The real problem for the Democratic Party is not President Joe Biden. It’s a huge problem, sure, but their real problems run much deeper. The Democrats have an unmanageable coalition and are unable to cobble it together into anything, even semi-coherent. If Republican leaders tuned into this dynamic, they could dominate like perhaps never before, but they haven’t.
Biden has been a historically terrible president. Biden was not the first choice for many Democratic primary voters. Democrats turned to him primarily because he appeared to be the least risky candidate to run against Donald Trump. He was clearly past his prime, but he was the low-risk alternative with plenty of governance experience. The party’s dominant left-wing militant wing had other favorites, but they followed because their fear of a second Trump term outweighed any other consideration.
It brought Biden to power with no real base of support. If he was able to assemble a top-notch team and lead effectively from the middle, he might have been able to score a political victory. This does not happen. Instead, Biden did his best to appeal to the far left, and he suffered for it.
For a time after the inauguration, the corporate media and most Democrats praised Biden primarily for not being Trump. This honeymoon is long over. Biden’s tragically botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has put any notion of competence to bed. His failure to bring some semblance of order to the southern border was welcomed by hard-line leftists but put off virtually everyone. Its inconsistent energy policy — “more fossil fuels” followed by “why aren’t you refining more?”— further cemented his incompetence in the eyes of most voters, especially in the face of soaring gasoline prices. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Biden’s absurd inflation predictions, followed by his inflation apologies, further discouraged voters on an issue that already affected them directly.
The question posed is how Biden could be so incompetent. Part of that is clearly age and reduced ability. The even bigger problem is that Biden is trying to cobble together a majority coalition where none can exist. The core of Biden’s support is the corporate establishment, Wall Street and the Washington crowd. The economic, trade and immigration policies of the past decades have worked well for this group. They prospered economically, while most did not.
Biden’s problem is that this group of true Biden Democrats is relatively small. They vastly outnumber the average American who did not prosper. Their policies no longer appeal to average Democratic voters who feel stagnant and restless. To try to energize Democratic voters while keeping his corporate core happy, Biden has tried to craft a left-wing social agenda that comes at a relatively low cost to corporate America. Biden’s hope was that a focus on race, sexuality and increasing the government’s social safety net might be the answer. This agenda did not answer the mail of the average Democratic voter who felt economically in difficulty. This program specifically disabled much of the Hispanic and Black communities, which are more socially conservative than Biden’s corporate partisans. The result is inconsistency. There is no way for anyone to make this coalition work. There are too many areas of total disagreement.
Republicans will take advantage of Biden’s mess in the midterm elections. How much they will get and whether they can extend this benefit until 2024 are still open questions. Their positions on two recent policy debates offer plenty of reason to pause.
There is no more powerful political issue in America today than inflation. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell got inflation wrong as much as possible. The higher interest rates needed to control inflation should have come much sooner, but because Powell was too influenced by the White House, Wall Street, or some other reason, Powell acted too late. Powell’s early statements about inflation would be comical if it didn’t hurt so many people.
Despite this failure, Biden still nominated Powell for a second term. By doing so, Biden has put himself in a position to recognize Powell’s mistakes from a political perspective. Instead of calling out Biden to rename the one guy who completely screwed up inflation, most Republicans decided to give Powell and Biden a pass. They went and voted for Powell. They defend their choice by pointing out that Powell is a moderate initially nominated by Republicans and that Biden would pick someone more left-leaning to replace him. That’s absolutely true, but moderate Republicans and Democrats had the votes to stop the radical candidates, and it was the one political fight Republicans should have wanted more than any other. Instead of calling out Biden on that pick, they went ahead and further convinced average Americans that once you reach a certain level of elite in American society, failure really has no cost.
The second Republican failure concerns China. Most Americans rightly feel that US policy toward China over the past few decades has benefited the elites at the expense of everyone else. Free trade works and it is popular. Free trade with a corrupt nation using slave labor, stealing intellectual property and otherwise cheating without repercussions doesn’t make sense to people. Trump knew it. His tough trade policies towards China were popular. They reported a shift from average Americans of all races. Biden is preparing to cave on these policies, but you barely hear a word of them from most Republicans. They are too indebted to those who benefited from them.
Republicans will likely win plenty of seats in 2022, but they’re far from maximizing their potential. All those wins they leave on the table will probably come back to bite them in the end.
Neil Patel co-founded The Daily Caller.