In the culture wars roiling America, President Biden has been a conscientious objector. He prefers to focus on lunch-pail issues such as rebuilding infrastructure and expanding the social safety net. The problem is that, despite his success in moving major legislation through Congress, his approval rating continues to sink — and with it, Democrats’ chances of holding either house in next year’s midterms.

The calculation that the White House seems to have made is that if the pandemic, supply chains and inflation all improve, so will Democrats’ electoral prospects. That may be right — but it may also be wrong, and not only because covid-19 and inflation show no signs of disappearing.

In 1994, the economy had recovered from a recession and grew at a robust 4 percent, yet Democrats still lost both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952. Republicans prevailed in no small part by arguing that President Bill Clinton, who had won in 1992 as a New Democrat, had strayed too far to the left by enacting an assault weapons ban, relaxing restrictions on gays in the military, raising taxes and trying to pass universal health-care coverage.

Clinton responded to the midterm defeat with a “triangulation” strategy devised by adviser Dick Morris to find a “third way” between left and right. The eventual result was agreement with Republicans on balancing the budget and reforming welfare, along with small-bore symbolism such as advocating for school uniforms and a “V chip” to allow parents to screen out TV violence. Clinton was reelected handily.

Biden shouldn’t wait for a Democratic debacle in 2022 before launching a triangulation strategy of his own. It would be not only good politics but also good policy. On contentious issues such as “cancel culture,” critical race theory, school curriculums, historical statues, and police reform, a fractured country desperately needs to find common ground. The president can guide the way.

In fact, he is basically there already, judging by comments scattered throughout his speeches and interviews. One example: In the Republican response to Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress in April, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) said, “America is not a racist country.” Asked on the “Today” show about Scott’s statement, Biden agreed: “I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow — and before that, slavery — have had a cost, and we need to deal with it.”

That is a sensible position — our country is flawed but not irredeemably racist — that most Americans can agree with. Yet it is not, I suspect, the view that most voters associate with the Democratic Party. The party has allowed itself to become defined by hardcore leftists who want to defund the police, abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, end academic tests and gifted education, remove statues of the Founding Fathers, boycott Israel, and teach that 1619, not 1776, was the defining event in U.S. history — thereby putting the sin of slavery, not the soaring ideals of the Declaration of Independence, at the center of our story.

These views are ambrosia to progressive Twitterati but anathema to most voters. They do not appeal to most ordinary Democrats, including most Black and Latino voters (who chose Biden over more progressive primary rivals), much less to the swing voters that Biden won in 2020 and that Democrats need to win back. “Defund the police” efforts just suffered setbacks in Seattle, Buffalo and Minneapolis elections, while critical race theory helped cost Democrats the Virginia governor’s race.

Even in San Francisco, one of the country’s most progressive cities, a revolt is brewing against the left. Three members of the school board face a recall election after being slow to send children back to school while moving to rename schools named after revered figures such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Also facing a recall is District Attorney Chesa Boudin, one of many progressive prosecutors around the country who are perversely bent on reducing incarceration even as many types of crimes are on the rise.

In New York, voters just elected as mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer who has vowed to resurrect a controversial plainclothes anti-crime unit that was involved in “stop and frisk” policies and police shootings. Black Lives Matter activists warned that this move would spark “riots” and “bloodshed,” but Adams was unfazed. “This city is not going to be a city of riots,” he replied. “This city is not going to be a city of burning. This is going to be a city where we’re going to be safe. We’re going to have effective policing that’s not heavy-handed.”

This was a good fight for Adams to have because it showcases his moderation. This is the kind of fight Biden needs to have, too. He has always been a centrist. He needs to remind voters of that fact by attacking the excesses of both the Trumpian right and the ultra-progressive left. Triangulation worked for Clinton. It can work for Biden, too.