As more details emerge about the election, it seems increasingly clear that Joe Biden and his milquetoast strategy were the only way the Democrats could have beaten Trump. Thomas Edsall has a long piece today about all the suburban districts where there was a ten point or more swing toward Biden but Republicans still won all the down-ballot races. The country is no more progressive now than it was in 2016, and not at all on board with open borders, defunding the police, or socialism. In California, Biden won big while all the progressive ballot initiatives lost.
When you consider how close the race was, it seems to me the key to Democratic victory was fielding a candidate many conservative voters felt comfortable voting for. It seems to me that of all the candidates who have emerged since Obama retired, Biden was the best placed to captured those anti-Trump but not in any way radical voters. The democrats needed a safe, non-threatening anti-Trump, and Biden proved to be the man.
Against a more conventional Republican, like Mitt Romney, a candidate like Bernie Sanders might have captured some white working class votes, balancing out weakness with moderate suburbanites. But I think Trump had that angry white vote sewed up, so that strategy would not work against him. And other than Sanders himself, who is there among Democrats who could make that pitch? It seems to me that all the younger progressives are more strongly associated with gay rights and anti-racism than with socialism, and I don't see them capturing many Trump voters.
Moving forward I do not see any national momentum toward progressive politics. I expect that Republicans will hold the Senate and take back the House in 2022. We're stuck with muddled, mainstream politics because that is where the country is.