Republican Party, Democrats need to tell their voters some uncomfortable truths.
First, the obvious: Even though Democrats have control of the House and Senate, not everyone in this caucus is fully committed to a liberal policy agenda. That means that the moderates, like Manchin, are the de facto leaders of the Democratic majority. Nothing passes without their approval.
It is these very same moderates who stand in the way of eliminating the filibuster.
And it is precisely for those reasons that very little is likely to get passed through this Senate that liberals will find satisfying. Democrats must brace for massive disappointment.
Furthermore, we are barreling toward midterm elections in which Republicans are optimistic about winning back the House and possibly the Senate.
I say dispense with the phony, wish-driven narrative Democrats are selling. Go down screaming and fighting. Much of the Democratic agenda may be stalled, but never stop reminding voters why it is: not because Democrats haven’t compromised enough, but because they could never compromise enough.
The current status quo is an unwinnable negotiation because it isn’t a negotiation. This is a war. And in it, all is fair. Republicans have embraced a liar and racist in Donald Trump because their voters embraced him. They have excused and multiplied, in fantastical ways, the insurrection at the Capitol. They are rushing to write voter restrictions that also give them more say over how results are verified.
In the face of all this, Democrats need to stop talking about reaching across the aisle, compromise and common ground.
They need to go on the record and speak plainly: The Republican Party has given up on the idea of a true and full democracy. They are attempting to tear it down and erect in its place a system that reduces voter rolls and skews the will of the American people.
For the Republican Party, the success of democracy — that growing numbers of people could participate — is its failure.
Charles M. Blow is a columnist for The New York Times.