Biden’s Big Challenges After These Elections
Biden’s Big Challenges After These Elections
President Biden will be one of the losers in the November 8 elections. He and his Democratic party had hoped that the issue of legal abortion would attract most voters, but the Republican Party found that inflation in the economy is the stronger political issue. Most political analysts here agree that the Republican Party will win control of the House of Representatives and it might win control also of the Senate. We probably will not know which party controls the Senate for days and weeks after the November 8 polling. As the elections in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada will be very close, there will be re-counts of votes and cases brought to courts as in 2020. The possibility of violence against election workers will slow the recounting and final confirmations.
Control of the Senate is especially important for the Biden. The Senate has the constitutional authority to confirm senior officials to jobs in the Biden administration, and there are still important jobs waiting in many departments, including at the State Department and the Department of Defense. (For example, the ambassadors in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.) In addition, if the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives, it will investigate Biden administration’s actions with immigration, the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and the Justice Department’s treatment of Donald Trump. Many Republican representatives will demand the Senate conduct impeachment trials for Biden officials like the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security and perhaps even President Biden.
Even if Biden escapes an impeachment trial, his domestic agenda with Congress will be totally blocked. Therefore, like presidents before him, he will focus more on foreign policy in the last two years of his term. Biden will spend more time on the war in Ukraine where already many Republican Party figures are warning that Washington should reduce its aid to Kiev. Biden will surely want to visit Europe to encourage more European solidarity with Ukraine and to show that he is still a world leader. In addition, Biden will work to build stronger alliances in Asia with countries like India, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea to deter China from attacking Taiwan. Biden likely will want to visit Asia again.
In contrast to Europe and Asia, don’t expect Biden action in the Middle East. After the OPEC-plus decision to reduce oil production in October, Biden received sharp criticism for his July visit to Riyadh. The victory of Netanyahu in Israel will not give the Biden administration room for cooperation on the peace process. Biden will not want to engage in a big fight with Israel before the difficult American election in 2024. Because the left wing of the Democratic Party criticizes many Israeli actions, Biden also will not want to show unlimited support that a visit to Israel would signal. Therefore, Biden’s visit to Egypt this week for the climate change conference is likely his last visit to the region during his first term. Iran could be a friction point between Biden and Netanyahu. It it is hard to imagine Biden will reach a deal with Iran about its nuclear program now, and the politics in Washington are strongly against it. But with the Ukraine war ongoing and the big China threat, the Biden administration will be reluctant to strike Iran militarily if there is no clear, fast way to end a war with Iran. As Obama found in Syria, the Republican Party won’t help him.
Finally, if the Democrats lose badly on November 8, there will be more pressure on Biden inside his party for him not to run for re-election. Biden does not generate enthusiasm with voters. According to a Reuters-Ipsos poll last week, 55 percent of American voters disapprove of his performance since 2021, and the most shocking result in the survey is that 54 percent of young Democratic voters disapprove of his performance. Young voters are a key base of the party. Many people at the election rally with Biden at Florida University last week left early in the middle of the President’s speech. Barak Obama, by contrast, attracts large, enthusiastic crowds. Obama is 17 years younger than Biden, and many Democratic voters want a new generation of leaders to replace traditional leaders like Biden. Already some Democratic party figures are urging the left wing and its younger supporters not to encourage a competitor to Biden in the 2024 presidential primary elections. If the November 8 results are bad for the Democratic Party, candidates from the left wing will tempted to run against Biden in the primary elections. Biden could win the nomination of the party, but he would be weaker facing the Republican candidate in 2024. Carter had this problem in 1980 when Ronald Reagan crushed him.