Joe Biden & Democrats on the backfoot: Approval rating lowest in a century

Their failure to deliver on a robust and progressive economic agenda is hurting the Democrats and paving the way for ‘Return of the Republicans’

Joe Biden campaigning
Joe Biden campaigning
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Saurabh Kumar Shahi

President Joe Biden didn’t have exactly a rousing 10 months at the helm. But the previous fortnight was downright awful.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC Poll, the overall approval rating of Biden plunged to a piffling 41% with close to 53% of Americans clearly expressing dissatisfaction with his performance. This is the lowest approval rating of any US President this early in his term in the last century. Even Donald Trump didn’t perform this poorly this soon.

What’s more worrisome for Democrats is the fact that fewer and fewer voters are reposing faith in them even on the issues that were once considered Democrats’ strong suit such as education. If anything, the latest debacle that they faced in Virginia had education policy play the biggest role.

Republicans not only won the Governor’s race in Virginia, but they also went on to post an unexpectedly robust challenge in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race as well that they lost by a whisker. Just a year after Biden picked Virginia by a massive 10 percentage points, the incumbent, Governor Terry McAuliffe, got trounced by the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin. The result has sent a shockwave among the Democrats, but it’s unlikely they will learn the right lesson and make course correc-tions in time to salvage the mid-term polls next year. In fact, they seem to be learning all the wrong lessons.

Immediately after the debacle, the beltway journalists who carry water for Democrats came with the spin that American voters are not buying into the rhetoric of Progressive Democrats and that Centrists have a better chance salvaging the party. This quickly found takers inside the Democrat echo chamber. No one cared to ask if Centrism is what is attracting voters then how come Terry McAuliffe got trounced?

Agreed, there is decreasing appetite among the Americans for cosmetic steps that Democrats advo-cate in the name of progressive social policies, but polls after polls confirm that Americans are solidly behind Progressives’ economic agenda. But when Democrats come to power, they hype up the social agenda and go silent on the economic ones and that is where Republicans find a breach.

Centrists and Wall Street Democrats have been pressurising the Progressives to buckle on the Manchin-Sinema disgusting watering down of the original Build Back Better (BBB) bill. Senator Manchin’s blackmailing has all but withered the original bill that was going to benefit common Americans at the cost of corporate America, something that Manchin, a favourite of Wall Street Democrats, would never allow. If the Act is implemented in its hollowed-out avatar, it will have little to no bearing on the performance of Democrats in the mid-term.

Atrios explained this phenomenon when he wrote, “[T]he story of every Dem election win is they promise lefty stuff, fail to deliver, then they lose subsequent elections and then tell themselves that doing all the lefty stuff they didn’t do was the cause. They lose power, eventually go back to running on lefty stuff, win, and then again fail to deliver.”

The verdict is clear for the Democrats: Go slow on the “woke” stuff and deliver on the economic front. However, knowing Democrats, one can put the money on them doing just the opposite.

Biden Administration is facing other challenges that they don’t know how to cope with. The rising commodity prices have pushed the inflation. Sources in the US now maintain that the loony Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is exacting revenge on Biden and wants to see a Republican next term in the White House.


International oil and gas prices are high as both Saudis and the Russians have respectively declined the request to pump more oil and gas. This is in sharp contrast to what MBS did when Trump was in office. Trump asked him, and he complied, by pumping more oil. This kept inflation in check. He is not extending the same favour to Biden because not only has Biden not extended the courtesy of calling him since he took office, he has also almost pulled out from the unpopular Yemen War leaving Riyadh to pick up the pieces.

The White House has on its part given both subtle and obvious hints to Riyadh but nothing doing. Ironically, Biden’s political future is now in the hands of Iranians who he wants to throttle like his predecessor. For a glut in the oil market to happen, the US needs to lift the sanction on Iran, something that Biden has been dragging his feet on. The Conservatives at the helm in Tehran will not grovel like the Rouhani administration as they correctly believe that the US has played its biggest hand with its maximum-pressure tactic and has nothing left in the armour anymore.

The arm-twisting tactic doesn’t work with the Principlists as was amply demonstrated in the Persian Gulf recently where Iranian Forces thwarted an attempt by US Navy to hijack an Iranian oil vessel by threatening the US Warship with a missile attack. The US Navy backed down.

If that is not enough, the news is also not good on other fronts. China has refused to be bullied and is giving back true and proper. Moscow thwarted the US’ latest attempt at provoking Ukraine to launch a war in the breakaway Donbas region. On Syria, its allies are trampling over each other to normalise with Assad. UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have all been sending top officials to Damascus to accept Assad on his terms. These foreign policy stebacks will also harm Biden’s chances in the mid- term.

There’s a limit to which identity politics can deliver and that limit has been reached. Democrats’ base wants material gains now. The stark message to them is, deliver it or perish.

(Views are personal)