Why the midterms look so bleak for Democrats: Joe Biden

Without a failed president dragging them down, Democrats could still win this critical election. Time to move on

Published July 26, 2022 6:30AM (EDT)

Joe Biden | Vote Pin button on an American flag (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Biden | Vote Pin button on an American flag (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Mainstream political pundits gain wealth and clout by speculating about elections — who's up, who's down, who's raising the most campaign cash (but almost never from whom, of course). Now they're looking ahead to the congressional midterm elections just three months away. 

The liberal and centrist pundits at CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, the New York Times and the Washington Post seem to agree on two obvious truths about the Nov. 8 elections. 

  1. Republicans are very likely to win big — taking over the U.S. House, and probably the Senate. 
  2. Republicans in Congress have never been as extreme as they are now, and they're out of touch philosophically with most voters. 

It's not hard to see the contradiction in those two "truths": If Republicans are so out of touch with voters, why will they be winning big with those same voters?  

It's obvious that something must be flawed in this scenario. If genuine progressives were more prominent among the pundit elite, they might point out the flaw by identifying the huge albatross around the Democrats' neck: Joe Biden.   

If voters' attention this November were focused not on Biden, but on Republican extremism, Democrats would likely win big. In recent months, the unpopular Republican ideology has been on full display — even to voters who are only halfway paying attention — including the GOP's efforts to do all these things:

  • end reproductive freedom nationwide. 
  • block gun-safety legislation. 
  • deny global warming (even as our country is literally burning up). 
  • refuse and resist all criticism of Donald Trump's attack on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. 

Admittedly, voters are also focused on other issues, according to polls. Those primarily include the economy and inflation, which are global problems and largely beyond Biden's control, although he has failed to effectively challenge corporate profiteering and price-gouging, or even rising pharmaceutical prices.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

In hopes of avoiding a disaster for Democrats this November, some progressives are joining the #DontRunJoe campaign that I helped initiate with Our hope is that Biden will announce — very soon — that he won't seek to be the 2024 Democratic nominee which could shift voters' focus in the upcoming elections to party versus party, Democrats versus Republicans. This argument was made last month in a guest Newsweek column by a former U.S. ambassador appointed by Barack Obama.

The regular pundits who dominate liberal corporate media (in which I include PBS and NPR) know full well that Biden is a weak president, that he's a "gaffe-machine," that he's proven to be incapable of using the presidential bully pulpit to get legislation through even his own party. They worry about his age. But they've been tied to him and have protected him since early 2016, when he emerged as the only candidate capable of stopping Bernie Sanders' rise. These pundits approve of Biden ideologically: He's a go-slow, "moderate" incrementalist, like they are.   

If sanity is to come to the political process before the potential disaster that awaits in November, it won't come from Democratic leaders or pundits.  

It will have to be progressives and activist Democrats urging Biden to announce that he won't run again, while acknowledging that we're grateful for his defeat of Trump in 2020 (which we worked hard in swing states to make happen). Progressives also need to keep demanding more executive orders from Biden in the coming months that materially improve peoples' lives, beginning with student debt cancellation

Such actions could point to a brighter future for progressives and Democrats who understand that the party in power in Washington has to deliver for working people. And soon. It would especially energize Democratic-leaning voters under 30; a recent poll found that 94% of them want a nominee other than Biden in 2024.  

In the fast-approaching November elections, Republicans have a number of inherent advantages, thanks to their gerrymandered congressional maps and voter suppression tactics, and the historical pattern in midterms that favors the party not currently in the White House — as well as an undemocratic Senate that grants excessive power to low-population states that increasingly trend conservative.

A change of direction is needed from Democrats, and quickly. Bumbling onward with Biden might appeal to short-sighted liberal pundits who are afraid of serious progressive change. But it's a recipe for the kind of disaster that could one day make Jan. 6, 2021, look like a garden party.  

By Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is co-founder of, a retired journalism professor at Ithaca College and author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” In 1986, he founded the media watch group FAIR.

MORE FROM Jeff Cohen

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2022 Midterms Commentary Democrats Elections Joe Biden