President Joe Biden returned from Europe on Wednesday with a wake-up call for contested Democrats delaying their extensive internal reforms in Congress, after a humiliating defeat in state elections that many attributed to inertia and infighting among the party legislators.
“I know people want us to get things done,” he told reporters asking for their conclusion on Terry McAuliffe’s loss to a newcomer Republican in the Virginia gubernatorial election on Tuesday.
“And that’s why I keep pushing hard for the Democratic Party to move forward and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill.”
Amid plummeting approval ratings and frustration over his stagnant economic agenda, Biden encountered a Republican red wave that swept across the eastern United States on Tuesday, from Virginia Beach to Long Island and beyond.
Republicans achieved a decisive setback in the otherwise blue-leaning Virginia gubernatorial race, with billionaire Glenn Youngkin defeating McAuliffe, while New Jersey’s Democratic governor won re-election, but only narrowly.
There were also Republican advances in New York City and a conservative reaction to a liberal proposal in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was assassinated by police, to dismantle the local force.
Hours before the polls closed, Biden had expressed confidence in the votes in Virginia and New Jersey, rejecting suggestions that they were a verdict on his presidency in any event.
Asked several times on Wednesday if he assumed responsibility for the bleeding in local elections, he avoided giving a direct answer.
But he told reporters at the White House: “People are upset and insecure about many things, from Covid to school, jobs, a wide variety of things and the cost of a gallon of gasoline.”
“And if I can sign my Build Back Better initiative into law, I’m in a position where you’ll see a lot of those things improved quickly and quickly. So that has to be done.”
Biden, who campaigned as a centrist but has ruled on the left, faces a thorny road to the November 2022 midterm elections as he plays as a peacemaker among increasingly polarized Democratic factions he has failed to rally.
The president offered bold action on climate in Glasgow over the weekend, but Washington’s lack of tangible progress on its environmental goals weighed on the COP26 summit, underscoring the damage inflicted on its agenda by months of infighting.
Amid record turnout, Youngkin squashed McAuliffe’s return by tapping into parents’ fears about a public school curriculum they consider too liberal and growing frustration with Biden, who swept the state by 10 points just a year ago. anus.
Democrats have been warning privately for weeks that a loss from McAuliffe could scare off moderates who are already spooked by the expansive scale of Biden’s three-trillion-dollar two-front plan to transform infrastructure and expand the social safety net. .
While Biden’s press conference may encourage grassroots lawmakers to more urgently address consideration of their priorities, it is far from clear that they are united in the lessons they should learn from Tuesday’s setbacks.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist opponent to much of Biden’s agenda, led calls Wednesday to halt spending negotiations so lawmakers can “take their time and get it right.”
But progressives came to the opposite conclusion, arguing that Virginia was lost because Democrats halfway blocked provisions for child care, prescription drug reform, and paid family leave from the Build Back welfare package. Better by Biden.
“Terry McAuliffe has been saying for weeks that his fate was tied to the progress of negotiations here on Capitol Hill,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters, echoing Biden.
“And there should be a clear message for my party and everyone who supports it to get the job done.”
In reality, Congress had nothing to do with perhaps the most damaging mistake of McAuliffe’s campaign, when he said in a Sept. 29 debate with Youngkin: “I don’t think parents should tell schools what to teach.” .
The comment became a rallying cry for conservatives embittered by the masks’ mandates in schools and deluded by the false Republican notion that a “critical theory of race” was being taught to their children.
Peter Loge, professor of public affairs at George Washington University, offered a crumb of comfort to those who fear the death of the party, noting that the Virginia governor’s election almost always serves as the voters’ first chance to crush the new party. President.
“What I do think the White House has to do now is go to the Democrats in Congress and other Democrats across the country and tell them, look, here are the voting details,” Loge said.
“This is what the voters were telling us … Let’s focus on what matters: families, schools, jobs, inflation.”