Last week, provoked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying she wanted to avoid impeachment because voters can just punish Donald Trump by voting him out in 2020, I complained bitterly that Democratic Party leaders will seemingly never learn that “waiting for everyone to come to their senses” is an inadequate strategy for dealing with the ideological and procedural extremism of the modern Republican Party. For years, Democratic decision-makers have avoided formal or rhetorical confrontation in an effort to build consensus around the reasonable middle ground, and for the last decade-plus Republicans have responded by driving over them with 18-wheel trucks and throwing them in toilets. In the past week—the period of time since that post was published—the Trump administration has stopped cooperating with congressional investigations and launched its own redundant and seemingly retaliatory investigation into the purportedly improper origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. This has been done with the complicity and even encouragement of congressional Republicans. Trump also maintains a high approval rating among GOP voters. This does not look like the profile of a party on the verge of coming to its senses and working toward bipartisan centrism.
Unless you’re Joe Biden!
For comparison, here is what Biden said in 2012 about the same subject to MSNBC:
Biden seemed optimistic that both parties would work together if Obama is re-elected, arguing the “fever will have broken” and lawmakers could focus more on passing legislation than politics.
“There are still some solid Republican conservatives who understand what principled compromise means and are not wrapped up in ideological purity,” said Biden, insisting he knew a dozen Republican senators and up to three dozen House members that want to work with the Democrats.
After the election is over, Biden said members will say “’Hey man I no longer have an obligation to stick with the right of the party’… I really believe you’ll see movement. Real movement.”
He was correct! There was real movement in the party … toward nominating the leader of the birther movement for president and then looking the other way while a foreign intelligence service conducted a hacking and propaganda campaign against his Democratic opponent.
Incidentally, if you search for the phrases “Republicans” and “come to their senses” in the Nexis news database, you get some good results, from Pelosi hoping Republicans would come to their senses about a budget standoff in 2011, to Obama hoping Republicans would come to their senses about obstructing the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011, to Obama hoping Republicans would come to their senses about a budget standoff in 2013, to an Obama White House spokesman hoping Republicans would come to their senses about immigration in 2014, to Democratic pundits predicting that voters would come to their senses and not elect a candidate like Trump in 2016, to Obama’s CIA director hoping House Republicans would come to their senses about abetting Trump in 2018.
Said Biden on Tuesday: “I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. … You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.” As the 2012 quote indicates, Biden has been dealing with Republican intransigence and derangement since before Trump was a major figure in the party, which one would think would indicate to him that the current president is not the sole cause of its extremism. But when bringing everyone in the country together through the sheer force of your personality is the singular theme of your campaign, I suppose you can’t let a decade or so of history get in the way.
Support our journalism
Help us continue covering the news and issues important to you—and get ad-free podcasts and bonus segments, members-only content, and other great benefits.Join Slate Plus