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So Far So Good

President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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January 28, 2021 11:38 a.m.

For a decade Democrats have been living within an evolving debate, obsession, recriminations and general chair-kicking about the lessons of the Obama years. They can be put simply: Democrats engaging in good faith negotiations with Republicans, operating within existing legislative norms, and getting played every time. Everyone in politics is capable of concocting self-serving narratives. But this one is largely true. From 2009 to 2015, when Republicans finally took control of the Senate, the model was clear: bargain Dems down (usually with some bipartisan ‘gang’), run out the clock and then don’t actually support the whittled down compromise after all that. An added bonus for Republicans: running down the clock was usually enough for the public mood to turn sour. So when they bailed out there was no cost. When it came time to act the public had often turned against action. It all came to a head in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died and Mitch McConnell simply refused to entertain any nominations at all. Impossible. Unthinkable. And it happened and that was that. The price McConnell paid was a stolen Supreme Court seat.

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