While the recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey might have felt insignificant, for Democrats it was quite the opposite. Virginia, a state that voted for Biden by 11 points in 2020, elected Republican candidate Glen Youngkin. In New Jersey, where Biden won by 16 points, the race was tight, with only a three-point difference between the two candidates. Democrats in Washington are scratching their heads over these results, while Republicans are celebrating. So, what went wrong for the Biden administration and the Democratic party?
To date, the Biden administration has been unproductive, messy, and disorganized. The administration has fallen short of expectations in both foreign and domestic policy. The crisis in Afghanistan and the failure of the withdrawal led many people to question Biden’s foreign policy capabilities. In the United States, Biden promised an end to the pandemic by the fourth of July, but COVID is still a major issue persisting throughout the country. Broken promises by the administration have seemed to leave a sour taste in the mouths of voters, and have left Biden’s approval rating at an abysmal 41 percent, according to the latest Washington Post poll.
Another key factor that led to the shocking election losses is the economy. Voters in Virginia ranked the economy as the most important issue, unsurprising as inflation continues to soar. Consumers are facing high prices everywhere from grocery stores to their gas pumps. With the economy being such an important issue to so many voters, it is no wonder why the Democrats lost big in Virginia.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the Democratic loss has been the inability of Democrats to agree on a policy amongst themselves. When Biden came to office, he promised the American people unity, as well as an end to the polarization and division that had taken over the political world in the past four years. Yet, Biden has failed to unite even his own party. The biggest fight in the Democratic party has been between moderates Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, as well as with a group of progressive congresswomen known as “The Squad”, composed of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. There have been many debates over the past three months about what should constitute the spending bill that has led to a massive delay in policy. While the Democrats finally passed the bill in the past week, it did not come without controversy; some progressives decided not to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but for many voters, the bill was too little too late.
What set Youngkin apart from other Republican candidates was the way in which he ran his campaign. He hit the political jackpot, campaigning on Trump’s policies with a Trump endorsement, while simultaneously evading direct association with Trump himself. This allowed him to gain Republican support while not scaring away independents. Youngkin also heavily campaigned on opposing Critical Race Theory, commonly abbreviated as CRT. He repeatedly stated to his supporters that CRT should be banned and not taught in Virginia schools, despite the fact that no Virginia school currently teaches it. He marketed CRT towards Virginians as anti-white propaganda teaching children that they are racist and to blame. Perception is more important than reality in politics, so by igniting fear into the hearts of concerned parents, who did not want their children learning about America’s racist past, Youngkin was able to usurp their votes.
In less than a year, Americans all around the country will have to cast their ballots in the midterm elections. The Democratic party has every reason to fear its results. Losing elections that they were expected to win definitely sends a clear message to leaders in Washington. To maintain their control, Democrats must find their identity and strength and start to work together collaboratively if they dream of getting any policies passed.