Just over a year ago, millions of young people, women, voters of color and energetic independents joined forces to send Joe Biden to the White House. But 12 months into his presidency, many describe a coalition in crisis.
Leading voices from Biden’s diverse political base are openly decrying the slow progress on key campaign promises. The frustration was particularly pronounced last week after Biden’s push for suffrage legislation effectively stalled, heightening his party’s concerns about the risk that core democratic principles are at risk and bolstering a broader sentiment. that the president falters at a moment of historic consequence.
“People feel like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office. There are a lot of emotions, and none of them are good,” said Quentin Wathum-Ocama, president of the Young Democrats of America. “I don’t know if the right word is ‘apoplectic’ or ‘demoralized’. We are on the ground, we do not see the results.
The strength of Biden’s support will determine whether Democrats maintain threadbare majorities in Congress beyond this year or cede legislative power to a Republican party largely controlled by former President Donald Trump. Already, Republicans in several state legislatures have taken advantage of Democratic divisions in Washington. to enact sweeping changes to state election laws, abortion rights and public health measures in accordance with Trump’s wishes.
If Biden can’t unify his party and reinvigorate his political coalition, the GOP at the state and federal levels will almost certainly grow more emboldened, and the red tide that shaped a handful of state elections last year could fundamentally alter the balance of power across America in November’s midterm elections.
For now, virtually none of the groups that fueled Biden’s 2020 victory are happy.
Young people are frustrated that he has failed to deliver on his promises to tackle climate change and student debt. Women fear his plans to expand family leave, child care and universal preschool will be stalled as abortion rights erode and schools struggle to stay open. Moderates in both parties who once applauded Biden’s centrist approach worry he has gone too far to the left. And voters of color, like those in Biden’s political base, are furious that he hasn’t done more to protect their voting rights.
‘We rallied to elect President Biden because he made promises to us,’ Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., told The Associated Press, citing Biden’s commitment to fighting violence policing, student loan debt, climate change, and voter suppression, among others. problems.
“We need transformative change – our lives depend on it,” Bush said. “And because we haven’t seen those results yet, we’re frustrated — frustrated that despite everything we’ve done to create a Democratic White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, our needs and our lives aren’t still not treated as a top priority. . This must change.
Amid widespread frustration, the White House insists Biden is making meaningful progress, especially given the circumstances in which he took office.
“President Biden entered office with enormous challenges – a once-in-a-generation pandemic, an economic crisis, and a gutted federal government. In the first year alone, he has made progress on his promises,” said Cedric Richmond, senior adviser to the president. He highlighted more than 6 million new jobs, 200 million Americans vaccinated, the most diverse cabinet in US history and the most federal judges confirmed in the first year of a president since Richard Nixon. .
Richmond also pointed to historic legislative achievements Biden has signed into law — specifically, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that sent $1,400 in checks to most Americans and a set of $1 trillion infrastructure fund that will fund public works projects in every state across the country for several years.
In an interview, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading voice on the left wing of the Democratic Party, described Biden’s pandemic relief package as one of the most important pieces of legislation ever signed into law to help the workers.
“But there is still a lot to do,” he said.
Like other Biden allies, Sanders blamed two Senate Democrats for the president’s misfortunes: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They are blocking the president’s plan to protect voting rights by refusing to circumvent the filibuster, having already derailed Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, which calls for investments exceeding $2 trillion for the childcare, paid family leave, education and climate change, among others. progressive priorities.
“It’s been a mistake to have backstage conversations with Manchin and Sinema over the past four or five months,” Sanders said. “These conversations got nowhere. But what they did was demoralize tens of millions of Americans.”
But blaming other Democrats will do little to improve Biden’s political standing.
According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released last month, the president’s approval ratings have plummeted among virtually all demographic groups as the pandemic continues to rage, inflation rises in arrow and that the majority of his campaign promises are not kept. A series of legal setbacks in recent days is likely to make matters worse. The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements for big business.
About 7 in 10 black Americans said they endorsed Biden in December, up from about 9 in 10 in April. Among Hispanics, support has dropped to around half of around 7 in 10.
Only half of women endorsed Biden last month, down from about two-thirds in the spring.
There was a similar decline among younger voters: About half of Americans under 45 approved of the president, down from about two-thirds earlier in the year. The decline was similar among people aged 45 and older. And among independents, a group that swung decidedly to Biden in 2020, just 40% of those not leaning toward one party endorsed Biden in December, down from 63% in April.
“Biden is letting us down,” said John Paul Mejia, the 19-year-old spokesman for the Sunrise Movement, a national youth organization focused on climate change. “If Biden doesn’t use the time he has left with a Democratic majority in Congress to fight tooth and nail for the promises he was elected on, he will go down in history as a president who could have been and ultimately a coward who did not stand up for democracy and a habitable planet.
Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, said she wants to see more urgency from Biden in protecting women’s priorities.
“In these times, we need someone who is going to be a fighter,” she said.
Nunes called on Biden to step up efforts to protect voting rights and abortion access, which have been dramatically curtailed in several Republican-led states. An impending Supreme Court decision expected this summer could weaken or erase the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion.
“We are in a really tough time right now. We see so many laws being passed that really challenge peoples’ constitutional rights,” Nunes said. “We need someone to say we’re not going to tolerate this.”
Charlie Sykes, an anti-Trump Republican who backed Biden in 2020, said the president also risks losing moderate voters in both parties unless he can shift his party’s rhetoric more to the middle when he talks about public safety, crime and the vote.
“He ran as a very centrist, center-left candidate, but I think a lot of moderate swing voters feel a bit left out and wonder where the Joe Biden of 2020 has gone,” Sykes said.
Having only been in office for a year, Biden may have time to turn things around before November’s midterms — especially as Trump reemerges as a more visible player in national politics. In recent years, nothing has united Democrats more than Trump himself.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has two million members, said her members want more from Washington, but they will be out in force this year to remind voters of the work Biden has already done. done to address concerns about the pandemic and economic security.
“President Biden is not the obstacle,” Henry said, pointing to the “hardcore Republican caucus in the Senate” that has united against Biden’s Build Back Better package and his plan to protect voting rights. “We’re going to have this president’s back.”
Not everyone is so willing to commit to the Democratic president.
“We have to see Joe Biden fighting him. That’s kind of where I’m at,” said Wathum-Ocama, president of the Young Democrats of America. “The unifier is appropriate sometimes. But we need someone who’s going to fight for our issues if we’re going to come out and show up for him in 22.”
Hannah Fingerhut, polling specialist at Associated Press, contributed to this report.
The Independent Gt