NEW YORK (AP) — Just over a year ago, millions of energetic young people, women, voters of color and independents…
NEW YORK (AP) — Just over a year ago, millions of energetic young people, women, voters of color and independents joined forces to send Joe Biden to the White House. But 12 months into his presidency, many are describing a coalition in crisis.
Leading voices in Biden’s diverse political base openly condemn the slow pace of progress on key campaign promises. The frustration was especially pronounced in the past week after Biden’s push for voting rights legislation effectively ground to a halt, raising concerns in his party that fundamental democratic principles are at risk and reinforcing the wider sense that the president is wavering at a moment with historic consequences.
“People feel like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office. There are a lot of emotions, and none of them are good,” said Quentin Wathum-Ocama, president of the Young Democrats of America. ‘I don’t know if the right word is ‘apoplectic’ or ‘demoralized’. We’re downstairs. We don’t see the results.”
The strength of Biden’s support will determine whether Democrats will retain a worn-out majority in Congress after this year or whether they will relinquish legislature to a Republican Party largely controlled by former President Donald Trump. Republicans in several state legislatures have already taken advantage of Democratic divisions in Washington to make sweeping changes to state election laws, abortion rights and public health measures in line with Trump’s wishes.
If Biden can’t unite his party and revive his political coalition, the GOP will almost certainly be more encouraged at the state and federal levels, and the red wave that formed a handful of state elections last year could shake the balance of power across America. in the November midterm elections.
For now, virtually none of the groups that propelled Biden’s 2020 win are happy.
Young people are frustrated that he has not kept his vows to fight climate change and student debt. Women worry his plans to expand family leave, childcare and universal pre-K are stalling as abortion rights erode and schools struggle to stay open. Moderates in both parties who once applauded Biden’s centrist approach worry he has moved too far to the left. And voters of color, like those in Biden’s political base, are outraged that he hasn’t done more to protect their voting rights.
“We mobilized to elect President Biden because he made promises to us,” Representative Cori Bush, D-Mo., told The Associated Press, citing Biden’s pledges to curb police brutality, student loan debt, climate change, and more. address voter suppression. issues.
“We need transformative change — our lives depend on it,” Bush said. “And because we haven’t seen those results yet, we’re frustrated — frustrated that despite everything we’ve done to bring about a Democratic White House, Senate and House of Representatives, our needs and our lives are still not as are treated as a top priority. That has to change.”
Facing widespread frustration, the White House insists Biden is making significant progress, especially given the circumstances when he took office.
“President Biden came in with enormous challenges: a once-in-a-generation pandemic, an economic crisis, and a hollowed-out federal government. In his first year alone, he has made progress in delivering on his promises,” said Cedric Richmond, senior adviser to the president. He pointed to more than 6 million new jobs, 200 million vaccinated Americans, the most diverse cabinet in US history, and the most federal judges confirmed a president’s first year since Richard Nixon.
Richmond also highlighted historic legislative achievements Biden signed into law — most notably a $1.9 trillion pandemic emergency bill that sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and a subsequent $1 trillion infrastructure package that will fund public works in every state in the world. the country for several years.
In an interview, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading voice in the Democratic Party’s left wing, described Biden’s pandemic aid package as one of the most important laws ever passed to help working people.
“But a lot more needs to be done,” he says.
Like other Biden allies, Sanders blamed the president’s woes on two Senate Democrats: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They are blocking the president’s plan to protect voting rights by refusing to circumvent the filibuster, as they have already derailed Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ package, which calls for more than $2 trillion investments in childcare, among other things. , paid family leave, education and climate change progressive priorities.
“It’s been a mistake to have backroom conversations with Manchin and Sinema for the past four months or five months,” Sanders said. “Those talks have yielded nothing. But what they’ve done is demoralize tens of millions of Americans.”
But blaming fellow Democrats will do little to improve Biden’s political position.
According to polls published last month by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president’s approval ratings have fallen among virtually every demographic as the pandemic continues to rage, inflation soars and the majority of his campaign promises go unfulfilled. A series of legal setbacks in recent days make matters worse. The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements for major companies.
About 7 in 10 black Americans said they approved Biden in December, compared with about 9 in 10 in April. Among Hispanics, support fell to about half from about 7 out of 10.
Only half of women approved Biden last month, compared with about two-thirds in the spring.
There was a similar decline among younger voters: About half of Americans under 45 approved of the president, up from about two-thirds earlier in the year. The decline was similar among the over-45s. And among independents, a group that definitely waved for Biden in 2020, only 40% of those who didn’t lean on a party that Biden had endorsed in December, up from 63% in April.
“Biden is letting us down,” said John Paul Mejia, the 19-year-old spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, a national youth organization focused on climate change. “If Biden doesn’t use the time he has left with a Democratic majority in Congress to fight tooth and nail for the promises he was elected to, he will go down in history as the president he could have been and ultimately a coward. who did not stand up for democracy and a habitable planet.”
Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, said she wants to see more urgency from Biden in protecting women’s priorities.
“In these times we need someone who is going to be a fighter,” she said.
Nunes called on Biden to work harder to protect voting rights and access to abortion, which have been drastically curtailed in several Republican-led states. A looming Supreme Court ruling expected this summer could weaken or wipe out the historic Roe v. Wade precedent that made abortion legal.
“We are currently in a very difficult time. We see so many laws being passed that endanger people’s constitutional rights,” Nunes said. “We need someone to say we won’t tolerate this.”
Charlie Sykes, an anti-Trump Republican who backed Biden in 2020, said the president is also in danger of losing moderate voters in both parties unless he can move his party’s rhetoric more towards the middle when it comes to public safety. , crime and voting.
“He was a very centrist, center-left candidate, but I think a lot of moderate swing voters are feeling a little left out and wondering where 2020’s Joe Biden has gone,” Sykes said.
After only a year in office, Biden may have time to turn things around before the November midterm elections — especially as Trump re-emerges as a more visible player in national politics. In recent years, nothing has united Democrats more than Trump himself.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union, said her members want more from Washington but will take full action this year to remind voters of the work Biden has already done to address concerns about the pandemic and economic security.
“President Biden is not the obstacle,” Henry said, pointing to the “rigid Republican caucus in the Senate” that have united against Biden’s Build Back Better package and his plan to protect voting rights. “We’re getting this president’s back.”
Not everyone is equally willing to commit to the Democratic president.
“We need to see Joe Biden the fighter. That’s kind of where I am,” said Wathum-Ocama, the president of the Young Democrats of America. “The unifier is sometimes appropriate. But we need someone to fight for our problems if we come out for him in ’22.”
The Associated Press poll specialist Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.
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