Unhinged progressives are a gift to Trump
The woke zealotry of the Biden administration is turning vast numbers of Americans into reluctant Trumpers.
In 1931, the slogan of the German Communist Party became: ‘After Hitler, our turn.’ This kind of wishful thinking is making a comeback in contemporary America. Prominent Democrats and the ‘progressive’ apparat of the Biden administration see the nomination of Donald Trump – their version of Hitler – as the best way to mobilise their shaky coalition and to keep hold of power.
Biden’s supporters believe Trump is so odious that the American people will accept anyone – even someone as obviously mediocre as Joe Biden – to keep him out of power. This worked back in 2020, when Trump’s bungling of Covid-19, his chaotic management style and his consistently vile – though clearly not fascist – persona allowed Biden to gain the White House.
This assumption also proved correct in the 2022 Midterms. Democrats bankrolled numerous unelectable Trumpistas in congressional and state races, a cynical gambit they are repeating again this year. This helped them dodge a potential wipeout at the polls. The seemingly inevitable nomination of Trump by the Republicans looks perfectly suited to a repeat performance in the 2024 presidential election.
Yet as the German Communists learned in 1933, sometimes getting what you want does not always work out so well. Biden might be heralded as the second coming of FDR in the mainstream press, but most Americans have clearly had enough of him. A recent poll puts him at a dismal 37 per cent. As things stand, he is now slated to lose to Trump, particularly in key swing states. Some surveys suggest Trump is even gaining among independents and is pulling some suburban professionals back into his camp. As former presidential candidate Andrew Yang puts it, Biden’s shaky performance could be about to deliver ‘Trump, the sequel’.
So why is Biden so unpopular? This is partly down to inflation – undoubtedly made worse by Biden’s economic agenda. But it is also due to his pandering to the so-called progressives on just about everything – from the border and climate change to LGBT issues. According to longtime Democratic analyst Ruy Teixeira, Biden seems incapable of shifting to where the voters are. For Democratic senator Joe Manchin, much of the problem stems from the fact that the president has surrounded himself with ‘far, far-left liberals’.
These leftist staff and associated pressure groups have managed to undermine the ‘regular guy’ image Biden has tried so hard to cultivate. In office, he has relentlessly championed transgender issues, despite trans people accounting for less than two per cent of the US population. Most ordinary Americans don’t even believe it is possible to have a gender identity that doesn’t match your sex. So for Biden to have the Department of Education investigate the incorrect use of pronouns comes across as tremendously out of touch.
To be sure, Trump is an unguided missile and an awful person. But Biden’s probable involvement in the corrupt antics of his son, Hunter, levels the playing field with the ethically challenged Trump.
More important still, even as the prospect of another Trump presidency alarms many Americans, they also look aghast at the realities of Biden’s America. They have come to associate his presidency with collapsing cities, homeless encampments, largely stagnant incomes and lawlessness at the southern border. As many as 65 per cent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
The progressives surrounding Biden are largely responsible for this sad situation. After all, Biden ran in 2020 as a moderate. He was supposed to right the ship of state and the economy from the narcissistic chaos of Trump. He inherited an economy that was just shaking off the pandemic and poised for sustained growth. But economic issues were never of much interest to the left-identitarian faction of the Democrats, as the New York Times’s Pamela Paul notes. Their priorities have been restricting free speech, painting white supremacy as ‘the inherent character of the nation’ and encouraging hostility to capitalism.
The Biden who was elected as a sensible, moderate counterweight to Trump is long gone, it seems. As an acolyte of the progressive left, Biden has shown the very same disregard for due process and democratic norms that he rightfully lays at the door of Trump. He has unilaterally cancelled student debt, pursued a phaseout of petrol cars and imposed vaccine mandates – all without congressional approval. The façade of Bidenesque moderation, so critical to his election in 2020, has fallen with a thud.
In the process, Biden has abandoned the working- and middle-class voters who elected him. His views increasingly reflect not those of blue-collar workers or small-business owners, but those of a small, influential woke elite. This group consists of Americans who have post-graduate degrees, make over $150,000 annually and live in a handful of dense urban areas, as a recent Rasmussen study suggests. This is the true Biden base, where he has an approval rating of more than 80 per cent, compared with around 40 per cent among the rest of the voting public.
These ‘worthies’ diverge radically with other voters on questions such as climate, the efficacy of the federal government and how much freedom Americans should have. According to Rasmussen, this one per cent tends to think Americans have ‘too much individual freedom’, while a large majority of everyone else thinks there’s not enough freedom. Similarly, most of the elite want fuel and meat rationing. They expect the public to make large financial and material sacrifices to combat climate change. Unsurprisingly, most Americans oppose such rationing by two to one and are nowhere near as willing to part with their hard-earned cash to fight for Gaia.
However, it is the economy that most drives Biden’s low popularity. The Rasmussen study shows that the majority of the one per cent are doing well financially, and Ivy League graduates are doing even better. But, among the broader public, just 20 per cent say they doing better than before Biden arrived in the White House, while 40 per cent say they are doing worse. As a result, according to the latest ABC News poll, Biden’s approval rating on the economy stands at a meagre 31 per cent.
This economic pessimism opens the door for Trump. Pollsters, including Gallup, suggest that the economy, cost of living, immigration and poor leadership are the biggest issues for voters. It is likely the economy is driving generally pessimistic younger voters to Trump. As of December, he was ahead of Biden among the under-30s.
Instead of focussing on issues that actually matter to voters, Biden continues to pursue policies that are either deeply unpopular or relatively unimportant to average Americans. The environment, for example, is the most important issue to barely three per cent of voters. It is here where the divergence between policies advocated by the one per cent and the priorities of regular Americans is particularly acute.
Biden’s moves last month to cancel new liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities represent a powerful signal that Net Zero is now the new state religion. Yet, for the most part, Americans seem reluctant to embrace the agenda of energy austerity being demanded by cloistered post-graduates and jet-setting oligarchs. Indeed, more Americans see the GOP as better suited to handle energy issues. By just under 10 points, voters tend to favour Trump’s ‘drill baby drill’ mantra over Biden’s renewables-first approach.
Even more politically fraught could be Biden’s economically unfeasible electric vehicle (EV) mandates. Federal regulations demand that two out of every three vehicles sold in the US by 2032 must be electric. These policies are already leading to layoffs in the key Midwestern states, as the ‘Big Three’ largest EV companies struggle to stay competitive. EV and battery production is now mostly concentrated in lower-cost sunbelt states. This does little for voters in key swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin, which have large manufacturing economies.
Draconian climate policies certainly won’t win over workers. Union leaders are likely to mostly endorse Biden. But union members are trending increasingly to the GOP.
Perhaps nowhere is the elite disconnect with the populace more obvious than on immigration. Biden’s essentially open-border policy is backed by most Latino activists and politicians, as well as progressive pressure groups. Some, as Michael Lind notes, see this as a way to cultivate a more left-leaning electorate. But Biden’s border policies are deeply unpopular with most Americans, registering a pathetic 18 per cent approval. This is also creating troubles with Hispanic Americans, particularly those near the border, with nearly half of them expressing concern about unrestricted immigration. The border issues also concern African Americans, including some black Democrats, in big cities like New York and Chicago, where new migrants are seen as competing for scarce jobs and resources.
The border disaster – as with the climate issue – epitomises the pernicious effects of ‘progressive’ pressure on the Biden administration. The intersectional-oriented staffers and lobbyists may favour allowing unvetted people from around the world to cross the border. But in doing so, they have unwittingly boosted Trump’s signature issue. In November, this could have real consequences in border states like Arizona and could weaken Biden’s position in Midwestern battlefield states.
So, what happens next? The great ‘progressive’ hope is that a second Trump term will discredit the GOP so thoroughly that voters will have no choice but to go further to the left. No doubt many hope that after Trump, comes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t count on it.
In the end, the woke occupation of Joe Biden’s brain is what is allowing Donald Trump to stage his comeback. Biden’s attachment to the damaging policies of an out-of-touch elite makes Trumpian nonsense start to sound coherent. The so-called progressives have become Trump’s greatest weapon.
Joel Kotkin is a spiked columnist, the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His latest book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, is out now. Follow him on Twitter: @joelkotkin
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