Opinion | Democrats needn’t panic but must act boldly

By Judith Race, Columnist

President Biden’s inaugural year saw divisive culture wars rage, over a dozen American soldiers die in a botched military operation, the country struggle to recover from a recession and a win for Republicans in Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Unsurprisingly, the President’s approval rating tanked

With everything going against him, one must look to how former President Bill Clinton had his work cut out for him in 1993.

Uncanny does not begin to describe the similarities between Biden and Clinton’s respective first years in office. Presently, Americans are battling over critical race theory in K–12 schools — a place where it is not taught as it is a complex legal theory — Islamic State Khorasan killed 13 U.S. troops in Kabul, inflated prices are being blamed on President Biden and a Republican is now Gov.-elect of Virginia. 

At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Pat Buchanan charged feminists, gays and pro-choicers with corrupting America. Upon inauguration, Clinton inherited high unemployment and wealth inequality from the 1990–91 recession.

In October 1993, the bodies of 18 dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu after a failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord’s associates. In November, a Republican won the Virginia governor’s race, which was followed by a Republican takeover of the House and Senate in 1994. 

Yet, Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996. Who is to say Biden or Harris could not do the same in 2024?

Albeit, Biden is no Clinton — nor is Kamala Harris for that matter. Thus, whether Harris or Biden is the nominee, Democrats will have nowhere near the magnetism Clinton had.

Clinton’s charisma aside, the recent Republican victory in Virginia has been used to predict a grim future for the Democratic Party: They could lose Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024 if nothing changes. It is important to recognize, however, politics are not static — any number of events could shift political momentum before November 2022. However, rather than waiting for momentum to change on its own, Democrats must discard the fate they have been handed and shift momentum to stay in power. 

If the Democrats want to stay in power, they must take risks. Eliminating the filibuster is one major risk the Democrats must take to ensure they stay entrenched in the House and Senate. Hesitancy to eliminate it undoubtedly stems from blue nightmares of Republicans gaining a Senate majority in 2022 and running wild without the filibuster in their way. However, Democrats can only maintain their majority by dismantling the filibuster and passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

When it was last voted on, 51 senators voted in favor of passing the act. Despite their majority, they were nine votes short of the supermajority required to end debate on the bill.

Hopefully, though, Democratic leadership recognizes the importance of killing the filibuster. If they do, the John Lewis Act would be signed into law, undermining Republican attempts to lower turnout via voter suppression. In turn, Democrats could pass laws benefiting average Americans, showing them an active government is the solution to their problems. 

In June 1993, Clinton’s approval ratings hit a low of 37%, but he was up 12% by June 1994. Culture war rhetoric came back to haunt Republicans as centrists were tired of extreme declarations and reelected Clinton in 1996. In a recent poll, Biden’s approval rating was 44%. If Democrats ignore the present culture war and pass linchpin legislation, they can easily thwart the fate consigned to them. 

The Democratic Party’s current woes, too, shall pass, but only if they act quickly and boldly to win back the support of politically middle-of-the-road Americans.

Judith is a senior in LAS.

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