Observers are skeptical about the Democratic Party’s ability to maintain its fragile control over the White House and Congress. Its popularity is significantly declining inside the US, as can be seen through several indicators. These include the deterioration of President Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris’s popularity; the major hurdles faced by the Biden Administration to pass its ambitious agenda due to the objection of some wings inside the party of the president’s legislative trends; in addition to the defeat of the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia by a Republican candidate. The defeat in Virginia was especially important because of the Democrats’ huge popularity there. These crises raise the specter that the Democrats will lose in the upcoming midterm elections, which would pose an obstacle to the legislative agenda of Biden and enable the Republicans to gain dominance over American policy. This would also impact the 2024 presidential elections, especially amid the Republicans’ relentless efforts to strengthen their popularity inside the US by exploiting increasing fractures within the Democrats.
It seems that President Biden has created an unprecedented paradox, as most of the polls indicate a precipitous drop in his popularity over the past few months. According to observers, this was the first time this has happened with any US President since the Second World War, which raises the Democrats’ concerns, especially given other negative indicators, such as:
1- The rapid decline of the President and the Democrats’ popularity: Most of the polls in the US indicate a huge decline in the US President’s popularity, underlined by the chaotic withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan and the increasing criticisms of the Biden Administration inside the US. According to a poll by Gallup on 23 October, Biden’s popularity declined in the first nine months of his term by 11.3% to 44.7%, which was the first decline of its kind since the Second World War. Similarly, the CAPS-Harris Poll in October 2021 indicated that Biden’s popularity declined to 43%. Polls by USA Today, and Suffolk University published on 7 November 2021 indicated that Biden’s popularity declined to 38%, while the popularity of Harris declined to 28%.
2- Trump surpassing Biden in the latest polls: The decline of Biden’s popularity was not based on his performance over the past ten months alone. Its negative effects extended to his chances for winning a second term. Two-thirds of Americans (64%) said that they won’t vote for Biden in the 2024 elections, 28% of whom are Democrats. Meanwhile, only 58% opposed Trump running for president in 2024, of whom 24% were Republicans.
Another poll conducted by Emerson University and published by Newsweek on 6 November 2021 indicated that should Trump run for election in 2024, there is a possibility he might defeat Biden. According to the latest data, Trump is supported by 45% of registered voters in the US, while only 43% support Biden. Some 11% of voters would rather vote for another candidate, while only 1% said they haven’t decided yet.
3- The Democrats’ loss in the gubernatorial elections: The brutal defeat of the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, by the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, underlines the significant decline of the Democrats’ popularity, especially since Virginia was believed to be an easy win for Democrats. The Democratic Party has invested its political efforts in Virginia over the past years, which helped them maintain their hold on the state’s governorship since 2009. Virginia’s votes were also decisive in the past presidential election, giving Biden a 10-point advantage over Trump. In New Jersey, meanwhile, the Democratic governor Phil Murphy achieved a hard-won victory over the Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli. The former won 50.1% of the votes while the latter won 49.1% of the votes. In 2017, Murphy won the election by 56% of the votes. Biden also won the state’s votes in the 2020 elections by 58% against 40% for Trump. This underscores the Democrats’ decline in the state.
4- Disrupting the legislative agenda of the Biden Administration: The Biden Administration is facing major difficulties in passing its ambitious legislative agenda, especially the Build Back Better bill. However, it is worth mentioning that this disruption stems mainly from internal disputes within different wings of the Democratic Party, which delayed the President’s infrastructure plan after some progressive members objected to it. Moderate members demanded a reduction to Biden’s proposed social expenditures budget worth USD 3.5 trillion. Fractures are increasing among Democrats who hold a majority of seats in the Congress, thus, further hindering Biden’s agenda.
Reasons for Biden and the Democratic Party’s decline in popularity vary between internal and external factors, which include but are not limited to the American citizens’ depression from Biden’s Administration policy’s failure to achieve desired economic results. This is especially important because of the inflation rate – which is soaring for the first time in decades – and the dissatisfaction towards the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the "chaotic" withdrawal from Afghanistan, which sparked a storm of criticism of the administration both inside and outside the US, contributed to a decline in its popularity. This decline comes with potential consequences in the next period, which could be summarized as follows:
1- Loss of the Democrats’ majority in the Congress: Democrats currently hold both houses of Congress, with a one-vote margin in the Senate and a two-vote margin in the House of Representatives. As the midterm elections approach, it is expected that Democrats will lose this control This forecast is based on the history of American politics, where usually the President’s party loses a few seats of the Congress in every midterm election.
However, the Democrats’ loss of more seats in Congress is more likely to happen during the midterm elections in November 2022, given the huge decline in the US Administration’s popularity and the gubernatorial election results in Virginia and New Jersey, in addition to the "chaotic and uncertain" political discourse of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party previously lost control of Congress in 2010 after losing Virginia in the 2009 elections.
2- Increasing divisions inside the Democratic Party: The challenges faced by the Democratic Party — which typically play to the advantage of Republicans – are not limited to the decline in the former’s popularity, but also include the increasing internal disputes between the leftist, progressive, and moderate camps, which were a major obstacle to Biden’s legislative agenda. Should this decline in the Democratic Party’s popularity continue, internal dissension between different wings of the Democratic Party may rise, thus leading to more division and chaos in the party’s political discourse. This would also affect its performance in the elections.
The announcement of some Democratic Party members in the Congress – including John Yarmuth – that they will not run in the next election reflects the party’s internal divisions. This paves the way for the Republican Party to take over the Congress in the next midterm elections.
3- Accelerated recovery of the Republican’s Party popularity: The huge decline of Biden’s and the Democrats’ popularity is expected to swiftly restore the GOP’s popularity, which could capitalize on the Virginia governorship results to gain more ground in other states. The Republican Party is also expected to modify the congressional districts to serve their interests. Republicans currently dominate 30 state legislatures and they are using this advantage to serve their interests. This are achieving this by weakening the impact of minorities’ votes by spreading these voters across a large number of congressional districts.
4- The Republican Agenda’s Dominance of American Policy: The Republicans’ likely takeover of Congress is expected to turn Biden into a "lame-duck" president, which will obstruct the passing of his agenda for sensitive issues, given the existing objections of Democratic members to the President’s legislative plans. This became evident in the infrastructure project. Furthermore, the President’s medical fitness could be discussed before Congress and the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution could be invoked to remove him of office.
In conclusion, the Republican Party is expected to dominate the Congress in the next midterm elections, given the clear crisis faced by the Democratic Party, the declining popularity of both Biden and the Democrats, and the loss of public support in some states where they enjoyed massive popularity, in addition to the increasing divisions between different wings of the Democratic Party. This would lead to Republican control over internal US policy and pave the way for their return and perhaps the reelection of Trump as president in 2024. This will also have an impact on US foreign policy, especially in relations with Russia, China, Iran, international organizations, and allies.