AMAC Exclusive – By Herald Boas
Republican victories on Tuesday in Virginia and the surprising closeness of the governor’s race in New Jersey have made it abundantly clear: the political honeymoon of the early Joe Biden presidency has quickly turned into a political nightmare. A series of bungled international events, economic woes, and unsteady personal appearances have caused the new president’s approval numbers to nosedive among voters.
The depth of this reversal brings to mind the political fate of President Warren Harding almost one hundred years ago. In Harding’s first mid-term election in 1922, the president and his party lost 82 U.S. House seats and 8 U.S. Senate seats as a lingering recession and 11% unemployment plagued the economy. (Harding remained well-liked personally, and the scandals that soured his reputation mostly emerged after his untimely death in 1923 at the age of 57.)
After a controversial election in 2020, Biden in the early days of his administration enjoyed favorable polls and positive, uncritical coverage from the same establishment media which had treated him so well during the campaign. His handling of the military withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan was so inept, however, that even the friendly media turned on him, public confidence quickly waned, and his poll numbers sank.
Other crises soon appeared, including a chaotic Mexican-U.S. border crisis brought on by Biden’s “open border” campaign promises, rising inflation, and supply chain shortages which critics contend were caused by his initial economic policies and diplomatic snafus with U.S. allies Israel and France. Lingering issues of the pandemic he inherited also have contributed to Biden’s growing negative numbers, as have a series of verbal fumbles at his relatively few public appearances.
The Rasmussen, Trafalgar, and Gallup Polls, some of the most accurate in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, noted that Biden’s “honeymoon” was brief, showing him early and often at just slightly above or below 50% favorable. But after Afghanistan, even the “friendly” polls are showing him under 50%. More neutral polls now have him in the low 40s, and three polls have his favorables at only the high 30s. Instead of a bounce-back as the Afghan crisis headlines fade, Biden’s poll numbers seem to be getting worse.
To complicate matters, the Biden administration has allied itself with those progressive Democrats in Congress pushing for a multi-trillion dollar stimulus spending bill that the polls say on the whole is getting mixed responses from the voters, and a decidedly negative response when it comes to individual policy provisions in the bill, like one since-dropped provision that would have allowed the IRS to track all transactions over $600. Unsurprisingly, more unpopular proposals to defund the police, pack the U.S, Supreme Court, and pay undocumented immigrant families huge sums do not enhance the President’s party’s general popularity.
Mr. Biden and his congressional allies seem to be deliberately ignoring public opinion so that they can pass the legislation and have him sign it with the expectation that the next Republican administration won’t be able to undo their actions. So far, however, more moderate Senate and House figures are blocking the most radical proposals.
Inevitably, after the Democrat loss in Virginia, Mr. Biden’s low standing will also negatively impact Democratic candidates across the country in the 2022 midterms.
If President Biden does not improve his standing with voters soon, he could be the catalyst for a “red wave” thumping (to use George W. Bush’s term after a bad mid-term defeat for his party in 2006).
The question is, how likely is a political recovery with his approval rating so low now, and so many difficult issues facing him and his administration in the immediate future?
First-term presidents historically recovered in recent cycles after a first mid-term defeat (e.g., Reagan, Clinton, Obama}, but none of them were over 80 years old and facing a nation so bitterly divided. Nor was there such an opposition figure as Donald Trump to stand in their way.
Of course, the 2022 election is a year away, but if Joe Biden is now damaged political goods, and political and economic crises appear and linger, the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party in the next two voting cycles are becoming dimmer and dimmer.
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