WASHINGTON – With the White House’s legislative agenda collapsing less than a year before the midterm elections, Democrats are sounding the alarm that his party could face even deeper losses than anticipated without a major overhaul. change of strategy led by the president.
Frustrations range from those of the party’s liberal wing, which feels overwhelmed by the failure to enact a bold agenda, to the concerns of moderates, who have worried about losing suburban swing voters and have believed the victories Democrats would return to normalcy. after last year’s clash.
Democrats have already anticipated a difficult climate in the mid-term, as the ruling party historically loses seats during a president’s first term. But the party’s struggle to act on its highest legislative priorities has shaken lawmakers and strategists, who fear their candidates will not be left to fight the perception that Democrats have failed to deliver on their campaign promise. President Joe Biden’s central plan to revive a broken Washington.
“I think millions of Americans have become very demoralized – you ask, what do Democrats mean?” said Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont incumbent on the Senate Budget Committee. In a lengthy interview, he added: “Clearly, the current strategy is a failure, and we need a major course correction.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, a blue-collar district Democrat running for the state Senate, said his party had failed to address voters’ concerns. school closures, pandemics and economic security. He blamed the Biden administration, not only for not passing its domestic agenda, but also for a lack of clear public health guidance on issues such as the mask and the trial.
“It seems like Democrats can’t get out of their way,” he said. “Democrats need to do a better job of being clear about what they’re trying to do.”
Complaints have closed one of the worst weeks of the Biden presidency, with the White House facing imminent bankruptcy of voting rights legislation, the defeat of its vaccination mandate or tests for major employers in the Supreme Court , inflation rising to 40- year high and friction with Russia over aggression against Ukraine. Meanwhile, Biden’s top domestic priority – spending $ 2.2 trillion, a climate and fiscal policy plan – remains strong, not only because of Republicans, but also because of the opposition of a centrist Democrat.
“I’m sure they’re frustrated – they are,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. 2, when asked this week about the inability of the chamber to act on Biden’s agenda. Discussing the impact on voters ahead of the midterm elections, he added: “It depends on who they accuse.”
The end of the week provided another painful mark for Democrats: Friday was the first time since July that millions of U.S. families with children have not received a monthly child benefit, a payment set as ‘and part of the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan that Democrats have built up. in March without any Republican support.
Plans to extend the due date for payments, which helped keep millions of children out of poverty, have been thwarted by the collapse of negotiations on a sprawling domestic policy plan. Additional provisions related to the pandemic will expire before the end of the year without action by Congress.
“It’s almost as simple as that,” Ryan said. “If Democrats can’t continue with a tax cut for working families, why should we?”
In recent days, Biden has faced a growing wave of anger from supporters of the traditional party. Members of certain civil rights groups have boycotted his right to vote in Atlanta to express his disappointment with his push on the issue, while others, including Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia, they were remarkably absent. Biden promised to make another strong push for the protection of the right to vote, only to see it fizzle out the next day.
And last week, six of Biden’s former public health advisers published criticisms of his pandemic management, calling on the White House to adopt a “new normal” strategy aimed at living with the virus indefinitely. . Others have called for the dismissal of Jeffrey Zients, who leads the White House pandemic response team.
“It doesn’t seem to be an appreciation for the urgency of the moment,” said Tré Easton, a former adviser to Battle Born Collective, a progressive group pushing to cancel the filibuster to allow Democrats to pass a series of priority. “It’s kind of like, ‘OK, what’s next?’
White House officials and Democrats insist his agenda is far from dead and that discussions continue with key lawmakers to pass most of Biden’s domestic plans. Discussions over an omnibus package to keep the government open after Feb. 18 are quietly resumed, and states are beginning to receive funding from the $ 1 trillion infrastructure law.
“I think the truth is that the agenda will not end in a year,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Although there is general agreement on the electoral danger posed by the party, there is little consensus on who, exactly, is to blame. The Liberals have been particularly scathing in their criticism of two centrist senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Cinema, and their long-standing objections to undermining the Senate filibuster, as well as Manchin’s decision to refuse. abruptly the $ 2.2 trillion spending plan last. month. For months, lawmakers, activists and Democratic officials have raised concerns about growing support among crucial segments of the party’s coalition – black, female, youth and Latino voters – for assessments that many concerned may fall further without action on issues such as voting rights, climate change, abortion rights and paid family leave.
“In my view, we are not going to win the election in 2022 unless our base is energized and ordinary people understand what we are fighting for, and how we are different from Republicans,” Sanders said. “That’s not the case now.”
But many in the party concede that the reality of their narrow congressional majorities and the united Republican opposition has blocked their ability to go beyond their agenda. Some have criticized party leaders for accepting the ambitions of the progressives, without the votes to execute them.
“The leadership started with a failed strategy, and even if they do, they may get the message that they have tried, it’s not really going to make any real laws,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida center-back, retired but reported it. aspirations for a future Senate.
Democrat Cheri Bustos, a rural Illinois Democrat, said Democrats should consider less ambitious projects that could attract some Republican support to give the party results it can claim in midterm elections.
“We really need to reset it to this point,” said Bustos, who is retiring from a district that moved to Donald Trump in 2020. “I hope we focus on what we can do and then focus like crazy on for sale. “
Biden held the presidency in the belief that voters would reward his party for leading the country out of a deadly pandemic and into economic prosperity. But even after a year of record job growth, widely available vaccines and stock market peaks, Biden has not begun to send a message of success or focus on promoting his legislative victories.
Many Democrats say they need to do more to sell their achievements or risk watching the midterms go in the way of elections outside the year, when many in the party were surprised by the intensity of the reaction. against them in the races in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York.
“We need to get into the business of promotion and sales and get out of the business of complaining and complaining,” said Bradley Beychok, president of American Bridge, a super Democratic PAC.
Others say that as president, Biden has fallen out of step with many voters focusing on issues such as climate change and voting rights. While crucial to the country, those issues are not at the top of the list of concerns for many voters who are still trying to navigate the uncertainties of a pandemic that extends into a third year.
“The administration is focused on things that are important, but not particularly salient to voters, and sometimes as president you have to do that,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank. “Now, we’re going to start coming back to talking about the things that people care about.