No amount of post-election puffery about Joe Biden can change a key political reality: His approval ratings are far below the public’s positivity toward the Democratic Party. Overall, the Democrats who won the midterm elections did so despite Biden, not because of him. He’s a drag on the party, a boon to Republicans, and—if he runs again—he’d be a weak candidate against the GOP nominee in the 2024 presidential campaign.
While the electorate is evenly split between the two parties, there’s no such close division about Biden. NBC reported its exit poll on Tuesday “found that two-thirds of voters (68 percent) do not want Biden to run for president again in 2024.”
This is nothing new. Biden’s low public-approval ratings have been longstanding. A chart showing chronic disapproval now has him at a dozen points underwater—53 percent “disapprove” and only 41 percent “approve.” The gap between approval of Biden and of his party underscores what a leaden weight he is on Democratic electoral prospects.
As for how he’s apt to govern next year, Biden has offered a willingness to compromise with the right-wing Republican leadership. A New York Times headline after his Wednesday afternoon news conference summed up: “Biden Promises Bipartisanship After a Red Wave ‘Didn’t Happen.’”
But “bipartisanship” is exactly what we don’t need, in the face of extremist Republican demagogues who are determined to keep dragging the goal posts—and the country—further rightward.
In contrast to the current fad of adulation for Biden in much of corporate media, Politico offered this sober assessment of his impacts on the midterms: “It’s hard to argue that Democrats over-performed on Tuesday because of Biden rather than in spite of him. His approval rating, hovering around 41 percent, is dismal—and has been all year. He’ll turn 80 this month, and earlier this year, a majority of Democrats polled said they’d prefer someone else to be the party’s nominee.”
The article added: “But one thing Biden did have going for him was the calendar, and the reluctance of Democrats to do anything that might hurt him—and, by extension, the party—ahead of the midterms. That imperative is gone now. And though no prominent Democrat is likely to run a serious campaign against Biden, there will be increasing pressure on him, especially from the left, to step aside.”
It will be crucial to boost that pressure in the months ahead, which is why I’m glad to be part of the Don’t Run Joe organizing team. On Wednesday, the campaign launched digital ads reaching Democratic voters in New Hampshire with the message that “we need strong leadership to defeat Republicans in 2024.” And, while beating the fascistic GOP will be absolutely necessary, moving ahead with vital progressive policies will also be of paramount importance.
In New Hampshire, which has long hosted the nation’s first presidential primary, Democratic State Representative Sherry Frost said this on Wednesday: “I am eager to support a candidate who understands the fatal dysfunction in our economy and is willing to hold the ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations to their obligations to the rest of us, who is going to actively champion meaningful civil rights and voting protections, and who will spearhead a shift away from the military-industrial complex and oligarchy and toward a culture that works for the most vulnerable of us first. I am not confident that Biden is that candidate, and while I appreciate his rescuing us from another Trump term, I believe we need someone else to champion the big and systemic changes we need to continue to strive toward our more perfect union.”
What does all this mean for people who want to defeat Republicans in 2024 and to advance truly progressive agendas? Joe Biden should not be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. If he runs for re-election—representing the status quo—the outcome would likely be disastrous. Grassroots activism will be essential to create better alternatives.