The New York Times published an editorial Thursday, “Democrats Deny Political Reality at Their Own Peril,” attempting to diagnose the current political environment in the wake of this week’s elections, in which Republicans narrowly won the Virginia gubernatorial election while Democrats narrowly retained the statehouse in New Jersey. According to the editorial, the party misjudged the nature of its mandate from the 2020 election, after they had (purportedly) not run on a progressive agenda.
However, none of this matches up with what the Times said during the 2020 election about President Joe Biden’s agenda and the direction of the Democratic Party as a whole. On top of that, the Times’ critique of the Democrats posits that only they should be held accountable for the political state of the country.
The editorial rejects the suggestion from many Democrats that they can recover their momentum by working out disagreements and passing a final version of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
“They believe this will give their candidates concrete achievements to run on next year and help re-energize their base,” the Times summarizes. “But Tuesday’s results are a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better, which have some strong provisions and some discretionary ones driving up the price tag.”
The editorial also claims that the 2020 election was “less about policy or ideology” for voters, and more about removing Trump from office. Biden did not campaign on a “progressive revolution,” the paper now says, but instead “promised an exhausted nation a return to sanity, decency and competence.”
But in the Times’ editorial last year endorsing Biden in the general election, the board praised his campaign’s “bold agenda aimed at tackling some of America’s most pressing problems,” including a $2 trillion environmental plan. It further lauded the Build Back Better agenda by name — and encouraged progressives to push Biden for more:
Mr. Biden will not be morphing into an ideological maximalist any time soon, but he has acknowledged that the current trifecta of crises — a lethal pandemic, an economic meltdown and racial unrest — calls for an expanded governing vision. His campaign has been reaching out to a wide range of thinkers, including former rivals, to help craft more dynamic solutions. In midsummer, he rolled out an economic recovery plan, dubbed “Build Back Better,” with proposals to bolster American manufacturing, spur innovation, build a “clean-energy economy,” advance racial equity and support caregivers and educators. His plan for fighting the coronavirus includes the creation of a public health jobs corps. Progressives who want even more from him should not be afraid to push. Experience is not the same as stagnation.
And perhaps most incoherently, this new editorial criticizes a “national Democratic Party that talks up progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas, and that dwells on Donald Trump at the expense of forward-looking ideas,” claiming that such a party is “at risk of becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left.”
This was despite the fact that earlier in the same piece, it referred to Democrats as “the only party right now that shows an interest in governing and preserving democratic norms” — which really ought to have set up a contrast with the political dangers emanating from the Republican Party, rather than putting the onus on Democrats to achieve a now-unattainable standard of bipartisan cooperation.
Indeed, for over a year the New York Times editorial board has written that today’s Republican Party “does not come close to serving” the legitimate functions of a center-right party in a democratic country, and that Republican lawmakers “see themselves less as public servants committed to the common good than as party functionaries serving tribal interests.” Furthermore, editorial board member Michelle Cottle and conservative columnist David Brooks have written about how the Republican Party exists now only as a cult of personality centered around Donald Trump.
In short, the Times knows fully well that “bipartisan ideas” are an impossibility in today’s “political reality” — thanks to Republicans’ intransigence and commitment to an ongoing assault against pluralism and liberal democracy — but the paper will keep on blaming the Democrats for failing to achieve a platonic ideal that does not exist in “political reality.”