Joe Biden may not be alone in a confidence-crisis cascade. Gallup’s latest polling on congressional approval finds it declining, which may have all the newsy value of reporting on the wetness of water. But the origin of this decline demonstrates the damage the party has done to itself after several months of internecine warfare over its extreme-left turn:
Democrats’ approval of Congress rose 50 points between December 2020 and February 2021 when it peaked at 61%. This spanned a period when Congress went from divided control (with Democrats in the majority in the House and Republicans in the Senate) to full Democratic control. Democrats’ approval remained high after the American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief law was passed in March.
However, by June, when Congress failed to pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package by his Memorial Day deadline, Democrats’ rating of the body fell below the majority level. After a brief rally above 50% in August and September, Democrats’ approval of Congress fell as infighting among Democratic legislators held up passage of Biden’s climate change and social spending bill. With Biden’s legislative agenda still stalled, Democrats’ latest 26% approval of the legislative branch is the lowest it has been in a year.
The chart here is a real eye-popper:
Such are the wages of bad expectations-setting, and perhaps more as well. Democrats started off with a bang, almost literally, thanks to gaining control of both chambers and the widespread disgust of voters to the Capitol riot. Democrats also passed a massive free-money bill in March that helped keep those approval levels high while Joe Biden managed to keep the vaccinations rolling out and COVID-19 case levels declined.
Some of the bloom would have come off the rose eventually, but it didn’t have to be this bad. Had Biden and Democratic leadership stuck to a practical course, and especially if they kept expectations for their agenda at a realistic level for their narrow control, they might have fared much better. It seems doubtful that it would have remained in the 60s or even the 50s while Biden committed other incompetencies, but a centrist effort that avoided Democratic infighting and resulted in some definable wins should have kept support for a Democratic Congress at some reasonable level — high 30s at least, perhaps low 40s.
Instead, support tanked, and we can almost use the plot lines to see how. The first big drop came in the late spring when Biden miscalculated on the Delta wave, but also when the election-federalizing SB1 first died too. Democratic support rebounded almost all the way back in September when the Build Back Better proposal first got launched in the House, and plummeted a month later when it became clear that there was no chance of it passing. The debate over it provided a plateau, but the big L on the bill brought it down to its lowest level yet under Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
And the worst news for Democrats is that Gallup conducted the poll from January 3-16. In other words, it doesn’t include Schumer’s self-immolation on the filibuster on Wednesday night. Anyone want to guess what that number would look like now? It probably would be below 20%, and might still be if Democrats don’t start producing some achievements before the next iteration of the survey in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, don’t ignore the independents’ curve here too, which is less dramatic but perhaps even more threatening:
While independents’ approval of Congress rose modestly at the beginning of 2021, it only hit a high of 35% in April before declining. It was subsequently mired between 21% and 28% until this month when it fell five points to 17%.
Looking at the chart, Democrats have thrown away all of the gains they made with independents since the election. Most of the disaffected Democrats will likely stick with them, although they may be a lot less than enthusiastic about getting out to vote in the midterms. Independent voters will look for opportunities for change, especially in congressional leadership, and that will mean voting for the GOP in November.
All of the portents for a red wave not only have appeared but also seem to be gaining strength. Let’s see if Republicans can learn the lesson that Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer failed to recognize and just refrain from being crazy.