A funny thing is happening in U.S. politics right now. President Biden and Democratic leaders are working closely with the left on a variety of fronts, and while complications, challenges and future divisions loom, it’s all unfolding more smoothly than you might have expected.

And the political sky isn’t crashing down on Democrats’ heads. In fact, Americans appear to be concluding that things are getting better.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The GOP’s 2020 campaign narrative — made especially poisonous by a certain former president — was that Democratic rule would run the country into the ground precisely because Democrats would prove wholly captive to their crazy socialist left flank.

Now Biden and Democratic leaders actually are working with the party’s left to a surprising and salutary degree. And that surely helps explain some of their early successes — and those successes’ popularity.

Democratic leaders on March 14 expressed hope for a bipartisan infrastructure package after the American Rescue Plan was signed into law. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Politico has a remarkable new report on a meeting between White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and progressive House members. In it, the progressives pressed Klain on numerous fronts, and the conversation appeared constructive.

For instance, progressives suggested Biden’s next big initiative — infrastructure — should include not just transportation projects but also ones on climate change and health care. The sticking point is that if Biden wants GOP support, he’ll have to confine it to transportation, and progressives don’t want the quest for bipartisanship to water down the outcome.

So Klain said one possibility would be to pursue separate bills — passing roads-and-bridges projects with GOP support and others with just Democrats by simple Senate majority through reconciliation.

That prompted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) to tell Politico that she thinks the White House shares the progressive “commitment to addressing climate.”

Klain and progressives also discussed a package raising taxes on corporations and incomes over $400,000, as Biden is reportedly mulling. Jayapal called this a “very good discussion.”

On immigration, Klain said they’re working hard to improve humanitarian conditions at the border for child migrants, a sticking point on the left. Jayapal said the White House understands they have to “more quickly work” to “speed that up.”

The overwhelming takeaway here is that Biden and the White House are working hard to keep things running smoothly with the party’s left. Meanwhile, Biden and Democratic leaders have largely adopted the progressive reading of the folly of chasing bipartisanship for its own sake.

In short, they are talking to the left, while largely accepting that the GOP is essentially cutting itself out of the conversation about how to address the country’s major challenges.

Take the $1.9 trillion rescue package. While some outcomes disappointed the left — the loss of the minimum wage hike — the ultimate result was the most far-reaching piece of progressive legislation in a half century.

Its scale and ambition, secured precisely because Democrats refused to chase GOP support, unified the party. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called it “the most significant legislation for working people that has passed in decades.”

Indeed, Sanders himself played a key role making it both ambitious and unifying. As Jeet Heer notes, this shows how the left can influence the party via a combination of advocacy and inside-game playing. But it also shows that Biden and Democratic leaders see the benefits of this for policy outcomes — and for the party.

It’s hard to overstate how dramatically different all this is from the 2020 Trumpist/GOP narrative. The story was that a mentally deteriorating Biden would quickly become captive to the radical socialist left, and that this would drive the stupendous Trump economy (soaring after he vanquished covid) into a “depression.”

The GOP tactic of lumping together mainstream Democrats and liberals with terrifying radical elements (such as depicting civil rights liberals as tools of communism) has a long history. But Trumpism added his own special poison to the brew.

Think back to the Georgia Senate runoffs. Republicans argued that the radical left threatened to take over the Senate through the (moderate and unassuming) figures of Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock. GOP ads depicted violent, unchecked antifa mobs and non-White socialist lawmakers plotting to convert the country into a hellscape of socialist devastation.

Now go watch Ossoff on MSNBC, talking soberly about the benefits the rescue package will deliver to Georgia residents, and how this passed without any GOP support in Congress but with extraordinarily broad support among voters, including many Republican ones. Meanwhile, competent governance has vaccinations on track and may soon defeat covid-19.

A Democratic center-left alliance largely did that. And the country broadly approves, even as GOP lawmakers sat it out entirely.

All this has important implications for what’s next. Republicans are reduced to admitting we’re likely to see an economic boom while arguing it has nothing to do with Biden or Democrats.

But as Michael Grunwald points out, Trump’s prediction of a Biden depression will make that harder to pull off. That has left Republicans hoping all this spending produces inflation or that they can fearmonger about the deficits that they themselves pumped up with tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

To be clear, a lot can still go wrong. Republicans are betting Biden’s efforts to solve our border problems humanely will create long-term chaos, allowing them to claim Trump had it right all along. Getting the border right is an extremely difficult task and will make for very tough politics.

Meanwhile, more Democratic divisions loom — over how to revisit the minimum-wage hike and over whether to end the filibuster to protect voting rights.

But as of now, the entire Trumpified tale we heard throughout 2020 looks to be collapsing. And ironically enough, it’s that center-left alliance that is on track to burying it.

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