The drop in support for Biden has come even from Democratic voters: A Fox News poll released this month found that 82% of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance, compared to 17% who do not. That is a meaningful drop in support from the sky-high approval ratings Biden received from the party faithful earlier this year.
Democracy for America CEO Yvette Simpson said some of the organization’s most dedicated activists are “checked out” of politics or have turned their attention to other causes. Biden would need to show he is leading on voting rights, criminal justice reform and other racial justice issues to reengage those voters, she said.
“We just can’t get the base excited because they continue to feel like promises weren’t kept to them,” Simpson said. “I think voting rights should have been a number one priority for him, and he should have at all costs made that the number one issue and he did not.”
Simpson said it would also help if Biden pushed Democrats to pass legislation that increases the wages of low-income Americans.
“They could care less about roads and bridges. They don’t care that Biden is working with Republicans,” she said. “This effort for bipartisanship, I think was a win for him, but I don’t know if it was a win for the part of the base that he’s going to need to get the additional help in the midterms.”
The White House has insisted for months that it remains focused on voting rights, even amid congressional negotiations on other aspects of the president’s agenda. Biden himself has repeatedly decried a surge of Republican-backed laws across the country that restrict voting, likening them to old “Jim Crow” prohibitions in the South.
Some liberal activists were heartened last month when Biden said during a televised town hall he would consider altering the filibuster to make changes to voting rights.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who has questioned whether Democrats have “the will to win” in the midterms, said his party can still pass voting reforms if the Senate embraces the proposed tweak to the filibuster rule.
“If we didn’t get anything done, I would be concerned, but time has not run out,” Clyburn said. “I still think we’re going to do it.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said the goodwill that Biden built with the party’s senators during the spending deal and infrastructure negotiations could help the president secure victories on voting rights and other issues.
“The hope that I have, is that with enough wins, and enough victories and enough positive feelings that you generate from those wins, that it makes it easier when the president really comes back to ask for support from the caucus,” Harrison said.
Democrats would need every one of their senators to vote for a change to Senate rules or find support within the Republican Party. At least two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they oppose altering the filibuster.
Liberal leaders acknowledge the political challenges a narrowly divided Senate and House present Biden.
“This 2020 win was no overwhelming majority. It’s not like in the Obama years,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “That’s a reality check on politics that has nothing to do with will.”
But he said Democrats could pay a steep political price if they do not find a way to pass voting rights legislation.
“All of the suppression is not targeted at the Republican base, it’s targeted at the Democratic base,” Morial said. “So on democracy, do you stand up for your voters? Do you stand up for the people who brought you to the dance?”
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