President Joe Biden is an optimist .It’s just who he is.Almost every time he speaks in public he talks about American “ possibilities ” and his belief that a better future lies ahead.
That optimism might seem out of place based on many of the commentaries marking the completion of the president’s first year in office.But, contrary to conventional wisdom, not only does Biden have reason for optimism as he looks ahead to 2022, so do his fellow Democrats and all Americans.
That is not to minimize the challenges faced by the president, his party, and the country.COVID-19 is not yet under control and the GOP has actively undermined the common sense public health measures that could help bring this two year-long pandemic to an end.Our country is deeply divided.Real threats to our democracy have gained strength in the year since the Jan.
6 coup attempt.
November 2022 will bring a midterm election that will likely produce gains for Republicans in the House and Senate.Such a result will make it difficult for Biden and Democrats to get much done.
The world is also a dangerous place, full of leaders also seeking to test the United States.
But there’s legitimate reason for optimism as Biden begins his second year in office.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement is an example of how the winds of political fortune can blow in the president’s direction.Biden now has the chance to follow through on his promise to appoint the first Black woman to the high court—a choice and a confirmation process that could energize a key part of his base.
In addition—also looking at the court—potentially broadly unpopular decisions undercutting Roe v.Wade or expanding gun rights later this year could produce a backlash against the GOP-dominated court and also mobilize major Democratic constituencies.
Recent economic news has also been very encouraging.U.S.GDP grew at an annualized rate of 6.9 percent in the last quarter of 2021, surpassing economists’ estimates.For the year, the economy grew at 5.7 percent, the fastest rate in nearly 40 years.
If solid growth continues, as is likely, and COVID continues to recede and with it, the supply chain bottlenecks that have driven up inflation—the president and his political allies could benefit greatly.After all, few things are ever more important than kitchen-table issues in an election year.
With much of US politics being a zero-sum game, looming setbacks for Trump and Republicans could also result in Biden and Democrats’ gains.
The Supreme Court recently ruled Trump documents must be turned over to the Jan.
6 Committee.The Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney has requested a special grand jury to look into Trump’s efforts to strong-arm state election officials into tipping the vote count in his favor.In New York, Michigan, and in the federal system there are signs Trump could be held accountable for his failed coup attempt, which will reflect poorly on the former president’s party among the electorate.And almost daily new revelations offer evidence of Trump’s involvement in a vast conspiracy to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
While midterm elections are historically tough for incumbent parties, it should also not be forgotten that as recently as 2020, Democrats maintained a majority in the House and gained a (slim) majority in the Senate.Further, recent reports show Democrats are doing better than expected in terms of recent redistricting efforts.And courts in places like North Carolina and Kansas have struck down some of the most extreme voter suppression laws.
And when handicapping the upcoming election, it is worth remembering that Biden won the last election.By a lot.
There’s almost constant reporting on Biden’s standing in the polls, and yet, it neglects to mention that his approval rating is higher than that of his predecessor, or the fact that first-year polls are fairly meaningless.The last time Biden faced a real GOP candidate, he won by eight million votes.
In fact, for all the dark trends in U.S.
democracy, Democrats have won a plurality of votes in seven of the last eight presidential elections.
And demographic trends across the U.S.almost universally play to the advantage of Democrats—whether it is the steady growth of groups that are traditionally part of the Democratic base or because of increasing urbanization (big cities tend to vote “blue”).
The campaign to highlight administration accomplishments—such as the passage of a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill—is a sign the president and his team understand the importance of going on the offensive.They accomplished an enormous amount in year one—from record job creation to a $1.9 trillion rescue package that lifted 40 percent of America’s children in poverty from their plight, and from getting a record number of judges confirmed to creating more jobs than any first year administration in US history.
It is time the president, the vice president, the cabinet, and their surrogates leave the confines of the Beltway and deliver that message across America—especially in states where Democrats could win in the fall.Further, if they can add one or more high profile senior voices to their already strong White House team, they should do it.This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.
In addition, to maintain the momentum, the Biden administration should continue its efforts to pass new initiatives—including elements of the Build Back Better package—that are both politically achievable and easier for voters to understand.This will present a powerful contrast with an obstruction-oriented GOP and provide a formula for Democrats in November.
In the same vein, President Biden has begun to use stronger language about the threat of voting restrictions and the attack on democracy.That’s a good thing.
The party of incumbents only wins midterms during times of war time or other moments of extreme crises.
If Biden takes advantage of emerging trends, while at the same time accurately framing the urgency of the threats our system faces, that could both drive Democratic voter turnout and peel back the veneer of “business as usual” preferred by the GOP.
2022 is going to be tough, no doubt.
But much of what Biden achieved in 2021 would have been considered somewhere between improbable and impossible just months earlier.If he leans into his successes, builds upon them, gets out of the Beltway bubble, and enlists the help of his entire administration in getting the message out—2022 could produce similarly surprising and positive outcomes.
The beneficiaries will not just be the president and his party.The result will be a stronger America..