Absence of red wave in midterms not a vote of confidence in Biden’s agenda
Published: Nov 18, 2022 01:15 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The 2022 midterm elections in the US just wrapped up. And Republicans won control of the US House on Wednesday, returning the party to power in Washington. That would be enough to seal away President Joe Biden's legislative agenda for at least the next two years.

This is crucial because Biden promised to be the most transformative modern American president. He has put forward a number of items on the agenda, including his Build Back Better (BBB) vision and additional climate spending. While these were already strung up by Democratic Party infighting in the Senate, Republican control of the House of Representatives means any negotiations are pointless. 

As to how Democrats gave up their majority in the House, look to the state of New York where now-disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo worked with GOP Judges to re-district the state's boundaries. This helped Republicans pull 11 congressional seats as opposed to only four from the previous map. They have no one to blame but themselves for allowing Republicans to pick their voters via gerrymandering.

Democrats are framing the absence of a red wave, e.g., an election where Republicans win both branches of Congress in blowout fashion, as a vote of confidence in the president's agenda. They're also pointing to high turnout, and especially a near-record in the number of young voters (18-29) that showed out for Democrats. But there are a few problems with this.

For one, they lost the House. That means Biden will not be able to pass any legislation. Secondly, turnout was probably high by US standards, but dismal by OECD standards. Early estimates put turnout at 46.3 percent, which is less than half of the eligible people and also less than the last midterm elections. And for young voters, their turnout is estimated at only 27 percent. That's the second-highest for a US midterm election but still terribly low compared to other countries. 

This is the leading indicator of the legitimacy of US elections and its politicians. Biden's agenda is washed now that Republicans has taken the House, a significant amount of people don't even believe he was rightly elected, and politicians can pick their voters before an election. This is all bad enough; however, in my view, what's most critical is that less than half of eligible voters cast their ballot in 2022. 

What's also important to note is that an estimated seven in 10 Republican voters cited the economy as their primary issue going into the polls. That means that many people who turned out to vote are feeling the crunch of inflation in their pocketbooks, indicating that economic realities are impacting the legitimacy of the president's agenda. For his part, Biden has said that he doesn't plan to do anything different and believes in his policies to help the American people - even though inflation is at an all-time high. 

Biden's track record of gouging allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and backing Ukraine to the hilt against Russia, are producing inadequate results. So is the continued pressure on China via Washington's trade war against the country. Each of these policy domains shows that the president's decisions that impact the rest of the world are inevitably coming back to hit the domestic economy. 

Indeed, there was no red wave. Candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump were of exceptionally poor quality and failed to pull through in many key races. But that doesn't change the fact that Democrats lost the House - even if by a slim margin. That means that the president's agenda, whether it be enacting new economic policies or sending aid to Kiev, will be put in jeopardy for the foreseeable future over these results.

It is hard to square this reality with the general attitude emanating from the White House, that somehow Democrats actually won anything. They outperformed expectations relative to the most recent polls that came out prior to the election but they still lost the House. This does not legitimize the president or his agenda but indicates sufficient disagreement with it to change the power dynamic in Congress.

The author is a Prague-based American journalist, columnist and political commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn