The Path Forward for the Democratic Party

As the COVID-19 Pandemic approaches the second anniversary of it reaching our shores here in the United States and a little over a year after Joe Biden took office as President of the United States, it is time for the Democratic Party to take stock over its policies and actions. The last year in particular had mixed results for the Democrats. After regaining control of the White House in November 2020 and retaking the Senate in January 2021, it seemed at the time that they had the ability to make the most significant changes to how our government and society operated, but instead, they have squandered it. The majority in the Senate is threatened by two of its most centrist members, and key legislation pushed forward by the Biden administration has recently gone down in flames. President Biden entered office with a 55% approval rating according to 538, but it is now at a low of 41%. While still higher than President Trump’s approval numbers during the same period in his administration, it is a poor showing. With the midterm elections coming up at the end of this year and the party now facing defeat on almost every front, this article seeks to explore first what went wrong, and second what changes need to be made in order to mitigate this crisis and to ensure survival in 2022, 2024, and beyond.

The Biden administration came with great promise and at a time of divisiveness in this country. COVID-19 had killed nearly half a million Americans, while the country was further divided following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, sparking months of protests and riots that made for one of the most difficult years in living memory. This all reached the crescendo on January 6, 2021, where thousands of supporters of Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol, wounding over a hundred police officers and leading to the shooting of one protester, Ashli Babbitt, and the death of officer Brian Sicknick and later four suicides on the part of Capitol Police related to the events of that day. Biden inherited a nation divided against itself, and during his first months in office put in place policies that helped to repair the damage that Trump rendered on the country. He rejoined the Paris Climate Accords, ended the ban on transgender individuals serving in uniform for this country and other anti-LGBT+ policies put in place by Trump, and signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that created a child tax credit for families and injected needed money into the economy. Unemployment shrunk from 6.4% in January 2021 to 3.9% in January 2022. Although the economy is still struggling to this day due to supply-chain issues, and COVID-19 still plagues this country, his early economic policies were a success. Perhaps the most significant piece of legislation passed was the $1.75 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in a bipartisan vote through Congress. It invested significant amounts of money in building new bridges, railways, highways, and improving other forms of physical infrastructure.

With these many accomplishments under his belt, however, so came with it issues that began to mount over time. Despite his valiant attempt to have the entire country vaccinated, the country was instead divided through misinformation. Half of the country’s eligible population was vaccinated between January 2021 and June 2021 but has since then slowed down, reaching only 64% fully vaccinated in January 2022. This has meant that COVID-19 has continued to keep the country partially locked down and the economy not fully stabilized. However, it was not until August 2021 that Biden’s approval ratings dipped below 50% with the crisis in Afghanistan. After nearly two decades in the country, the United States began a rapid withdrawal from the country, and within weeks the Taliban seized Kabul, creating a humanitarian disaster in that country. The world watched in horror as families rushed to the American-held airport, holding up their children to be taken by American soldiers home with them. On August 1, 2021, Biden’s approval rating was at 51.5%, and it dropped rapidly to 45.8% on September 11, 2021. The disastrous withdrawal was preventable, and as the first major crisis during the Biden administration, it was a failure. These events began a long period of failure and defeat for the Democratic Party. Rising crime in America’s major cities, the supply-chain crisis, as well as the culture wars coming to the country’s schools saw Republicans sweep offices across the country in November 2021. The Build Back Better Plan failed to pass the United States Senate that same month, and by the end of the year the Biden administration moved on to new issues.

This leaves the Democratic Party divided at a time when it should form a united front. Despite his many successes during his early months in office, the defeats of recent months leave him with a 41.8% approval rating, and his legislative agenda stalled until after the midterms. The Omicron variant has continued to stymy economic growth, while inflation has left consumers and businesses struggling. Although these problems were not caused by him, he has failed to muster the strength to adequately handle these issues. In addition to this, the far-left of the Democratic Party is ascendant, but in reality, they are at fault for the party’s problems. Biden spent months kowtowing to their policy demands. They voted against the infrastructure legislation because it did not go far enough, and the administration’s effort to attract their votes has chased away party moderates like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. With Republicans angered by Democratic policies, and upset by the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020, many falsely believing that he actually won that year, they will likely turn out in force in November 2022. The general consensus is a walloping for the Democrats, something inevitable even if Biden were doing well.

What is the path forward after all of this? The future does not bode well for 2022 or 2024. However, there are actions the Biden administration can take in the coming months to mitigate the damage going forward. The first thing he should do is to announce he does not intend to run for re-election in 2024. This would have the immediate impact of Democrats becoming excited over potential choices that year, and at the same time calm down fears over Biden’s health. It would also redirect his energy to fulfilling his most important promise, to reunite the American people. Taking himself out of the political arena in 2024 means he can better govern and bring the country together. This would have the knock-on effect of ending the ridiculous scandals surrounding Hunter Biden that seem to be the subject of conservative attacks. Other steps must include ending the “Defund the Police” nonsense and tackling rising crime across the country. He must also emphasize all the good he has done, from the infrastructure legislation to the American Rescue Plan, as well as progress on the environment and bringing COVID-19 closer to an end. Finally, an emphasis on foreign policy could unite the country. He implemented new sanctions on China due to their human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people, while his historic recognition of the Armenian genocide began the policy to shift against Turkey’s actions in the region. He has also worked to build a coalition to resist China’s political and economic expansion globally and has vowed to protect Taiwan from Chinese threats. The Biden administration also put in place some of the most strict sanctions on Russia in recent memory and is providing financial and military assistance to Ukraine as it faces the threat of Russian invasion.

These actions and many more can help to restart the Democratic Party and the Biden administration. Now is the best time to act with Biden’s approval ratings plateauing at 41.8%. It has not yet dipped below 40%, and he has a chance to recover his lost popularity. The Democrats did well with Donald Trump as an opponent, and without his daily activities, we need to stand on our policies. Perhaps most important is making clear his intentions in 2024 and how he will govern from a center-left viewpoint and not the far-left ideologues who are overrepresented. The Democratic Party of 2022 is more one of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Kathy Hochul, and not the one of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Marie Newman. If we are to maintain party unity and move forward with policies in mind, we must resist the siren call of extremism as the Republican Party failed to endure and with which we are now struggling. Only with immediate action can we possibly win in 2022 and 2024, while salvaging this administration’s victories and forge the path forward.

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