I keep hearing that Joe Biden has to govern from the “center.” He has no choice, they say, because he has razor-thin majorities in Congress and the Republican Party has moved to the right.
Rubbish. First, there is no “center” between the reality-based world and the conspiracy-fueled, hate-filled world of today’s Republican Party. Second, the problems the country is facing cannot be solved with milquetoast, centrist solutions—they demand immediate, bold action.
I’ve been in or around politics for 50 years. I’ve served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I’ve dealt with.
Today’s Republican Party is a cult.
93 percent of House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump for inciting an insurrection, and Senate Republicans refuse to convict him. This is after Trump’s insurrection threatened even their own lives.
But hardly any have condemned the vile conspiracy theories spouted by Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has claimed that the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were “false flags” and that the deadly California wildfires were sparked by a Jewish space laser, among other wild lies.
All of this marks the culmination of the GOP’s growing lunacy over the last four years. With Trump at its head, the Republican Party has embraced blatant white supremacy, and now inhabits a counterfactual wonderland of lies and conspiracies.
Even by mid-January, polls show three out of four Republicans don’t think Biden won legitimately. 45 percent support the storming of the Capitol; 57 percent say Trump should be the Republican candidate in 2024.
And a growing fringe—including some Republicans in Congress—openly talk of redressing grievances through violence.
With this Republican Party, Biden cannot be a “centrist.”
Instead, he must deliver bold change for the American people, refusing to compromise with violent Trumpism. Barring Trump from ever holding public office again. Expelling Trump’s co-conspirators from Congress.
Don’t listen to people claiming this would be a “distraction” from Biden’s agenda. There is no healing without accountability. If we let those who incited this insurrection off the hook, we’re inviting it to happen again. And next time they might succeed.
It should all be part of Biden’s agenda. Biden must fight for democracy and against authoritarianism—including strengthening voting rights, getting big money out of politics, and taking on the Republican Party’s anti-democratic agenda of gerrymandering and voter suppression.
There is no longer a “center” in American politics. No middle ground between lies and facts. No halfway point between civil discourse and violence. No midrange between democracy and fascism.
We either have a future based on lies, violence, and authoritarianism—or on unyielding truth, unshakeable civility, and democracy. Biden and the Democrats must fight for the latter. And we must make them.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.