Democrats -- and the media -- are giving up on Biden

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

“The giant sucking sound you’re hearing is the panicked divestment of elected Democratic politicians, progressive activists, and the mainstream media from the Biden administration,” Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote today. “The word is definitely out that the president’s stock is going to zero — and it’s time to get out while you still can.” I agree, and so should you if you’ve been reading the site over the past 48 hours as political media is suddenly awash in stories about liberal apparatchiks furious with Biden for not showing more “urgency” in addressing the many crises bedeviling the left and the country more broadly. Ed noticed Politico’s take on it this afternoon, John flagged CNN’s take last night, now here I am seeing the same theme in coverage at WaPo and The Hill.

A.B. Stoddard ticked off a few of Democrats’ grievances: “A raped and pregnant 10-year-old crossing state lines for an abortion. A coup against our government led by a president eager to send a mob he knew was armed to threaten the vice president and members of Congress. A Supreme Court that rules against the majority of the country on guns, abortion, and climate change and may side with Republicans next year who want partisans to decide our elections. The attorney general of Texas admitting he would welcome the return of anti-sodomy laws.” On top of all that, they’re headed for obliteration in the midterms under Biden’s stewardship, deepening the sense of powerlessness. Stoddard wants the party to run on “anger and terror” this fall to galvanize voters, a sentiment with which many liberals agree. But the guy in the White House is either too old, too genial, or too bipartisan in spirit to give them the anger and terror they’re craving.

So they’re cutting him loose. It’s now essentially unanimous in America that Biden isn’t equal to the challenge of this moment.

“It’s infuriating,” said one top Democratic strategist, venting frustrations about Biden and his team. “Our house is on fire and it seems like they’re doing nothing to put the fire out. They’re just watching it with the rest of us.”…

“There’s the administrative part of the job and the political part of the job, and it seems like this president is leaning more in the administrative role at a time when his coalition is thirsty for political clarity and leadership,” Payne said. “The president and his team have to be vigilant about providing that and balance the need to do both.”

Speaking about the Biden administration’s inaction on abortion, Bakari Sellers, the political commentator and former member of the South Carolina state House, put it this way Friday on CNN: “I’m not sure what he’s doing. I can tell you what he ain’t doing.”

The creeping sense on the left that he’s overmatched by events probably explains his abysmal polling lately. It’s more than just inflation that’s convincing lefties to peel away. It’s the feeling of exasperation that Biden seems powerless to address virtually anything they regard as a major problem.

Which I think is almost a pure coping tactic. There’s nothing they can do near-term about unfavorable SCOTUS decisions and there’s little they can do in Congress to advance their agenda thanks to pro-filibuster members of their own party. They can’t convince the GOP to give up on a coup-plotter as the party’s presumptive nominee in 2024 either. They’re shocked to find themselves helpless in the age of the imperial presidency, when control of the White House is supposed to bring immense power. So all of their anger falls on Biden, who — uncharacteristically for this era — seems to respect that there are some hypothetical limits to executive authority that prevent him from, say, issuing an order making abortion legal nationwide.

He’s an easy target for other reasons. His advanced age makes the perception of helplessness more potent. And there are no emotional attachments to him on the left that might ensure Democrats’ sympathy during a trying time. He became the nominee only because he was their best chance to defeat Trump, a promise he fulfilled. Now that things have gone sideways on his watch, they’re free to abandon him and start sniffing around for a new champion.

If he can’t do something to solve our problems, liberals say, he could at least evince some anger to show that he cares. “Don’t poll test anything. Go say the thing that everyone is feeling: ‘Americans should be able to go celebrate the Fourth of July without getting shot. Kids should be able to go to school without there being a shooting. This is madness,’” said GOP consultant Sarah Longwell to Politico, offering advice to Biden. “Seize the moral high ground.” Right, Democrats want to see urgency. Sleepy Joe doesn’t do urgent.

But some ambitious members of his party increasingly do, sensing there’s a void to be filled:

Pritzker’s trying to tap the same progressive desperation for moral leadership that Gavin Newsom tried to tap with his attack ad against Ron DeSantis in Florida. They know that Biden has lost the party. They’re scrambling to inherit it. WaPo:

In the view of many distraught Democrats, the country is facing a full-blown crisis on a range of fronts, and Biden seems unable or unwilling to respond with appropriate force. Democracy is under direct attack, they say, as Republicans change election rules and the Supreme Court rapidly rewrites American law. Shootings are routine, abortion rights have ended and Democrats could suffer big losses in the next election…

“There is a leadership vacuum right now, and he’s not filling it,” said Adam Jentleson, a Democratic consultant and former top adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada. “I sympathize with the argument that there’s very little they can do legislatively. But in moments of crisis, the president is called upon to be a leader. And when people are feeling scared and angry and outraged, they look to him for that, and they’re not getting much.”…

An administration official said that while Democrats have long expressed private alarm at Biden’s perceived missteps, the Supreme Court abortion decision seemed to represent a turning point. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to deliver a candid assessment, the official said it catalyzed three key frustrations — the high stakes; Biden’s inability to do much unilaterally to fight the decision; and concern that the White House would let the moment pass without using it to galvanize fellow Democrats.

Yup, that sums it up. Never would I have guessed that the most immediate political consequence of Roe being overturned would be Democrats turning on a president from their own party for being ineffectual, but clearly that’s what’s happening. Which is ridiculous in one sense, as Dems had many opportunities since 1973 to codify Roe. Their failure to do so is a true group effort. But in another sense Biden is uniquely well-suited to be a scapegoat on that subject for liberals. After all, 1973 is also the year that he joined the Senate. To lefties, he’s a living embodiment of how incompetent the Democratic establishment has been for decades at thwarting Republicans’ long campaign to end abortion rights.

They’re done with him. I’m inclined to say he’s unelectable in 2024 at this point unless he has the good fortune to run against Trump — and maybe not even then.