The Democratic party took a fairly significant hit this week as Republican underdog Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and previously blue counties have begun to shift red nationwide. Nearly a year into the Biden presidency, this round of gubernatorial and local elections is really the first sample of public opinion in late-pandemic and post-Trump presidency times. President Biden has been widely criticized for pushing “leftist agendas” by Republicans — and even moderates in many areas — and the support that existed for the Democratic party in November 2020 may be dwindling as a result of policies administered over the past year. Biden’s social and economic policies have been the subject of a large amount of criticism in recent months, and it appears that this criticism is beginning to gain tangible results. Concerns over excessive spending towards COVID-19 relief and social programs, as well as concerns about the “leftist agenda” being “forced upon” young people in the education system are among the chief complaints about Biden’s time in office.
In reality, it appears the spending has greatly improved the lives of many people nationwide, and allowed even the poorest U.S. citizens to survive the largest economic shock since the Great Depression. Many families have been able to keep a roof over their head, parents have been able to raise their children and those unable to work and critically affected by the pandemic have not had their lives thrown into absolute disarray as a result of the natural disaster that COVID-19 has been. Many of the “leftist agendas” being forced upon students in schools are simply accurate revisions to the current global and American history that has been taught for generations. Teaching does not have to be a stagnant practice, and truthfully, the entire purpose of education and academia is to encourage pushing the limits of what is already known, not limit information to what fits an individual narrative. The fear of leftist extremism that has been created by conservative media is becoming effective, as now even moderate voters are becoming increasingly weary about placing their support in Democratic candidates. The notion that progressivism is dangerous and harmful to the traditional American way has become a mainstay of Republican communication to voters, however, the factual evidence to support these claims is for all intents and purposes nonexistent.
Now this is not to say that Biden’s presidency has been nothing but positive. The looming threat of inflation in the coming years exists as a result of excess pandemic spending within recent months, and extremism remains on both sides of the political spectrum. Inflation has historically correlated to recessions in the near future which is objectively negative, but the economy is cyclical in nature, and like it or not, an elected official on either side of the political aisle cannot singlehandedly prevent recessions. Political extremism is very similar in nature. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by a singular candidate entering office, as on either side of a bipartisan system there will always be those so entrenched in their values that they can only see one way.
The main failure of the U.S. political arena now is that the Democratic party is beginning to become painted as a group of leftist-extremists, and the Republican party is once again starting to take hold of the moderate population. President Biden and his policies are coupled with the views of what is truly a small percentage of his peers, and centrist and right-wing media outlets are generating lots of Republican support at the moment, as seen in the most recent batch of elections. States that have been blue for as long as one can remember such as New Jersey are all of a sudden experiencing tight races in which Republican candidates are making up more ground than ever, and the overall emotion of the voter base is shifting. The Democratic party needs to highlight their values more effectively to communicate with the everyday voter. The support of young progressives is imperative to their success, but they cannot limit themselves to that base, and they need to reclaim some of the middle ground that won President Biden the election in 2020.