What to do? Play the race card, of course. Try to whip up enthusiasm among Democrats’ most die-hard voters, knowing that if Blacks and Hispanics start to stray, their party faces not just defeat in the midterm elections but a veritable bloodbath.
That’s what happened in 2010, when Democrats under President Obama lost a shocking 63 seats in the midterm elections. Blacks, Hispanics and young people, unhappy with Obama’s management of the economy and with the direction of the country, simply didn’t show up.
Democrats are worried that could happen again, and rightly so.
How do we know Democrats are alarmed? For starters, 26 Democrats in Congress have announced that they will not run to keep their seats. Most are retiring, pretty sure they will be plunged once again into minority status come November. That’s a good bet.
Their leader is struggling. Biden’s overall approval rating, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, is underwater by 10 points, while his approval on the economy, always voters’ number one issue, is at negative 15 points.
Democrats see plenty of red flags, but nothing is more disturbing to Biden’s party than signs that minority voters are wavering. Comparing the results from two Economist/YouGov polls – one very recent and the other from last June – tells a worrisome story.
Only five months into Biden’s presidency, for instance, 48 percent of Blacks and 34 percent of Hispanics strongly approved of Biden’s management of COVID-19; last week that approval had shrunk to 31 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Similarly, in June, 40 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics strongly approved of Biden’s handling of the economy; now only 33 percent and 22 percent of those groups do.
Overall, 33 percent of Black voters and 24 percent of Hispanics strongly approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president; six months ago the figures were 44 percent and 27 percent.
What to do? Gin up another issue that further divides America, but that Biden and his Democratic colleagues hope will firm up support not only among minorities but also among all-important progressives, who put Biden in the Oval Office. Because progressives’ controversial $5 trillion (the real price, according to the Congressional Budget Office) Build Back Better legislation has stalled, the president is losing the support of the left.
The left’s waning enthusiasm was apparent from the boycott of his speech in Atlanta by voting rights activists, including Stacey Abrams.
To win back progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden is pushing for the Freedom to Vote Act, which will, he says, battle “Jim Crow 2.0.” That overwrought reference apparently mistakes reestablishing sensible pre-COVID voting rules for efforts to block minority participation in the most sacred of democratic activities.
Biden is telling Black and Hispanic voters that their vote is being suppressed, though he has offered no evidence to make that case. In fact, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, “more Black Americans voted in 2020 than any presidential election since 2012, and Latino Americans and Asian Americans also surpassed their previous turnout records.”
In addition, according to a Heritage Foundation legal scholar, “During the entire eight years of the Obama administration, the Justice Department filed only four enforcement cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting.”
Biden’s pitch suggests that requiring voter IDs, for instance, is part of a nefarious plot to disenfranchise Blacks and Hispanics. Never mind that in poll after poll, 80 percent of Americans, and solid majorities of Blacks and Hispanics, approve of requiring an ID to vote. Or that identification is required to board an airplane or to enter many office buildings. Or that most states that demand such credentials make them available to all free of charge.
There are 35 states that require voter IDs; are all those states racist?
Voting rights are important, and they are intact. A more pressing problem, by far, is that so many Americans distrust our elections. According to a recent poll, only 46 percent of Americans think Biden’s election was “definitely” legitimate.
That read of the country’s confidence in the 2020 election outcome should worry Biden. If Democrats continue to push partisan voting rules that encourage same-day registration, allow ballot-harvesting or outlaw voter IDs, for instance, the nation’s faith in our democracy will indeed falter. Democrats should be moving mountains to build confidence in our election process, not to undermine it.
It is ironic that Biden has committed to busting the Senate filibuster – a move that in 2002 Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said would prove “Doomsday for Democracy” – in order to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. He wants to destroy the underpinnings of our successful centuries-old form of government in order to save it. What a farce.
Biden is pushing solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. If there are folks out there who were not permitted to vote because of their race, they should come forward to tell their story.
Otherwise, Biden would do well to address issues that concern all Americans. That would include inflation that is eating up rising wages and burdening lower-income workers; crime that is making our cities – and especially minority neighborhoods – less safe; and schools that fail our Black and brown children.
Maybe try to unite the country instead of dividing it. That’s what Joe Biden campaigned on, because it was a popular idea. It still is.
Published on The Hill