Updated: Oct 1, 2021
American voters are getting surly. Overall, we're not happy with any of our politicians. The Real Clear Politics favorability averages show all the big political names underwater-- every single one of them. You read a lot about how Biden has slipped down in esteem. He has. But he's still less disliked than any other political leader in the country:
Señor Trumpanzee -10.3
Kevin McCarthy -18.4
Ultimately, it doesn't matter that much if voters still perceive the politicians as the lesser evil. And according to Nate Cohn this morning, much of Biden's slippage is with Democratic voters who feel disappointed but who sure won't vote for a Republican instead of Biden. "A large number of voters-- women, young people and those who are Black or Latino-- have all soured on Biden’s performance," he wrote, "according to polls conducted since the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, even while Biden has retained more of his support among men, college-educated white voters and older voters."
There are few clues to help analysts understand these striking shifts in Biden’s ratings among reliably Democratic constituencies. But the shift can be interpreted in two ways, each with very different political consequences heading into the midterm election next year.
The best case for Democrats is that this is nothing more than an unusual response to an unusually unfavorable news environment, in which general dissatisfaction with Biden over the chaos in Afghanistan and the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus temporarily spilled across demographic fault lines.
But Biden’s weakness could also be interpreted as a continuation of electoral trends that surprised and disappointed Democrats in November. Biden fared unexpectedly poorly last year among many of the same groups he is struggling with now. It raises the more alarming possibility for Democrats that recent events have revealed a broader problem-- they are losing support among voting groups they generally take for granted.
Biden’s ratings have fallen more among women than any other demographic group. Forty-eight percent of women approve of Biden’s performance in polls conducted since the fall of Kabul, down from 57 percent in earlier surveys by the same national pollsters.
Outagamie County Executive and progressive senatorial candidate Tom Nelson, feels that he does know why Biden's numbers are faltering. This morning he told me that "These numbers confirm what we have known all along-- President Biden is bearing the brunt of congressional Democrats' inability to pass a strong infrastructure and reconciliation bill. And it is clear that with sell-out Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrstin Sinema it will continue to be a tough slog. This is another reason why we need more progressive Democrats in Washington and why I am running for the US Senate."
Alan Grayson, the progressive candidate running for Marco Rubio's Senate seat, seems very sympathetic to Biden. He told me he thinks that three important points stand out. "First, Biden doesn’t play the blame game, and that’s hurting him in the polls. (Afghanistan is a good example of that; Trump signed a treaty committing US forces to surrender and flee, as long as the Taliban didn’t shoot at them while they took over the country.) Second, the Right Wing Lie Factory is attacking Biden 24/7, and he really hasn’t found a way around that. Third, for whatever reason, he and other Democrats haven’t gotten traction with the public regarding the GOP’s brutal evisceration of a woman’s right to choose, blatant voter suppression, default on the national debt, yet another GOP government shutdown, and other issues that are a lot more pertinent to people than what two suicide bombers perpetrate 8,000 miles away."
Steve Holden, the Central New York progressive running for the seat held by Republican John Katko, has a clear idea about why Biden has been sinking in the polls and how to fix that. "The biggest reason you see the fall is that voters are waiting for the administration to deliver on promises and reverse Trump Administration policies. That was the mandate last November, but we still see missteps. Examples are the mistreatment of Haitians immigrants, and the fact that we still have a migrant child problem. People are still in facilities at the border. Furthermore, we have not delivered on voter protections or material and human infrastructure. All these issues are important to the American voter writ-large, but especially to women and communities of color. They realize, maybe better the anyone, what is like to be on the blunt end of bad policy. The other problem facing the Biden Administration is messaging. The Right is playing the game that the problems with the economy, Afghanistan, and the border are Democrats’ problems, but it was policies put in place by Trump that led to those disasters. The Administration needs to put those communities and Progressives front and center to defend them, and to champion their causes, instead of letting the media control the narrative."
Jason Call, clear across the country, and taking on a corrupt conservative Democrat, Rick Larsen, said this afternoon, after Biden's statement as he left the House caucus meeting-- ""It doesn't matter whether it's in 6 minutes, 6 days, or 6 weeks. We're gonna get it done"-- was to note that "for progressives the 2020 election was lost in terms of real expectations when Bernie was hatcheted by the establishment in March and April of the primary season. We have since watched the Biden administration fail on a number of 'day one' promises, from ensuring a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, to ending police militarization, to eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy, to competently addressing climate change. People are watching Joe fail to put LBJ-style pressure on Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and the other corporate conservative Senators, following a nationwide effort to elect two Democrats in Georgia 'or we won't have a majority to gEt ThiNgS DonE.' Add to it that Biden has (so far) not moved on the widespread call to abandon the Senate filibuster that has been widely abused by the Republicans over the last 30 years. So the question on the table is 'why are we working so hard for Democratic majorities when those majorities don't result in badly needed policy?' While the obvious answer is that the Republicans are far worse, in years past, that truth has proven of little consequence to voters who are ultimately tired of the whole goddamn corrupt system. The Democrats could bury the Republicans if they just passed good policy that would help the working and middle class voters, but the shamelessness of Manchin's and Sinema's open corruption is representative of the entirety of corporatist rot. It has become eminently clear that the only people willing to actually put up a fight against the corporatocracy are the progressives. We desperately need to expand that coalition, and the establishment of the Democratic Party desperately doesn't want that to happen (here in Washington, the Democrat-drawn Congressional redistricting favors all three Democratic incumbents being credibly challenged by real progressives-- Rick Larsen in WA-02, Derek Kilmer in WA-06, and Adam Smith in WA-09-- all members of the New Democrats, all deep in the pockets of industry)... by making those districts MORE CONSERVATIVE. While we don't yet know how this infrastructure/reconciliation debacle ends, it is highly likely that if the Democrats fail to effectively serve the public, they will lose ground. People are tired of the charade."