It’s been a bad few weeks for Biden. First, he and his administration has been spectacularly ineffective at dealing with Israel’s war on Gaza. Despite multiple visits from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a visit from Biden himself, the U.S. has been largely unable to keep Israel under control — such as not being able to stop Israel from escalating the conflict and beginning a ground invasion. As the war has deepened, a movement for Palestine has erupted across the United States. From college campuses to demonstrations by anti-Zionist Jews to a massive march on Washington, the largest U.S. social movement since Black Lives Matter in 2020 has erupted and Biden has been unable to contain it. To make matters even worse, this movement is highlighting his administration’s role in the on-going genocide in Gaza. This movement has named Biden “Genocide Joe” and declared to him that “come November, we’ll remember” his complicity in the crimes of Israel.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for the president, a poll showed Biden losing to Trump in almost every swing state. The weakening of Biden’s re-election campaign can also be seen in the popularity of third-party candidates with 10 percent of voters in swing states saying they’d support Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Kennedy’s poll numbers are even better in another recent poll where he polled at 22 percent when matched up with Trump and Biden. That same poll showed that Kennedy led among independent voters — always a key demographic in presidential elections. Meanwhile, Cornel West, another third-party candidate running to the left of Biden, polled at 6 percent when matched up against Trump, Biden, and Kennedy — Kennedy polled 19 percent in that match-up. This data shows what many already know: that the masses are unhappy with both Biden and Trump and some are searching for an alternative. This is very bad for Biden, who needs to coalesce all the anti-Trump votes and keep his 2020 coaltion together in order to beat the former president who is gaining on Biden in key demographics like Black and Latino voters.
Taken together, it is clear that Biden is in the midst of a crisis. A majority of Americans disapprove of his job performance, he’s behind in swing states, and losing ground with important demographics. More Democrats are beginning to question whether or not Biden should run again. With the movement for Palestine continuing to grow, it seems unlikely that Biden’s crisis will be resolved anytime soon.
A Movement against Genocide Joe
The movement for Palestine has taken on an explicitly anti-Biden character. From chants charging Biden with genocide, to protests outside (and inside) Biden events, to the tens of thousands of people who marched on the White House, it is clear that this new and developing movement recognize that Biden is their enemy — there was even a march on his personal residence. This movement has deepened the broader crisis that Biden is facing as it calls into question whether a significant sector of people who held their nose to vote for him in 2020 will do so again. All over social media (and in the pages of In These Times), activists are pledging to not support Biden in 2024 due to his on-going support of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. How wide-spread this feeling is and whether it will persist for another year remains to be seen but it calls into question two key sectors of Biden’s coalition: the Arab-American vote and the youth vote.
In a new poll of Arab Americans, only 17 percent said they would support Biden in 2024, down from 59 percent in 2020 — a staggering 42 percent drop. The same poll showed that two thirds of those surveyed had a negative view of his response to the war and the poll marked the first time in 26 years that a majority of Arab Americans did not say they preferred the Democratic Party. A different poll conducted by a Muslim advocacy group found that only 5 percent of Muslim-Americans said they would support Biden in 2024, down from 80 percent in 2020. These numbers are stark and will likely only intensify as the war continues, casualties mount, and Biden continues to back the terror.
This data is even more concerning for Biden given that the Arab-American vote is so central in key states, such as Michigan. In order to defeat Trump (or any other GOP adversary), Biden will have to carry Michigan and it seems next-to-impossible for him to do so without support from the Arab-American community. Arab Americans also make up a sizable bloc of votes in other key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. The centrality of Michigan to the presidential contest could be seen a few weeks ago when the UAW strike began and Biden immediately began to try and position himself as an ally to the strike in hopes of gaining an endorsement from the union and building support amongst autoworkers in Michigan and elsewhere.
In 2020, Biden won Michigan by fewer than 200,000 votes, so losing the Arab-American vote would significantly interfere with his chances of winning the state. Indeed, recent data out of Michigan shows how deep the disgust with Biden runs, with 74 percent of Arab and Muslim Democrats saying they will consider voting third party if 2024 is a rematch between Biden and Trump. To make matters even worse, that same poll out of Michigan shows that 84 percent of Arab and Muslim Democrats will be less likely to vote for Biden if he is able to successfully pass his arms-to-Israel proposal — a proposal that he is strategically committed to getting through Congress. Unless Biden does a very abrupt about-face or finds some way to sell his toned-down rhetoric on the conflict as a reversal, it seems likely that he will bleed serious numbers of Arab and Muslim voters in 2024.
The youth vote is also an area of concern for the president. In an open letter to Biden signed by several leaders of groups that focus on mobilizing youth voters, the signers declare that, “We did not spend hours upon hours knocking doors and making calls to turn out the vote so that you could support indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and violations of international law… .” The letter goes on to warn Biden that, “You cannot win this election by only telling our generation that you are the lesser of two evils… This [war] is already becoming an issue we are hearing about from thousands of young people across the country. We cannot explain your position to the people of our generation.”
This letter is reflective of (and, in fact, a reaction to) the polls which are consistently showing a wide age gap around the question of the war, with young people significantly favoring calls for a ceasefire and the cessation of U.S. arms to Israel. The poll of Michigan Democrats showed that, among younger Democrats, 80 percent oppose the Israeli ground invasion, 73 percent oppose Biden’s Israeli aid proposal, and 43 percent will consider voting third-party if 2024 is a re-match of Trump-Biden. These numbers go hand-in-hand with the massive mobilizations that have been happening across the country where a youth vanguard — including a student movement — has arisen to decry the Israeli offensive against Gaza and Biden’s complicity in it.
The needle Biden needed to thread to win re-election was already incredibly narrow given the overall polarization of the American electorate and the eye of that needle is narrowing considerably as the war on Gaza rages on. Biden is stuck between the devil that is the interests of U.S. imperialism and the deep blue sea of voter rage. “Genocide Joe” will need to find ways to reach the Arab, Muslim, and youth voting blocs if he is going to find a way to win a very challenging re-election campaign next year.
2023 Elections Provide a Roadmap for Democrats in 2024
The 2023 elections provided some hope for the Democrats. Amidst the growing crisis of Biden’s re-election campaign, there was doubt about whether the Democrats would be able to mobilize enough voters to win in key races in an off-year election. However, like the 2022 midterms, the Democrats were able to win key victories such as holding onto the governorship of Kentucky and winning both houses of the Virginia legislature. Another important outcome of the November 7 elections were that voters in Ohio voted to protect abortion in the state constitution. These results suggest that the crisis of Biden might be more limited to Biden himself than being a crisis of the whole Democratic Party. Put another way, it seems that voters may be fed up with Biden but still willing to support Democrats down the ballot.
In all three states — Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio — a key mobilizing issue was abortion. Like the 2022 midterms, Democrats were successfully able to use support for abortion amongst the masses to turnout voters with the promise that Democrats would protect abortion. This worked very well in 2022 to stop the “Red Wave” and the fact that it worked again this year means that the Democrats now have a solid roadmap for how to hold onto power in 2024: exploit fears around abortion.
Already, Democratic operatives and affiliated NGOs are working to get abortion on the ballot in key swing states in hopes that these referendums will help voter turnout amidst the, to put it mildly, declining enthusiasm for Biden. To put this another way, the Democrats are looking to exploit our fears about our eroding right to bodily autonomy in hopes it makes us vote for them. This is cynicism of the highest order and we must strongly reject it. Our rights should not be used as a political bargaining chip whenever one party thinks it might benefit them. The fight to protect our bodily autonomy is not safe in the hands of the Democrats, who only want to exploit it for political capital. Rather, we need to take inspiration from the movement for Palestine that is unfolding right now and the history of abortion struggles in Latin America and Ireland. The right to our bodies is ours to defend, not for the Democrats to exploit.
Also, this strategy of weaponizing abortion to get Biden over the hump might very well not work. Trump has been moderating his position on abortion and Nikki Haley — one of Trump’s challengers who is currently on the rise — also takes a much more moderate position on abortion than other Republicans, calling to leave it up to the states. Faced with a Republican opponent who is not champing at the bit to ban abortion federally, it may be hard for the Democratic Party to make the case that Biden is all that stands between the nation and an abortion ban.
More Than Just Biden
The crisis of Biden is but the latest manifestation of a broader crisis. The organic crisis — a term coined by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci that can be summed up as a “crisis between the represented and the representatives” — is at its highest point since Biden took office and it is clear that Biden’s attempts to re-legitimize the institutions of the regime are faltering. When a majority of Americans support a ceasefire but only a tiny minority of elected representatives do, how can the regime claim to represent the will of the people? When people are struggling to pay their bills, as student loan payments start up again, as hospitals, schools, and other public services fall deeper into states of disrepair but then billions of dollars are mysteriously found to send to fund a genocide, how can the masses trust that their government represents them? The crisis of Biden is a symptom of the larger crisis of the regime — also seen in the crisis of the Speaker of the House a few weeks ago — and that crisis isn’t going away anytime soon.
For the movement for Palestinian liberation, it has been incredibly progressive to identify Biden as the villain of our movement. Truly, he is a war criminal who is spending billions of our money to support a genocide. But, in order to deepen and strengthen our movement, we need to understand the horrors of U.S. imperialism holistically. Put another way, that the support for Israel is more than just a failing of Biden and others who are vocally Zionist but, rather, a strategic imperative for the United States. This means that it isn’t just Biden that’s the problem. He’s part of the problem and we should absolutely not support him come 2024, but we need to look beyond just the figure of Biden and see that the war machine that he stands at the head of is a massive and bi-partisan operation. So, simply trading Biden for a different Democrat (or a Republican or even a third-party candidate) won’t solve the underlying problems. Rather, we need to fight the state and all of its tentacles if we are to truly win our demands. We must not forget Biden’s complicity, even if he does end up backing a ceasefire down the road. He has blood on his hands — so very much blood — and we can’t ever forget that.
To truly win our demands, we must think strategically about a way forward. This means that we cannot support Biden or any other Democrat. It also means opposing all money for the war machine — not one penny of our money should be spent on U.S. imperialism. It means seeing the ways that the tentacles of the state in the non-profits are trying to manipulate us into supporting more of the same. It means resisting attempts to scare us with appeals to our support of abortion and queer rights in order. It means recognizing that the state is responsible, that the bipartisan regime is responsible for the terror and horror that we are seeing unfold in Gaza right now. To fight the regime, we will need our own organization — a party of our own — that stands against all the horrors and evils of imperialism and capitalism and poses an alternative in socialism. Put another way, we need a party of the working class and oppressed which fights for socialism with the full force of our class.