Dems' gloom increases over midterms: Afghanistan fallout?

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

For two months, I have argued that Joe Biden’s disgraceful abandonment of Afghanistan and several thousand Americans provided the catalyst for a confidence-crisis cascade. Now it appears that Democrats might finally see it for themselves. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the Democratic mood on Capitol Hill has grown gloomier about their midterm prospects, which contributed in part to Patrick Leahy’s decision to retire:

Democrats are growing gloomier in their outlook for the midterms next year amid President Biden’s poor approval ratings, nagging economic issues and GOP advantages in the redistricting process.

Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) announcement Monday that he will retire cast another spotlight on the growing uncertainty over whether Democrats will be able to keep control of the Senate and House. …

Leahy is far from the first Democrat to announce their retirement.

Already three senior House Democrats who were expected to cruise to reelection next year, Reps. Mike Doyle (Pa.), David Price (N.C.) and John Yarmuth (Ky.), have announced they will not seek new terms.

“It definitely seems like something changed in August,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, who pointed to Biden’s sharp drop in approval ratings after the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which he called “a catalyst” for the changing political environment.

Indeed it did, and it seems that Democrats have quietly figured that much out. Voters had until then overlooked Joe Biden’s character flaws and the fact that he seemed much more reactive to events rather than shaping them. Biden actively shaped the mess in Afghanistan, however, especially his abandonment of several thousand Americans after promising on national television to stay in Kabul until they all got out. That moment stripped away every pretense of competence and leadership as well as integrity, and Biden’s numbers have been in free-fall ever since.

While Democrats may have recognized the catalyst, they have yet to come up with a new plan or platform that recognizes the reality of Biden’s collapse. Indeed, as Henry Olsen writes at the Washington Post today, Democrats instead think that they should double down on Biden and his extreme agenda — even though election results in Virginia and New Jersey show just how unpopular that is:

The memo is simply a warmed-over rehash of what Democrats were saying before they got hit hard in this month’s elections. The plan is to double down on their aggressive agenda rather than curtail their ambitions in the face of public rejection. They tout their soon-to-be-passed Build Back Better plan as a salve for what ails America and contend that Democrats should also promote the covid-19 stimulus plan and the recently passed infrastructure bill. Left unexamined is why Americans in blue states and counties everywhere sharply turned against Team Blue on Election Day despite these legislative efforts.

This Democratic message amounts to pandering to the base rather than talking to swing voters. Democratic voters clearly place high priority on fighting covid-19, support the infrastructure deal and want as large a social spending package as can be pushed through Congress. There’s absolutely no evidence, on the other hand, that independents prioritize any of this. Yes, there are polls that show many of these plans are superficially popular — although the sheer size of the cumulative spending does concern many independents. But that’s a far cry from making these items political priorities.

Instead, independent voters seem to care more about things Republicans are talking about, such as fighting inflation and combating rising crime. They are upset that illegal immigration is at record highs, with scenes of chaos along the southern border erupting on a regular basis. And they are concerned that America’s positive qualities are being denigrated in the legitimate quest toward racial equality and harmony. None of this is what Democrats want to hear, but simply plugging one’s ears in response is sheer madness.

Democrats even want to use Terry McAuliffe’s strategy to sell this plan, despite its utter failure two weeks ago in Virginia:

True to form, the Democratic memo does respond indirectly to these concerns by propounding the lie that Republicans are an antidemocratic cabal filled with crazy conspiracy theorists. This is nuts. Yes, there are extreme elements within the GOP, as there are within the Democratic Party. But voters can distinguish good apples from the bad. Democratic efforts in Virginia to taint Republican Glenn Youngkin with the charges that he is dangerously weak on combating covid-19 or a stooge for former president Donald Trump fell flat, as did similar campaign efforts in Pennsylvania. If Democrats really believe they can convince independents that normal Republicans are closeted lunatics, they’re the ones not in touch with reality.

The problem, John Feehery writes separately at The Hill, is that Democrats have run out of sales pitches. The problem is precisely that they’re out of touch with reality, starting at the top with Joe Biden, and voters now realize it:

As always happens, Republicans fail because they try to do too little, while the Democrats fail because they always try to do way too much. President Biden campaigned like he was former President Clinton in his second term but has tried to govern like he is FDR, LBJ or Obama.

The Biden bait-and-switch is only part of the Democrats’ problem. The American people don’t want more government. Sure, they will take the handouts, because free money is hard to resist. But voters understand instinctively that there is no such thing as a free lunch. They blame the Democrats and the president for inflation and high gas prices (rightfully so), they blame the Democrats and the president for the risk of more government restrictions on freedom (rightfully so), they blame the Democrats and the president for failing schools (ex. the Glenn Youngkin victory in Virginia), and they blame the whole progressive movement for cancel culture, wokeness, defunding of the police and a general disdain of America and its cultural norms.

The left has become anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-free speech, anti-liberty, pro-globalist, pro-lockdown, pro-socialist, pro-COVID-19 hysteria, pro-climate hysteria, pro-mask and pro-gender-bending. They have become very easy to run against.

That explains why Republicans will win in November. All the GOP has to say is “we are not them” and they will have a very good election. We are not crazy. We are not socialist. We are not hysterical. We are pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-economic growth, pro-getting people back to work.

And the reason the GOP can do this is because of the grander Biden bait-and-switch — not just campaigning as a collaboration moderate and governing like a progressive extremist, but also Democrats’ sales pitch for Biden as a wise and experienced executive. That myth got abandoned in Kabul along with several thousand Americans, and voters aren’t buying Biden’s attempts to resurrect it. Don’t be surprised if more Democrats in both chambers of Congress decide to hang it up rather than double down on insane in 2022.