Joe Biden campaigned as a moderate, pledged to unify the nation in his inaugural address and has governed as a far-left progressive. If present trends continue, the president and his party face a reckoning in November 2022.
Newly elected presidents often mistake the breadth of their “mandate,” assuming they have one. Bill Clinton, elected in 1992 as a minority president with 43% of the popular vote, thought he was Lyndon Johnson. His early executive order addressing gays in the military, followed by his cumbersome health care reform efforts, cost Democrats the House and Senate in 1994.
LBJ’s 1964 landslide saw huge majorities in the popular vote, the Electoral College and in both Congressional chambers. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide flipped the Senate to the GOP, and his 1984 re-election saw Republicans keep the Senate and gain 16 House seats. Former Vice President Walter Mondale won 13 electoral votes. Those elections were mandates.
By contrast, Biden’s 2020 victory was primarily a vote against Donald Trump’s toxic personality and his flawed pandemic responses. While Biden received almost 7,000,000 more votes than Trump and won the Electoral College by 306 to 232 (the same margin by which Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016), the Senate remains evenly divided and Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only a handful of House Democratic votes.
Trump won the presidency in 2016 by carrying Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 77,000 votes. In 2020, Trump lost Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin by only 44,000 votes. Had he carried those states, the Electoral College would have been tied. In short, the nation remains almost evenly divided politically.
Democrats are increasingly mindful of history: the party holding the White House usually loses Congressional seats in its first midterm election. That prospect explains why Biden and his party are pursuing two strategies now: betting the farm on an economic-growth blowout from massive, unprecedented federal spending and cramming as much of their legislative agenda into the first 15 months of Biden’s presidency.
Meanwhile, many Americans are increasingly concerned that Biden never intended to unify the country and, instead, is allowing his party’s progressive leftwing to determine his priorities.
Seeking credentials as a moderate, Bill Clinton once denounced extremist positions amongst Democrats when he criticized activist and hip-hop artist Sister Souljah for her radicalism.
Thus far, Biden has failed to confront the Democratic Party’s extremists and has sat by while racial, economic and cultural issues divide Americans who feel increasingly insecure about their future.
Biden’s immigration and border policies have brought an unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants, eviscerating border security.
Ransomware attacks against major American companies and cities are increasing.
Violent crime is surging.
“Defund the Police” initiatives are increasingly unpopular with citizens of all races.
Inflation (which may not be temporary) is rising rapidly in commodities, housing, groceries, and elsewhere.
Biden proposes massive new federal spending and record deficits while taking a huge gamble that interest rates will remain near zero. Even longtime Democratic economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has warned repeatedly that Biden’s spending plans are too big and risk igniting sustained, long-term inflation.
“Woke” policies on college campuses, in schools, hiring, the media and elsewhere are contrary to how most Americans view themselves and our nation.
Restrictive speech codes have expanded beyond college campuses to include political censorship by Big Tech, media, and publishing houses.
Critical race theory is prompting more American parents to abandon public schools in favor of greater parental choice, including charter and religious schools.
Recent polls show more and more Hispanic voters shifting away from the Democrats’ agenda.
The vaguely defined “diversity, equity and inclusion” efforts underway in many workplaces are raising new questions about whether Americans want equality of opportunity or equality of results. Historically, the American civil-rights movement has favored the former, not the latter.
If the civil-rights movement evolves into a demand for reparations based on the sins of slavery, Americans will become further divided.
Most Americans are pragmatic people who oppose discrimination, want police and other wrongdoing to be prosecuted, and support inclusiveness and equality of opportunity. They also reject the New York Times’s discredited 1619 history project and don’t believe that our country is structurally racist.
Where is Biden on these controversial issues?
Biden still has some time left to govern as a moderate, but his party’s left wing may prefer extremism. I’ve seen plenty of “kamikaze conservatives” over the years. We may soon be witnessing the prominence of “do or die Democrats.”
Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House