Buyer’s remorse strikes Americans who voted for Biden
Anyone who has ever bought something only to hate it once they got it home is familiar with the concept of buyer’s remorse. Sadly, the regret felt after making a bad purchase also applies to the world of politics.
The difference is that politicians, once elected, cannot be returned for a refund. And the damage they inflict on their constituents or nation can linger on for years, long after they have left office. Which is why many American voters, when faced with the reality of the Biden Presidency, are now having second thoughts about voting the man into office.
Biden’s fast-sinking ship of state
Truth to be told, this process actually started fairly early on in his Presidency as shown by a series of Gallup polls, which show that, while Biden did initially enjoy a 56 percent approval rating generally (60 percent among younger voters), support for him quickly dropped so that by March 2022 his overall support had fallen by 14 percentage points to 42 percent. This drop was particularly worrisome in light of the even greater declines seen among some key demographics – namely, Millennials and Gen Z voters (down 19 and 21 percentage points respectively), African-Americans (down 21 points) and Hispanics (down 20 points).
Since that time, Biden’s approval rating has remained stuck at around the 40 percent mark, even dropping below that recently. While this is close to the level experienced by Presidents Trump and Obama at the same point in their Presidencies, there are a number of red flags unique to Biden. One is the steep decline in support seen among independents – which fell from 61 percent in January 2021 to 39 percent in August 2023. Another is the softness in support from young Hispanics and African-Americans. And then there is the ongoing flight of working-class voters to the Republicans.
Recent polls have been so dismal that even the usually Biden-friendly mainstream media have been forced to recognize the depth of voter discontent. The most recent example involved the ABC News/Washington Post poll released in late September. It found overall approval for Biden to be trailing disapproval by 19 points (37 percent approval versus 56 percent disapproval). To make things worse, his approval was lower (30 percent) when it came to the economy and lower still when it came to immigration (just 23 percent). The intensity of the disapproval felt by Americans was shown by the 45 percent of respondents who strongly disapproved of his performance compared to just 20 percent who approved strongly. And to cap things off the poll concluded that, were a Biden/Trump Presidential election held today, it would be a toss up – in spite of Trump’s many legal woes.
While this latter finding may seem implausible, there nevertheless are a number of trends that do seem to support it.
Declines in key demographics
One is the growing support for Trump among African-Americans and Hispanics. For in this poll Trump got the support of 20 percent of African-Americans and 42 percent of Hispanic votes – a significant increase from the 8 percent of African-American and 36 percent of Hispanic votes he got in the 2020 election. These numbers are particularly striking in the case of African-American voters, given that no Republican candidate in the last 50 years has gotten 20 percent of this group’s votes – the average for the period being just 9 percent.
Part of this may be explained by Trump’s personality, which some observers believe connects well with African American men – a hypothesis for which there is some evidences. For example, one Fox News poll examining attitudes toward the candidates running to become the Republican Presidential nominee found that 41 percent of non-white men had a favorable view of Trump – with 25 percent declaring themselves to be strongly favorable. (This contrasts with the 27 percent approval rating from non-white women who clearly were not as impressed by the man.)
But that’s only part of the story since almost all of the other candidates saw their favourability rating among African-American respondents stand at or above the 20 percent level. So, it’s clear that others things are likely at work here as well.
One such thing is a growing sense among some African-American voters – particularly the young - that their decades-long support for the Democratic Party has failed to pay the dividends they had expected. This was underlined by University of Chicago academic Cathy Cohen who stated, “we have a generation of young people who have seen up close the limits of electoral politics. They've seen the election of black mayors, they've seen the election of the first black president, and they've also seen that their lives have not changed.” A similar sentiment was reported by Reuters drawing upon a number of polls and interviews. It found a number of respondents who complained about the Democratic Party’s failure to deliver on its promises and its growing emphasis on LGBTQ rights and abortion at the expense of economic issues.
Teamed with this is a sense that, once in power, the Democrats are not much different from the Republicans – a theme explored by researchers with the Black Swing Voters Project at the American University in Washington DC
Of course, this sense of alienation is far from restricted to people of colour and the young. For there is a strong sense among large numbers of working-class people across all races and ethnicities that the Democratic Party may no longer adequately reflect their views. Part of this flows from the Party’s socially-liberal stances that conflict with the more conservative values held by many working class people in such areas as public safety, LGBT issues, abortion and renewable energy. In an article in The Atlantic, left-leaning scholar Ruy Texeira describes what he calls the “Democrats’ Long Goodbye to the Working Class” which over time has seen working-class voters leave a Democratic Party they believe increasingly reflects the values and concerns of university-educated activists and voters. While this trend may have initially been centered on white working-class voters, many Hispanics are now joining them - with early indications that Black working class voters may now be starting to follow suit.
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Is this the end for the Democrats?
So, is this the end for Biden and the Democrats? For Biden – maybe. But for the Democrats – hardly.
And while things do look bad for Biden just now, the reality is that he may yet survive this current rough spot. For politics is a funny business and stranger things have happened. And a number of leaders in worse shape than Joe have continued to rule long after their “best before” data. Two examples that come to mind are: Mao Tse-tung, who was rumoured to have been so incoherent in his old age that only one person in China could understand him, and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who (so the joke went in Eastern Europe) had actually been dead for a year before anyone realized it.
Whatever happens to Biden, the Democrats can be counted upon to look after themselves. For example, they might well may force him to resign before the end of his term. Or they might find another more-electable candidate to run in 2024. (Michelle Obama is an interesting name that has recently been mentioned!) And the strength of the Democrat’s ‘ground game’ and their impressive bag of tricks – helped along by Donald Trump’s inability to keep his mouth shut – may be enough to push them over the goal line, even if Joe is their candidate.
Finally, something unforeseen may happen – such as a ‘Black Swan’ or some other event - that will totally reshuffle the electoral deck for Biden and the Democrats. Politics is funny that way. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens to turn the world upside.
Still, those are all short-term considerations. The more serious questions are long-term ones – namely, how America can survive if it continues to remain as divided as it currently is and tolerate the compromised institutions and incompetent leaders we see today. And those will not be easy to address since they will require some sort of cultural or spiritual revival if that is to happen.
Paul Malvern writes from Canada. He is President of The Malvern Consulting Group Ltd., which provides public and private sector clients with advice and assistance in the areas of strategic communication and social marketing. He is also an author and social critic, whose second book, Persuaders: Lobbying, Influence Peddling and Political Corruption in Canada, was nominated for the Governor-General’s Award for Best Business Book in 1985. He was the head of the Prime Ministerial Communications Group in the Prime Minister's Office and Lead Speechwriter for Stephen Harper.
Image credit: Bigstock
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