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WASHINGTON

Joe Biden might have won the presidency, but Democrats plainly lost the election.

The blue tsunami predicted by some pundits and pollsters turned out to be a shallow, baby wave of tepid water. The anticipated mandate was little more than a list of spoiled hopes and dreams that liberalism would finally have its day in America. “Landslide” is still just a song.

The United States is a center-right nation, which people living outside the Washington-New York-West Coast bubbles have always known. Trump won in 2016 in large part by making average Americans feel like he understood them. The smarter members of the House Democratic caucus get this, but most have kept quiet in deference to groupthink and the fear of being primaried by their own left flank.

Several caucus members began complaining about some of the unhelpful lefty messaging as the votes were telling the broader story. Former Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri might have erred in uttering the truth when, speaking as an MSNBC contributor Thursday, she said Democrats had left Middle America behind by focusing too much on cultural issues and identity politics removed from the concerns of the mainstream.

“As we circled those issues, we left some voters behind, and Republicans dove in,” McCaskill told MSNBC’s Brian Williams.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., ripped McCaskill for her remark, tweeting: “Why do we listen to people who lost elections as if they are experts in winning elections?”

McCaskill lost her Senate seat to Sen. Josh Hawley in 2018, but she didn’t lose her common sense. There is a rather substantial number of Americans, meanwhile, who wonder why anyone listens to Ocasio-Cortez.

Donald Trump’s apparent near-win, combined with Republican gains in the House and in state legislatures, tells us all we need to know where the country stands. If Trump hadn’t acted as his own worst enemy during the campaign, it might have been his landslide to claim. But Trump couldn’t pretend to be an adult long enough to assuage fears that his impulsive nature might ruin us.

Democrats and their media cheerleaders were shocked by Trump support among Blacks and Hispanics. In Texas and Florida, Trump won 4 of every 10 Hispanic voters and perhaps a bit more. He performed better in many red states than he had in 2016. He even improved, as a percentage of the vote, in a number of blue states that he lost four years ago. Very few votes will separate this loss from a win.

Among other lessons, it might be time for Democrats to realize that Blacks and Hispanics are no more monolithic than any other group of voters. Most Black voters for Trump were male. Fifty- two percent of Black men who identified as conservative voted for the president. One in 3 Black men in the Midwest marked their ballots for the incumbent.

Robert L. Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, explained his view of Black votes for Trump: “I think Black Americans are getting a little bit tired of delivering huge votes for the Democrats, and seeing minimal return in terms of economic wealth and closing the wealth gap, the job creation and job opportunities,” he told CNBC on Wednesday.

But it was also Black voters who, in the end, helped to deliver so much of the vote that elected Biden president.

Ultimately, Biden’s slim victory will be a gift to the country. There’s no reason that Biden can’t be a great president. He doesn’t have to serve the left that America has rejected. He can make his stand—and his legacy— as the president who brought the nation back from the precipice.

A one-term president beholden to no one, he can say there will be no stacking the Supreme Court, no end to the filibuster, no Green New Deal as written, no single-payer health insurance—and so on down the liberal wish list.

Biden is easy to like, knows the ropes, has friends on both sides of the aisle, can broker a deal, raise the level of discourse, restore dignity to the White House—all those things we’ve missed the past four years. After his third run for president, he has the rare opportunity to go down in history as a good man and the most consequential of presidents. His humility would be a gift to us all.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleen

parker@washpost.com.

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