May 10, 2021
A poll today by the Associated Press (AP) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) shows that President Joe Biden’s administration is gaining positive traction. Sixty-three percent of Americans approve of how he is handling his job as president. Seventy-one percent approve of how he is handling the coronavirus pandemic; 62% percent approve of how he is handling health care. Fifty-seven percent approve of how he is handling the economy; 54% approve of how he is handling foreign affairs.
Fifty-four percent of Americans think the country is going in the right direction. This is the highest number since 2017, but it is split by party: 84% of Democrats like the country’s direction, while only 20% of Republicans do.
Biden’s weak spots are in immigration, where 43% approve and 54% disapprove, and gun policy, where 48% approve and 49% disapprove.
And yet, Biden’s people have been working to address the influx of migrant children; White House Secretary Jen Psaki noted last week that “At the end of March, there were more than 5,000 children in Customs and Border Protection Patrol stations. Today, that number is approximately 600…. The amount of time children spend in CBP facilities is down by 75 percent — from 131 hours at the end of March to under 30 hours now.”
The administration has backed that short-term work with a long-term initiative. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris met virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leader of the left of center populist nationalist coalition party MORENA, to talk about finding ways to promote economic development to address the root causes prompting the flight of refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and southern Mexico. They also talked about working together to protect human rights and dismantle the criminal networks that smuggle migrants. She will travel to Guatemala and Mexico in June, where she will meet with their leaders.
Disapproval of Biden’s gun policies might well reflect a desire for a stronger stance. In April, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that 64% of registered voters supported stricter gun control laws. We have had an average of ten mass shootings a week in 2021, 194 in all. (A mass shooting is one in which four people are killed or wounded.)
This week, Biden will be meeting with bipartisan groups of leaders, including Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to begin to hammer out an infrastructure measure based on his American Jobs Plan. He will also meet with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who have proposed their own $568 billion proposal without corporate tax hikes.
As the good news from the administration is starting to filter into the media, bad news from the Trump wing of the Republican Party is also starting to get traction. On Saturday, we learned that at retreats in March and April, staff for the National Republican Congressional Committee refused to tell lawmakers how badly Trump is polling in core battleground districts, where 54% see Biden favorably while only 41% still favor Trump. Vice President Kamala Harris, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan are all more popular in those districts than the former president.
Indeed, it is more than a little odd that party leaders are bending over backward to tie their party to a former president who, after all, never broke 50% favorability ratings—the first time in polling history that had happened—and who lost both the White House and Congress.
Another set of data from Catalist, a voter database company in Washington, D.C., shows that the 2020 election was the most diverse ever, with Latino and Asian voters turning out in bigger numbers than ever before. Black voting increased substantially, while Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters had a decisive increase in turnout. The electorate was 72% white, down 2% from 2016 and 5% from 2008. Thirty-nine percent of Biden-Harris voters were people of color (61% were white); only 15% of Trump-Pence voters were POC (85% were white).
This demographic trend is behind the new voter suppression bills in Republican states. But the racial breakdown of the 2020 vote is not the only problem for the current Republican Party. The biggest turnout gains in 2020 were among young voters, 18 to 40 years old, who now make up 31% of voters, while those over 55 have dropped to only 44% of the electorate. Younger voters skew heavily toward the Democrats. Also notable was that women break heavily toward Democrats by a 10 point gap—79% of women of color support Democrats; 58% of white women voted for Biden-Harris—and women make up 54% of the electorate overall.
News out of the private “recount” in Arizona by Cyber Ninjas, a company without experience in election recounts and whose owner has already gone on record as believing that rigged voting machines in Arizona cost Trump victory, continues to be embarrassing as well. Although the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which has a Republican majority, said the count was fair and opposed a recount, sixteen Republicans in the state senate voted to give the ballots for Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, to the company for a private recount. The count has been plagued by conspiracy theories—one observer claimed they are examining the ballots for signs of bamboo in the paper to show that tens of thousands of ballots were flown in from Asia—and it turned out that one of the people recounting the ballots had been at the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Now the “recount” is running so far behind it appears it won’t be done until August, rather than May 14 as the company promised.
State senator Paul Boyer, who voted for the “audit,” told New York Times reporter Michael Wines: “It makes us look like idiots…. Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”
And then, this morning, the Washington Post dropped a long, investigative story by reporters Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine, and Josh Dawsey revealing that the arguments former president Trump has grabbed to “prove” the election was stolen from him were part of a long conspiracy theory hatched in 2018 by Russell J. Ramsland, Jr., “a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.” The story follows how Ramsland’s theories, which were debunked as “bat-s**t insane” by White House lawyers, got pumped into the media by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, among others, and how Trump came to embrace them.
While Republican leaders are still standing behind those theories, and the former president, opponents of the party’s direction are pushing back not just against Trump but also against those leaders supporting him. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeted this morning: “A few days before Jan 6, our GOP members had a conference call. I told Kevin [McCarthy] that his words and our party’s actions would lead to violence on January 6th. Kevin dismissively responded with ‘ok Adam, operator next question.’ And we got violence.”
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has narrated a video distributed by the Republican Accountability Project recalling the violence of January 6, blaming Trump for spreading lies about the election, and reminding viewers that more than 60 lawsuits disproved his claims that the election was stolen. The video says “we are the party of Lincoln. We are not the party of QAnon” (showing an image of Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman,” who wore a horned headdress during the Capitol insurrection) “or white supremacy” (showing an image of Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson). “We cannot embrace insurrection” (showing a picture of Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene). “President Trump provoked an attack on the United States Capitol which resulted in five people dying. That is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward.” The video features an image of McCarthy standing with Trump. Cheney made it clear she was not about to shut up.
This afternoon, McCarthy released a statement calling for Cheney’s ouster as conference chair, featuring the line: “[u]nlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.” (References to George Orwell, who famously wrote about how fascists used language to rewrite history, were all over Twitter.) McCarthy and other Trump loyalists have suggested that Cheney needs to go because she keeps talking about the past, but Allan Smith of NBC News points out that Trump himself seems to be the one who cannot stop talking about the past.