Americans think Biden’s presidency is a failure — Democrats can fix that

The Democratic Party with Joe Biden at the helm has lost sight of how to connect with Americans, and as a result, is finding itself in an increasingly unelectable position.  

Most Americans also say that the first year of the Biden Administration has been more of a failure (57 percent), rather than a success (41 percent). Notably, Independents and Latinos — two key swing-voting groups — have turned against the administration, as majorities of both deem the first year of the Biden presidency a failure.  

To be sure, many of Americans’ frustrations — including the pervasive pandemic and skyrocketing inflation — are not fully and completely within the president’s control. Yet, voters blame him for these crises, as is the case with most presidents.  

That being said, the president is in no way fully at the mercy of these external forces, and his declining ratings are due in large part to the fact that Americans simply don’t feel that Biden’s and Democrats’ priorities align with their own.   

Two-thirds of Americans say that Biden and Democrats are focusing on issues that they either don’t care about (39 percent) or only care a little about (28 percent). Just one-third say that Biden and Democrats are focusing on issues they care a lot about.  

Thus, with just nine months until the midterm elections, Democrats must dedicate their focus to advancing centrist legislation that improves Americans’ quality of life and addresses their top concerns. Democrats should make a meaningful effort to work with Republicans on issues where compromise is possible, and push back on pressure from the far-left, whose policy positions alienate large swaths of the electorate.  

When I was hired by Bill Clinton in 1994 after the Democrats’ blow-out defeat in that year’s midterm elections, we did just that: worked with Republicans on a balanced budget and welfare reform. In 1996, Clinton won re-election by a landslide; in 1998, Democrats defied expectations and kept control of Congress; and in 2000, Clinton left office under a budget surplus.  

To that end, there are several issues that would give Democrats an opportunity to deliver in a bipartisan fashion — including transforming job training programs, passing fair and reasonable tax policies, improving immigration laws, and reforming criminal justice.  

Foremost, Biden needs to show voters that he can deliver on the economy and jobs, as 62 percent of Americans disapprove of how he is handling the economy — including 69 percent of Independents and 57 percent of Latinos. 

Importantly, Democrats need to make a sincere commitment to fiscal discipline and prudence that involves ruling out any tax increases or new spending initiatives that lack broad bipartisan support. 

This means fundamentally altering the Democratic party’s current theory on tax policy, which centers on a misguided notion that the redistribution of wealth by taxing the rich is politically valuable, and will not cause any electoral backlash. Indeed, my own experience along with past history suggests that this theory is problematic.  

Furthermore, given the dramatic shifts in the workforce and labor market that occurred during the pandemic, it is both practical and politically wise for Democrats to prioritize improving federal job training programs.   

Focusing on passing the JOBS Act — a bipartisan bill currently being considered by the Senate that would expand federal Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term job training programs — is a good starting point. The JOBS Act would close the skills gap by helping more workers afford the job training and credentials that are in demand as industries have shifted during the pandemic.  

In addition to the economic predicament, the Biden administration is also facing a multi-faceted immigration crisis, both in terms of the disaster at the Southern border, as well as the unsettled status of millions of undocumented immigrants.   

Just one-third (33 percent) of voters overall — including only 26 percent of Independents and 37 percent of Hispanics — approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, while a majority (56 percent) disapprove, per a Morning Consult survey 

Republicans have worked somewhat successfully to tie the migrant crisis at the border to Biden’s failed policies; and at the same time, immigration activists on the left are frustrated with the president for not following through on the promises he made during the campaign.  

Thus, Democrats can make an effort to work with Republicans on an immigration package that codifies lasting protections for Dreamers, creates a pathway to citizenship, secures the border, and requires employers to use E-Verify to certify the legal status of new hires. 

Criminal justice reform presents another opportunity for Democrats to pursue a grand bargain with Republicans as crime rates spike across the country. A reasonable compromise would involve making the criminal justice system and policing fairer for Black Americans, who are disproportionately mistreated, while also funding local law enforcement.   

In order to connect with voters in the middle who are concerned both about crime and curbing police misconduct, Biden can use New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ approach as a template.  

Absent action by Democrats, Republican attacks on Democrats as being soft-on-crime will undoubtedly resonate in the midterms — as 70 percent of voters believe crime in the country is out of control, while only 30 percent say crime is mostly under control, per the January Harvard CAPS/Harris poll 

Ultimately, by prioritizing immigration and crime, national Democrats can also protect vulnerable members of their caucus in the midterms from G.O.P. attacks linking Democratic policies to the border crisis and rising crime.  

And by advocating for more reasonable tax policies and pursuing policies that help America’s workers Democrats can reclaim the mantle as the pro-American worker party, while also inoculating against G.O.P. attacks on Democrats’ economic policies as being too liberal or wasteful. 

Without this course correction, President Biden’s ratings will continue to drop, and Democrats are almost certain to be brought down by Republicans in 2022 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 Biden family Bill Clinton Democratic Party Federal government of the United States Joe Biden Michael Bloomberg Political parties in the United States Political positions of Joe Biden Politics of the United States

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