Deadlocked Dems and Republicans on a roll

Deadlocked Dems and Republicans on a roll

Democrats were dreading this week's off-year US elections even before the votes were counted. History shows that US voters tend to punish the party of first-year presidents (see the Graphic Truth here.) Results from this week's governors' races in the states of Virginia and New Jersey have made matters worse, as the two parties look ahead to national elections next November.

Start with the history: it doesn't look good for the Democrats. Since 1934, the party that controls the White House has on average lost more seats in midterm elections than Democrats, already clinging to razor-thin majorities, can spare next November. In general, voters of the party that lost the most recent election always feel a stronger urge to set things right.

But there are three reasons why Biden and the current class of Democrats may be in even bigger trouble than past incumbents.

First, voters doubt Biden's competence. After less than a year in office, his approval numbers have fallen from the mid-50s to the low 40s. Maybe that's because the pandemic hasn't ended as quickly as hoped. (Dems blame unvaccinated Republicans for this failure, but Biden is still the man in charge.) Or maybe the president's sagging numbers still reflect public anger at a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that got American soldiers killed and left too many allies abandoned. (That's a sentiment shared even by many who supported his decision to end the war.)

Fairly or unfairly, American voters just aren't convinced that Biden knows what he's doing. Only 41 percent see him as "competent" according to a recent poll.

Second, voters see Democrats fighting each other rather than governing. Democrats say that government can and must act to strengthen the nation and boost opportunity for all Americans. Republicans argue that the federal government creates obstacles to both national progress and individual liberty. That's the defining difference between the two parties.

Now that they are in power, Dems have promised a major investment in America's physical infrastructure and another huge spend to strengthen the social contract. But for now, progressives and moderates within the party are fighting one another over whether and how to pass these landmark pieces of legislation — and they have nothing to show for their promises.

Until they prove they can compromise — and govern — they can't prove that the US government can make a positive difference for the country and its people. For now, Republicans are reminding voters that Washington is dysfunctional, and Democrats are proving them right.

Third, Republican voters are ready to vote. They demonstrated this week that they don't need Donald Trump on the ballot to motivate them, and independents aren't bothered by Democratic warnings that (the still-unpopular) Trump stands behind Republican candidates. A year ago, Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points, but the Democratic candidate for governor lost on Tuesday by two points. A Dem governor won re-election by less than 2 points this week in New Jersey, a state Biden carried by 16 points.

Maybe this is because Republican voters are motivated less by Trump than by the simple drive to beat Democrats, and independents don't feel that the Dems have shown much reason for confidence in their leadership.

This is the backdrop for 2022; the 2024 presidential race is too far in the future. This week's results were bad for Biden, but to put things in perspective: it's the 11th time in the past 12 Virginia gubernatorial elections that the president's party has lost. New Jersey has followed a similar pattern.

And Democrats can still pass those two big investment bills in coming weeks, which could change both political perceptions and economic reality over time.

Republicans, meanwhile, have proven they can win without Trump on the ballot. That's good news for them in 2022. But they haven't proven they can win with Trump as the face of the party since his 2016 victory. In fact, though most Republicans still back him, 59 percent of US voters say Trump should not run for president in 2024.

Finally, while history doesn't favor incumbents in midterms, it does favor their odds of re-election two years after that. In the last 89 years, only three presidents have failed to win re-election: Trump (2020), George H.W. Bush (1992), and Jimmy Carter (1980).

The exit poll: Dems are certainly in trouble in 2022, but whether that matters for the 2024 presidential vote isn't yet clear — especially since we don't know whether Biden or Trump will be candidates.
A group of young women looking together at images on a wall.

Research indicates neurodivergent individuals hold key competencies to meet this demand, yet their unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 80%.

As part of its initiative to build an inclusive workplace for all, Bank of America has improved its hiring and support process to recognize and elevate the unique talents of neurodivergent employees.

Who’s in Joe Biden’s democracy club?

The Biden administration’s much-touted Summit for Democracy kicks off on Thursday. A total of 110 countries are invited, with some puzzling choices and omissions.

Illiberal Poland is attending, but not illiberal Hungary. Seven of the 10 Southeast Asian nations are out, but several quasi-democracies in Africa made the cut. Brazil's authoritarian-minded President Jair Bolsonaro is an acceptable democrat for Joe Biden, but not Bolivia's democratically-elected President Luis Arce.

The criteria to get a ticket is as unclear as what Biden’s democratic virtual get-together wants to achieve.

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Australia's former PM and current CEO of the Asia Society knows China quite well. He's fluent in Mandarin, and — for a foreigner — has a pretty good idea of what's cooking in Chinese politics.

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The French election is getting hot

Germany has been the European center of political attention in recent months, as punk-rock god Angela Merkel exits the stage after almost two decades at the helm. But there’s another big election heating up in Europe. The French will head to the polls in just twelve weeks, and the race has started to get very interesting.

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The Graphic Truth: Are you democratic enough for Joe Biden?

The Summit for Democracy, which the Biden administration has been playing up for months, kicks off Thursday. The invite-only event with representatives from 110 countries is Biden’s baby: it’s a chance for the US president to “rescue” democracy, which is in global decline. What’s less clear, however, is why some states with poor democratic records have a seat at the table, while others with better democratic bona fides don’t. Is this a real stab at strengthening democracy, or rather a naked attempt to alienate those who cozy up to foes like China and Russia? We take a look at a selection of invitees, as well as some who didn’t make the cut, and their respective democracy ratings based on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has often had to defend her work as the creator of the 1619 Project, a piece of modern journalism that has gained as much praise on one end of the US political spectrum as it has sparked outrage on the other.

Hannah-Jones admits some of the criticism was fair game — and that's one reason she’s just published an extended version of the project in book form, entitled The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. But she rejects those who’ve tried to disqualify her and the project.

"People were saying these facts are wrong... [and] that this journalism needed to be discredited, and that's not normal," she explains. "And I don't agree with that type of criticism because... it's not true.”

According to Hannah-Jones, part of the problem is the mistaken perception that the 1619 Project claimed that slavery was uniquely American. It did not, she says, but did argue that the history of US slavery is quite exceptional in another way.

"There is something clearly unique about a country engaging in chattel slavery that says it was founded on ideas of individual rights and liberty. And that was not Brazil. That was not Jamaica. That was not any of the islands in the Caribbean. They didn't pretend to be a nation founded on God-given rights. We did."

Watch all of Hannah-Jones' interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson observes an early morning Merseyside police raid on a home in Liverpool as part of 'Operation Toxic' to infiltrate County Lines drug dealings in Liverpool, Britain December 6, 2021.

Boris’ horrible, no good, very bad day. Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy. In fact, sometimes he appears to relish it. But not this time. As British authorities weigh whether to impose unpopular restrictions amid a surge in omicron cases, a video has surfaced of top Downing Street aides tastelessly joking about flouting lockdown rules last Christmas by gathering for a holiday party. At the time, Britons were forbidden to gather with friends and family during the holiday season, let alone say goodbye to dying relatives. What’s more, Downing Street has been accused of trying to cover up the shindig – a “wine and cheese” night, according to the video – until this damning footage materialized. Johnson says he is “sickened and furious” about it, and a top aide has since resigned. (Johnson himself has not been accused of attending the party.) Meanwhile, London police say they are looking into the case. The timing is pretty awful for Johnson, who is already facing party backlash over a series of blunders in recent months, as well as his perceived failure to address Brexit-related shortages of gasoline and goods. Currently, 55 percent of Britons disapprove of his leadership.

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A person waves flags as people gather after the Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill, in Santiago, Chile December 7, 2021

8: Chile’s Congress approved same-sex marriage Wednesday, becoming the eighth Latin American country to do so. Conservative President Sebastián Piñera for years opposed the measure, which would give full parental rights to same-sex couples, but six months ago changed his position, paving the way for the bill’s passage.

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