Presidential candidates once boasted about their ability to bridge Washington’s partisan divide, and to accomplish great things by bringing together different factions.

But with Republicans favored to maintain control of the Senate in 2020 — and a new norm taking root after three successive administrations that aggressively wielded executive orders to make policy — Democratic candidates for president are starting to point more frequently to the ambitious things they’ll ram through on their own.

Campaign-trail pledges to sign executive orders aren’t new. But the frequency of the promises this year, and the expansive nature of them, mark a departure from practice.

It’s a tacit acknowledgment of an increasingly dysfunctional, polarized system of government — one that is beyond any one candidate’s ability to repair. Against that backdrop, the thinking goes, a prospective president’s only option for meaningful policymaking is to take unilateral action by signing executive orders.

“That’s basically the only way to govern now,” said Andrew Feldman, a Democratic strategist in Washington. “It’s kind of a way of life.”

With executive orders, he said, “you can actually get a lot done, and as we’ve seen with the Trump administration, you can do a lot of harm.”

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