Republicans are in the ascendency despite Biden’s legislative record  

By Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

By the time the Camera goes to press, Americans will have completed their midterm elections.  President Biden has been spending much time on the road trying to help Democratic candidates in tough races, emphasizing that American Democracy is at stake, blaming rising energy and food prices on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, criticizing oil companies and refineries for profiteering off higher prices instead of doing more to increase production.  He also argued that the economy was in far better shape than most Americans judge it to be, and that a Republican win will result in a wrecked economy and potential loss of Social Security and Medicare.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and about 33 seats in the Senate are up for election. Currently Democrats have a slim majority in both houses of Congress, should Republicans win Congress, they will be able to block most of Biden’s and the Democrats’ agenda until 2024.  Interestingly, there are 291 Trump supporters on the ballots who believed that the 2020 election was stolen, they are running for congress, governorship, secretary of state, and attorney general.  They are targeting the levers of power that determine how an election is certified.  Most important, if they gain control the 2024 Presidential election would be an American nightmare.

Despite the challenges presented by obstinate Republicans and two Dixiecrats in his party, Biden’s performance has been impressive.  A bipartisan Congress approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which drastically increased investment in the national network of bridges and roads, airports, public transport, national broadband internet, as well as waterways and energy systems.  The Democrats also passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, enabling 65 percent of the population to be vaccinated, and a $739 billion bill to address the climate crisis, reduce drug costs and establish a 15 percent minimum tax for large corporations.  Also, the unemployment rate is down from 6.6 to 3.9 percent.  Biden also issued a student loan relief program, where all eligible federal student loan borrowers will have $10,000 worth of debt canceled.

With his legislative record and considering that this is probably the least qualified contingent of Republicans in experience, education or charisma on the ballot for the last 40 years, it’s difficult to understand why this election is a dead heat.  Are Americans so politically naïve that they don’t even recognize that under Trump and the Republicans, the rich got billions in tax cuts and the working class got nothing?  Are they so brain dead that they believe that wealth will trickle down to them? Are they so racist that they ignore the fact that Republican lawmakers voted against everything that would help the middle and working class and their children?   More disturbingly, polls reveal that more than 75 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and 50 percent see a civil war looming. 

If this poll is correct, a seismic shift, resembling the far-right wing shifts in Italy, Sweden, and Hungary is taking place in America, fueled by opposition to immigration, and white nationalism.  Biden recognizes this shift and has been warning Americans that Trump and MAGA republicans are a threat to democracy.  However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and his preoccupation with the destruction of Putin have led him to pursue the old US “Cold War” agenda which is having significant negative consequences in America, Europe and the world.  More importantly, his policy threatens to undermine US relations with NATO, Europe and the world, as 35 countries abstained and four joined Russia in voting against the US proposal in the UN to denounce Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. 

Biden’s obsession with war and unconditional military support for Ukraine has undermined his successful legislative achievements.  War has increased gas and food costs and increased inflation in the US; polls show that 82 percent of Americans rate inflation as the most important issue in this election, followed by crime, elections and voting, and immigration.   

The Congressional Progressive Caucus, realizing that inflation could result in democrats losing both houses of Congress, sent Biden a letter urging him to negotiate directly with Russia to bring an end to the war in Ukraine.  Biden refused to consider their request and they had to rescind the letter.  I guess destroying Putin is more important than securing American democracy or maintaining the neoliberal global order.

On the issue of crime, Republicans are running ads accusing Democrats of being soft on crime, citing rising crime rates and telling voters that their vote is a life-or-death decision.  Although crime is everywhere, big and small cities, counties that voted for Trump and counties that voted for Biden, their messaging seems to be working since polls show Republicans ahead of Democrats on the general ballot.

On the “issue” of elections and voting, this non-issue was made an issue by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him.  Disinformation campaigns and threats to poll workers appearing amid reports of armed individuals sitting near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona are heightening alarm over right-wing intimidation efforts as early voting kicks off across the United States.  MAGA republicans have successfully undermined the US voting system.

On the issue of the Southern border immigration, Congress has been working on this for decades, and cannot agree on a comprehensive program.  US farmers want Congress to stop attacking each other and pass reforms that will give year-round growers and producers access to the farmworker program and guarantee US food security.  However, for political reasons, Republicans have been framing the issue as an “invasion”, because the word has a long history with white nationalists, plus exaggerating their role in smuggling illegal drugs into the US, and how likely they are to use public benefits, have been gaining traction even among Democrats.

Polls reveal that 80 percent of the millions of Americans who voted early describe the economy as bad and that things are “out of control” in the country. A CBS poll also shows that voters believe that Republicans policies would make the country safer from crime, and that gas prices will go down if they win.  Voters think that Democrats put the interests of immigrants first rather than prioritizing the interests of US citizens, and that Democrats will open the US Mexico border.  Importantly, more than half of independents blame Biden for issues like gas prices, crime and immigration, and might vote Republican.

If these polls are correct, it does not bode well for Democrats, and when one considers that Biden’s approval is at 43% and disapproval at 55%, the midterm elections could result in a Republican-controlled Congress.  If this happens, Biden must accept full responsibility for the defeat, because he has prioritized the defeat of Russia and Putin above “American Democracy”, US geopolitical interests, and the global economy that shows a 98 percent chance of a global recession, if the war in Ukraine continues.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)