AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
It’s incredible to think that just eleven months ago, Democrats were celebrating unified control of government for the first time in more than a decade. They had lost seats in the House but still managed to hang on to the gavel, Joe Biden had secured the White House, and two runoff elections in Georgia handed the party the slimmest of majorities in the Senate. It was a narrow victory to be sure, but they were jubilant nonetheless.
Less than one year in, however, almost everyone agrees that the Democratic Party is in freefall. As a litany of crises induced by ill-advised policies sweep the country, Democrats’ grip on power is now endangered by a disgruntled American public, a newly energized Republican Party, and internal divisions threatening to tear the Democrat coalition apart. In the wake of what can only be characterized as a historic (and perhaps even unprecedented) first-year failure, and with glaring individual shortcomings compounding their mismanagement of the government, Washington has a new parlor game. It’s called “Joe, Kamala, Nancy, or Chuck?” And the game is to guess which – if any – will still be in office one year from now.
Joe Biden – a case study in ineptitude
As astonishing as it sounds, the most vulnerable Democratic leader may be the sitting President of the United States who doesn’t face reelection for another three years.
Since taking office, Biden has overseen a disastrous American defeat in Afghanistan, record high inflation, a border crisis of unprecedented scope, crime waves in cities throughout the United States, ransomware attacks on the country’s most critical infrastructure, and surging numbers of COVID-19 deaths despite being handed three vaccines by the Trump administration, among other crises either caused or directly worsened by his administration’s policies. For a president who campaigned on putting “the adults” back in charge, it’s hardly been a rousing success, and Americans are noticing.
There’s also the increasingly obvious fact of Biden’s declining mental faculties. He rarely appears in public, and when he does has repeatedly implied that he’s not in charge of when he can take questions from the press. Biden’s gaffes have embarrassed the country on the world stage and he often wanders away during events, seemingly forgetting where he is at. Just this month, he fell asleep at a major international conference on climate change, a subject he himself has claimed is literally a life and death issue for humanity with little time left on the clock.
Even Democrats appear to recognize that the Biden administration may already be too far gone to salvage. Many Democrats were openly critical of the president over his handling of Afghanistan, and Democrat candidates like Virginia gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe admitted that Biden’s poor poll numbers were dragging them down in their races earlier this month. If Biden’s failed governance and unpopularity continue to impede Democratic success in future elections, pressure may mount internally for a new direction – and let’s not forget that he has an unusually Machiavellian Vice President who is openly plotting to eventually take the reins. If these challenges are too much to overcome, ‘health concerns’ for the soon-to-be 79-year-old Biden may provide the graceful exit needed to usher “the Big Guy” off-stage.
Kamala Harris – has even Biden had enough?
Democrats’ problems in the White House don’t stop with Joe Biden. Kamala Harris currently has a 28 percent approval rating, even lower than her boss. On the one issue that Biden entrusted to her, the border, the administration has 23-percent approval. Harris has also been perhaps even more elusive than the President, having yet to hold a solo press conference and falling victim to the same sort of verbal gaffes as Biden in her rare interview appearances.
Accounts have also emerged in recent days of mounting tension between Harris and her staff on the one hand and Biden’s staff on the other. Rumors have circulated that Biden may even be considering nominating Harris for a Supreme Court seat if one becomes vacant so that he can select a new Vice President. While White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that Harris is a “vital partner” to Biden, the fact that the administration even felt the need to try and quell such reports suggests that they may not be entirely unfounded.
For the Democratic establishment, Harris was supposed to be the President-in-waiting, ready to step in for an aging Joe Biden. But now, even as Joe Biden continues to flounder, it seems that there is little confidence among the public or Democratic insiders that Harris could do the job much better. If Biden decides not to run in 2024, Harris won’t be a shoo-in – and she likely won’t even be the favorite. If an opportunity presents itself for Harris to save her political career and her legacy, she might just take it. After all, the first black female on the Supreme Court is a better place in the history books than being an unusually unpopular VP.
Nancy Pelosi – the architect of legislative disaster
Many House Democrats were already uneasy with another term for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, even before the legislative mess that the party now finds itself in. Democrats lost seats in the 2020 election on Pelosi’s watch, even as Biden landed in the White House and Democrats regained control of the Senate. Progressives wanted one of their own to hold the gavel, and there were serious doubts that Pelosi could keep an increasingly fractured party together.
Those doubts appear to be well-founded amid the bungled messaging and process around Biden’s signature infrastructure plan and social spending bill. Were it not for 13 Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats, the infrastructure bill would have failed in the House, a sign of Pelosi’s inability to keep progressives in line.
In light of the results in this month’s elections, it’s also conceivable that Pelosi may want to avoid presiding over what could well be a historic collapse in the 2022 midterms. If the 81-year-old Speaker does decide to retire early, she may still be able to name her heir and salvage some of her legacy – an inviting prospect for a career politician.
Chuck Schumer – the new target of the woke left?
The Senate Majority Leader may be in the most secure position of any current Democratic leader, but even his job security is by no means assured. While the infrastructure bill ultimately proved to be a major win for Schumer thanks to the compliance of Senate and House Republicans, passage of Biden’s signature spending plan remains very much up in the air. If Schumer can’t hammer out a deal, it would be a major blow for both the Biden administration and Schumer’s leadership, likely creating a crisis of confidence among Congressional Democrats.
Even if the Senate does pass Biden’s spending plan, progressives have made clear that they are none too happy with the significant cuts that have already been made to the overall package. With Schumer’s reelection looming in 2022, progressives may see deep blue New York as an opportunity to elect a more radical figure like fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sending a powerful message about the ascendance of the far-left. There is little doubt that if AOC thought she could take the shot at Schumer’s seat and win it, she would do just that. After all, she ran against and defeated Joe Crowley, then the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, to get where she is today.
While it seems unlikely that all of the current Democratic leaders will be gone before the midterms, Democrats would likely find themselves in a particularly tough spot if even one makes an early exit. Leadership crises typically don’t inspire confidence among the public, a fact that would only be exacerbated by Democrats lack of rising stars to replace their aging incumbents. The most high-profile Congressional Democrats aside from Pelosi and Schumer are radicals like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, polarizing figures even among Democrats. A power vacuum could inflame already obvious internal tensions into an all-out civil war for the future of the party.
Of course, as the last year has shown, everything could change in the next twelve months. While it seems unlikely today, should the economy rebound or the GOP face unforeseen struggles of their own, Democrats could be in a more advantageous position next November than it currently appears. Republicans should well remember that they once wrote-off Joe Biden as finished politically after he opted against running for president in 2016, only to see him pull off an improbable comeback four years later. But if the GOP avoids unforced errors and the Democratic Party continues to self-implode, it’s likely that one way or another, Democrats will soon be looking to a new set of leaders to guide their party back from the brink of total disaster.