Will the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill help the Democrats and Joe Biden avoid defeat in the midterm elections next year and the White House in three years? It is not certain.
Last week, the House of Representatives bolstered Joe Biden and the Democrats with the passage of a bill to modernize transportation and infrastructure. Finally, after many months, something has been achieved. Repairing the roads and bridges, as well as increasing the range of high-speed internet connections, will be beneficial to America. The bill was previously passed in the Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. Since it deals with the budget — $1 trillion over 10 years — it could be passed by a simple majority, which is an additional success with only a minimal Democratic majority in the Capitol. But will this prevent the anticipated defeat of the Democrats and Biden in the midterm elections next year and the White House in three years?
Biden Is Rapidly Losing Popularity
According to the latest USA Today and Suffolk University poll, only 37.8% Americans approve of Biden’s work, and almost 60% disapprove. Of the previous U.S. presidents, only Donald Trump had similarly poor ratings at the same point in his presidency, 10 months after inauguration. The poll also revealed that 64% do not want Biden to run for reelection in three years. He started with approximately 60% support. The drop in support is a measure of the public’s disappointment with him, his politics and party support.
This sentiment was reflected in state and local government elections in many states last week. In Virginia, where Biden had a 10% margin of victory over Trump, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the gubernatorial election, and his colleagues deprived the Democrats of the majority in the state legislature. In New Jersey, New York’s liberal neighbor, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly defended his seat. The elections took place a few days before Congress passed the infrastructure bill, so the Democratic candidates did not have much to boast about; the Capitol had only been hearing endless disputes between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party for months.
Meanwhile, domestic inflation, gasoline prices and violent crime are all on the rise. And while the COVID-19 pandemic is weakening, it is not yet over, so unpopular restrictions are in place. Those on the right blame Biden for this. Fuel prices are rising because oil and gas drilling has been limited. The number of murders is increasing as Democrats portray the police as brutal thugs, causing many officers to resign from the service. This is in addition to those resigning because of vaccination requirements. Such arguments are mainly demagogic, but there are other serious allegations against Biden, such as not preparing the southern border for a new wave of undocumented immigration and abandoning hundreds of citizens in Afghanistan — not to mention tens of thousands of Afghanis cooperating with them — to the hands of the Taliban after the chaotic withdrawal of troops.
The economy is slowly recovering. The latest data on gross domestic product growth and declining unemployment is optimistic. Aid packages for families after the pandemic have improved the financial situation for many. If laws on new social benefits like child care tax breaks, universal preschool education and paid health and parental leave — not guaranteed by the federal government in the U.S. — were passed, it would potentially have greater political benefit than the infrastructure law because the mentioned benefits would be more directly felt.
For now, the Democrats have not been able to promote their reforms for propaganda purposes. Biden, although he often talks about them in meetings with voters and at press conferences, makes it difficult not to nap after 10 minutes. The president does not have the charisma of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama; his fast-paced argument is interlaced with incoherent thoughts and stutters, as if he were reading something from a piece of paper in which he himself is not very interested. Biden has never been a thrilling orator; he has always had a tendency to blunder. And with age — he is almost 79 — those qualities have sharpened even more.
Republicans Have the Stronger Cards
Even if the Democrats pass social benefits laws — the left-leaning authors of the legislative bill are negotiating with opponents within the Democratic Party itself — it is unknown whether or not this will help them in the 2022 and 2024 elections. In today’s politics, opinions and attitudes are shaped by Twitter and Facebook, not rational discussions. Candidates do not earn votes based on what they can offer the voters, but by scaring them with the opponent’s policies.
The Republicans now have a stronger hand in this competition. Democrats like Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia, are still trying to scare Trump. The elections were not a plebiscite about the former president, but the current president. Meanwhile, the GOP is warning that the budget deficit and public debt, growing due to the enormous expenses proposed by the Democrats, will increase inflation, and that loosening the restrictions on the border will lead to flooding the country with a wave of immigrants who will be a breeding ground for crime and burden local budgets. This is either demagogy or a biased stretching of reality; the opinions of economists on stimulating growth by increasing social spending vary.
Democrats Are Doomed
One advantage for the Republicans is that in the Democratic Party, the “progressives,” getting stronger and demanding more, are proposing things most of society finds unacceptable. While demands such as free public college enrollment and even paid parental leave sound normal to a European, in the U.S. they have no mass support and are treated as “revolutionary.” The idea of “socialism,” though viewed more favorably today than 30 years ago, is still feared in America.
The greatest dangers for Biden and the Democrats are the proposals from the left regarding race relations in the U.S. The demands to reduce funding to police departments because they are brutal and racist, put forward by radical liberals from big cities from coast to coast, are easily associated with an increase in crime. In the last election, the scarecrow of the “critical race theory” that America is a country of chronic systemic racism played a significant role. Monuments had to be torn down as part of the reeducation of white citizens — even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, because they owned slaves. These nonsense ideas drive Democratic Party strategists such as James Carville to despair. As The Economist rightly pointed out, if Biden does not tame the progressives, he and his party are doomed.