Joe Biden resides in the White House because the Democratic Party’s warring factions declared a temporary truce in 2020, each expecting to dictate his agenda after the election. And, while the party’s left wing has exercised considerable sway over Biden’s policies, its members obviously overestimated their ability to ameliorate the effects of his congenital incompetence. After a year in office the Biden administration has produced precious few successes and a predictably long list of failures. This has reopened hostilities between the radical and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, and their base is deeply demoralized as the November midterms loom ominously on the horizon.
The only way the Democrats can save themselves is to expand their majorities in the House and the Senate, but history is not on their side. The party in power typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections, particularly during a president’s first term. Moreover, only two presidents — Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush — saw their party gain seats in both houses of Congress in the first midterm of their presidencies. It will require divine intervention for the Democrats to achieve this feat with a sputtering economy, rising prices, a lingering pandemic and a president whose job approval numbers are underwater by double digits. Consequently, as the New York Times reports, they are complaining loudly:
The complaints capped one of the worst weeks of the Biden presidency, with the White House facing the looming failure of voting rights legislation, the defeat of their vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers at the Supreme Court, inflation rising to a 40-year high and friction with Russia over aggression toward Ukraine. Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s top domestic priority — a sprawling $2.2 trillion spending, climate and tax policy plan — remains stalled, not just because of Republicans, but also opposition from a centrist Democrat.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) told the Associated Press, “We mobilized to elect President Biden because he made promises to us…. And because we haven’t seen those results yet, we’re frustrated — frustrated despite everything we did to deliver a Democratic White House.” Meanwhile, more than forty Democrats from both houses of Congress wrote a querulous letter to Biden last week expressing their growing frustration with his administration’s incoherent response to the pandemic: “We strongly encourage you to take additional, immediate steps to eliminate existing barriers to COVID-19 rapid tests and ensure robust access to free over-the-counter rapid tests throughout the country for the duration of the pandemic.”
Many Democrats see this whining as futile and are voting with their feet. Last Monday, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) became the 26th House Democrat to announce that he would not seek reelection: “After much thought and consideration, I have decided not to run for reelection. It’s been a privilege and honor of a lifetime to serve Colorado.” Some Democrats are leaving to run for other offices. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), for example, is evidently anxious to vie with other Florida Democrats for the privilege of being defeated in November by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection. The majority of the retiring Democrats are departing to avoid humiliation. As Henry Olson puts it in the Washington Post:
The conventional wisdom is that so many Democrats are leaving because they can read the tea leaves.… President Biden’s awful job approval ratings, combined with polls showing Republicans ahead in the congressional generic ballot, are consistent with this analysis. Since 1994, when the GOP won a majority in the House for the first time in 40 years, partisan control of the chamber has shifted only three times. It took Democrats 12 years to regain control after that debacle and another eight to return to power after their 2010 midterm wipeout.
The 2022 midterms may not be as disastrous as 1994 or 2010 but it is difficult to see how the Democrats retain their majorities in either house of Congress with a president as unpopular as Biden is likely to be in November. Until a few months ago, the conventional wisdom was that they had a chance of maintaining their tenuous grip on the Senate, but Biden’s approval numbers are now so low that the Senate is all but lost. According to a model developed by Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics, the Democrats have no chance of retaining their Senate majority if Biden’s approval numbers remain where they are now. Even if he increases his approval to the mid-forties the Republicans will probably capture the Senate majority.
This level of unpopularity has inevitably prompted Democrats and liberal pundits to speculate about dumping Biden and Harris in 2024. The scariest suggestion was offered by Douglas Schoen and Andrew Stein in the Wall Street Journal, “A perfect storm in the Democratic Party is making a once-unfathomable scenario plausible: a political comeback for Hillary Clinton in 2024.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman advocates keeping President Biden on the ticket in 2024, but replacing Vice-President Harris with rogue Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Other 2024 presidential candidates mentioned by various Democrat luminaries were Michelle Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
That people like Schoen and Friedman are already discussing the replacement of Biden or Harris on the 2024 presidential ticket is a clear sign of Democratic desperation. The party’s leadership knew Joe Biden wasn’t fit to serve as President, yet they believed they could control him. That was a catastrophic miscalculation. Even the most incompetent president wields enormous power and is protected by a circle of loyal underlings. As one prominent Democrat recently put it, “People are feeling like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office.” They’re right, but he will wreck their party before they get rid of him. The country will also sustain damage, but it will recover faster than the Democrats.