EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Political suicide is painful to watch. That’s especially true right now, with Democrats apparently intent on losing to a craven Republican Party trying to systematically undermine American democracy. President Biden has had to punt both his Build Back Better bill and the election reform bills to next year, but he still doesn’t have the votes for either of them. The failure to deliver hurts working Americans, has ominous implications for our democracy, and is ruinous for Democratic prospects in the 2022 elections.

Like all debacles, there’s plenty of blame to go around—but much of the media narrative has focused on the wrong culprits. This isn’t a case of “Democratic disarray.” Democratic legislators are more united than at any time in memory. The problem is Democrats have no margin for error and face lockstep Republican obstruction. GOP senators won’t even stop filibustering the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that once enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support. Not one Republican senator voted for the American Rescue Plan in the midst of the pandemic. Not one supports any increase in taxes on the rich and the corporations.

A 50-50 split in the Senate means that any one senator can put a spanner in the works. And that is what Senator Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and, to a lesser extent, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have done. The issue isn’t “Democrats in disarray”—it’s an unusual set of circumstances in which less than 5 percent of the whole caucus can still ruin things for everyone else.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.