The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Putting aside how awful the man is, Biden will likely benefit from voters concerned about abortion rights and Social Security.

The November presidential election will be, for many voters, an unfortunate rematch of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. This burgeoning anticipation has stirred political savants into a prediction frenzy, amidst lingering doubts over Biden’s age and falling poll numbers. Polls currently tilt towards Trump, as Biden weathers the brunt of anti-incumbency, burdened by his responses to the economy, the Gaza crisis, and immigration.

Yet, to hastily conclude Biden’s electoral demise is to overlook a myriad of factors that might yet sway the race in his favor. Despite the growing censure against Trump, there are cogent reasons to maintain that Biden’s re-election remains a tangible possibility. Parsing through three cornerstone concerns of the American political theatre may elucidate Biden’s relative electability over Trump.

Gaza conflict

The unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza has markedly divided the U.S. political atmosphere. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have proliferated, permeating streets and academic venues alike. Such protests have even interrupted Biden’s campaign events, where voices clamor for peace. Several political commentators contend that Biden’s navigation of the Israel-Hamas confrontation could diminish his appeal among voters. This is notably reflected in the swath of “uncommitted” ballots cast on Super Tuesday. Despite this, Biden’s prospects against Trump in a general election might be surprisingly robust, supported by two central arguments.

Primarily, the American electorate predominantly favors Israel. The pro-Palestinian protests, though spirited and visible, represent a minority. A majority of Israel’s supporters prefer subdued solidarity over public demonstrations. This silent consensus is captured by a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, which found an 82% endorsement of Israel’s war against Hamas. The Gallup poll similarly unveiled that a notable majority of Americans believe Israel merits more support from the U.S. This data aligns with the bipartisan congressional endorsement of Israel, which stands behind Biden’s unwavering backing of Israel’s military initiatives.

Furthermore, the “uncommitted” voters, despite their primary election protest, are likely cognizant that Trump’s approach to the Gaza conflict could prove more detrimental. Trump’s endorsement of Israeli military autonomy, coupled with his hardline immigration stance, starkly contrasts with Biden’s endeavors for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid. Hence, Democrat-inclined voters, despite any present discontent with Biden, might still gravitate towards his more moderate stance in the general election, recognizing the broader implications of another Republican tenure.

Reproductive rights

Vice President Kamala Harris’s “Reproductive Freedom” tour and Biden’s commitment to abortion rights in his State of the Union Address signal a pivotal campaign tactic. By propelling abortion to the forefront of their agenda, the Biden administration aims to wrong-foot the Republicans. The 2022 mid-term elections contradicted the forecasted “red wave,” with Democrats maintaining legislative chambers, in part due to the public’s disapproval of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Subsequent state referendums that upheld or expanded abortion access reinforced a national trend away from male-dominated legislative control over women’s bodies. Abortion rights, further emboldened by France’s constitutional amendment, may serve as a catalyst, rallying pro-choice voters for the general election.

The Republican alignment with pro-life absolutism is losing traction. Republican voters, while conservative, do not universally advocate for stringent abortion restrictions. Even in traditionally conservative states, a majority have expressed the desire to maintain abortion rights. Trump’s instrumental role in shaping a conservative Supreme Court, and his subsequent credit claim for overturning Roe v. Wade, present Democrats with an opportunity to portray him as antagonistic to women’s reproductive autonomy. Therefore, the centralization of abortion rights in the election debate may furnish Biden with a significant advantage, particularly among female voters, highlighting a pattern where Republicans falter electorally when abortion dominates the conversation.

Social Security

In his recent State of the Union Address, Biden voiced his opposition to Social Security cuts and privatization. He proposed enhancing its longevity by imposing a more equitable tax on wealthier Americans and advocated for improving benefits for those in need. In contrast, Trump’s ambiguous statements regarding “entitlement” cuts necessitated a clarifying campaign backtrack. With Trump relatively silent on Social Security, and Biden outspokenly defending it, the upcoming election could see senior voters shifting toward Biden.

However, this pivot relies on the Biden campaign’s ability to articulate a compelling and expansive vision for Social Security, akin to proposals from senators like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Polling from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee indicates a growing trust in Biden to protect Social Security over Trump, suggesting potential gains for Democrats on this issue.

While the concept of Biden’s political decline circulates widely, his administration’s economic indicators, such as rising employment and falling inflation, imply a potential reinvigoration of “Bidenomics.” With the election months away, economic perceptions are malleable. Cultural endorsements, such as the possible backing from Taylor Swift, could energize younger voters, and Trump’s legal entanglements may precipitate a reversal of fortunes.

While skepticism towards Biden’s re-election persists, a nuanced analysis of pivotal issues uncovers a landscape rife with variables that could redefine the electoral battle. As political dynamics continue to evolve, it is premature to cast Biden as the presumptive loser in November.

Riyan Buragohain is an undergraduate student pursuing triple majors in English, Political Science, and History from Christ University, Bangalore, India. He has interned with several organizations in India such as Little Umbrella Foundation (LUF), Jeevan Jagran Foundation (JJF), Cinepari, Destination Heritage, and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF). Primarily, his interest lies in the field of international relations, political theory, and gender studies.