Biden and Democrats are in denial and whistling in the dark

In the aftermath of the drubbing in Virginia, the White House appears not to have learned anything with US President Joe Biden maintaining that “the off year is always unpredictable” and that his agenda “passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning or losing” in Governors’ races

Joe Biden
The clear worry for the Biden team is that the Virginia loss and the near-loss in New Jersey are coming at a wrong time, especially to the Democrats who need to stand together in the House and Senate if the decade long spending measures are to see light of day.

Between now and the 2024 presidential elections, Joseph Biden and the Democrats cannot pass off every political hammering as something only to be expected in an “off year”.

In the aftermath of the drubbing in Virginia where the seasoned Terry McAuliffe was pushed aside by Republicans who had been sitting on the sidelines for about a decade, the White House appears not to have learned anything with the President maintaining that “the off year is always unpredictable” and that his agenda “passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning or losing” in Governors’ races. “…people are upset and uncertain about a lot of things”, Biden said in the aftermath of a huge loss in a state that only one year ago he had carried by a ten point margin.

Political analysts are reminding the President and Democrats of one more thing: that the win in New Jersey is far worse than the loss at Virginia! In a Democratic bastion, the incumbent in New Jersey barely made it by the skin of his teeth and elsewhere in the state, the local elections were a disaster for Democrats. And not all of this could be laid at the doorsteps of the pandemic, jobs or the price of gasoline as the occupant in the Oval Office may want to pass off. What is galling even to seasoned Democrats is that neither the President nor the party are reading the right messages from both Virginia and New Jersey: that Democrats are in BIG trouble in 2022 and perhaps down the road to 2024 even if Donald Trump is a no show.

Also read: Political right in the US and its idea of Biden-Harris rift

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Virginia perhaps was an eye opener to the Democrats on how an election campaign should not be run. At a time when nearly everyone is literally tired of the bizzare, worn out and outlandish conspiracy theories of 2020 elections by the former President Donald Trump, the veteran Democrat McAuliffe kept hammering away at his opponents ties with Trump blissfully ignoring the fact that things had come to such a pass in Virginia where both Biden and Trump were having the same scores for unpopularity. And Republican Glenn Youngkin was working overtime not to counter his alleged ties to Trump but to get on the side of the moderate suburban voters who had felt alienated in the last five years. Youngkin managed to get the best of both: supporters of Trump without personal campaigning and suburban voters by actively soliciting.

The problem for President Biden and the core Democratic supporters of his is being in denial and continuing to whistle in the dark without objectively coming to terms with the challenges. From the time of stepping into the White House this January and even prior to that Biden has been making the point that Big Government is Back, an idea that was given up in the mid-1990s. What analysts and others have tried to impress upon this White House is that the political environment of the FDR tenure is not there for President Biden—FDR had a whopping 300 plus Democrats in the House of Representatives and a comfortable majority in Senate, something this White House cannot even dream of. As Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic Virginia Representative in the House put it, “Nobody elected him (Biden) to be FDR, they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos”.

Whether Biden and his backers wish to acknowledge or not, the fact is that the Democrats are not a united group and this is critical if numbers are anything to go by: in the House of Representatives Democrats are up between five and eight; the party is tied at 50-50 in the Senate factoring in two Independents who caucus with them; and Vice President Kamala Harris has had to cast her tie breaking vote close to a dozen times in the Upper Chamber so that the Biden agenda can move along. Now the Senate has passed the US$ 1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill and the House is debating this; and Congress together will have to take up the US$ 1.75 Trillion social safety spending bill, that had to be pared down from the original US$ 3 Trillion-plus.

The clear worry for the Biden team is that the Virginia loss and the near-loss in New Jersey are coming at a wrong time, especially to the Democrats who need to stand together in the House and Senate if the decade long spending measures are to see light of day. The Progressives within the Democrats are keen on pressing ahead and not back track in the face of political defeats like the one in Virginia. “The lesson going into 2022 is that Democrats need to use power to get big things done for working people and then run on those accomplishments”, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement adding, “Democrats won’t win simply by branding one opponent after another as a Trump clone and then hoping to squeak out a razor-thin win”.

Also read: Losing Virginia Governor’s race a setback for Biden, a boost for ‘Trumpism’

Long before the last of the voters in Virginia or New Jersey had cast their ballots, a NBC News Poll had the writing on the wall and something that the Biden White House would do well to keep in mind going into 2022: that 71 per cent believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction; the split up being 93 per cent Republicans, 70 per cent Independents and 48 per cent Democrats. And when asked which of the parties did better on issues, the Republicans held double digit advantages on border security, inflation, national security and economy; while the Democrats came away on abortion, coronavirus and climate change.

(The writer was a senior journalist in Washington DC for about 15 years, covering North America and the United Nations)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)

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