Chaos, crisis and infighting threaten Democrats in 2022

With less than seven months until the midterm elections, Democrats face a number of major and mounting crises. Record-high inflation, soaring crime rates, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and the shadow of President Biden’s foreign policy failures in Afghanistan already have Democrats facing an uphill battle in November. 

On top of that, recent developments surrounding another key issue — immigration — further threaten the Democratic Party’s ability to retain its majority in Congress this year. 

In a comprehensive and in-depth piece for The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan detail the extent of the chaos and infighting inside the Biden White House over the administration’s immigration policy, specifically with regard to the migrant crisis at the southern border. 

Among other revelations in the article, in a heated exchange over the surge of migrants in March 2021, President Biden erupted at staffers. Sensing that some were attempting to evade responsibility for the issue, the president demanded: “Who do I need to fire to fix this?” 

To be sure, this is not the first presidential administration that has been caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to tackling this complex problem. Past presidents from both parties have tried and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. 

Yet, the Biden administration’s internal division and paralysis on immigration policy — as detailed by The New York Times piece — is particularly noteworthy, as it is emblematic of this White House’s inability to effectively solve problems. 

Put another way, when it comes to managing crises — both domestic and international — the Biden administration is hopelessly divided and beset by internal strife, and the immigration crisis is no exception. 

As a result, the Biden administration’s immigration policies have come under fire from both parties — Republicans attack the administration for the migrant crisis at the southern border, while progressives accuse the administration of failing to prioritize human rights and not living up to campaign promises to permanently protect Dreamers. 

Indeed, a recent Politico Morning Consult poll shows that, when it comes to handling immigration, voters trust Republicans (47 percent) over Democrats (38 percent) in Congress. Worse, just 27 percent of Independents trust Democrats more on the issue. 

The New York Times piece notes that one of the major policies implemented by President Trump, Title 42 — which is designed to give the president power to prevent immigration in times of public health emergencies — has proven to be highly contentious and problematic inside the Biden White House.

Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued that Title 42 was no longer necessary, as the delta variant was already spreading rapidly throughout the U.S. Thus, preventing migrants and asylum seekers from entering the U.S. would not protect public health in a meaningful way.

The CDC’s position was opposed by Biden’s senior advisors, chief of staff Ron Klain and policy advisor Susan Rice, who feared that repealing Title 42 would worsen the migrant crisis at the border and become a political headache.

Even so, two weeks ago, the Biden administration announced that it would in fact end Title 42. Now, the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly preparing for a worst-case scenario of up to 18,000 people trying to cross the border daily, a number that would surely overwhelm the already full border facilities.

While it remains to be seen whether COVID-19 infections will spike as a result, it is clear that the political consequences of repealing Title 42 will further complicate Democrats’ political prospects in this year’s midterms. 

For one, voters will almost certainly be put off by the hypocrisy of the Biden administration repealing Title 42 while Democratic-led cities announce returns to mask mandates amid spikes in COVID-19 infections, as is the case in Philadelphia.

Furthermore, if there is a surge at the border, as is expected, Republicans will be able to weaponize the issue against Democrats in the midterms. Rightly so, moderate Democrats in Washington, D.C. fear that appearing soft on illegal immigration will hurt their party politically.

As The New York Times piece describes, Klain expressed concern that “accusations about border chaos would grow worse, anger moderate voters, and potentially sink the party during 2022 midterms” unless the administration found a way to deter illegal immigration.

Moreover, Democrats appearing soft on illegal immigration will allow Republicans to easily make the case to voters that Democrats are also soft on crime, especially as crime rates climb across the country. 

Ultimately, the Biden administration’s uneven and ineffective approach to immigration — which mirrors their incompetence on issues like the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, crime and foreign policy — is giving Republicans fresh ammo going into the midterms.

As Lanae Erickson of Third Way — a centrist Democratic think tank — told the Times: “Republicans are trying to make the case that Democrats are the party of chaos.”

Unless the Biden administration can turn things around and prove to voters that they are not the party of chaos — but rather of progress and problem-solving — Democrats are almost certain to be brought down by Republicans in 2022, 2024 and beyond.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to former President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections Afghanistan withdrawal Biden Crime in the United States Immigration Inflation Joe Biden Ron Klain Susan Rice Title 42 expulsion

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