The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

The impending midterm elections pose a new turning point for both President Joe Biden and the direction of the United States. Biden’s “Soul of the Nation” speech in September on the threat of MAGA extremists and former President Donald Trump was counterproductive. Trying to separate MAGA Republicans from mainstream Republicans is futile. With more than 70% of self-identified Republicans believing that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, Biden’s task is nearly impossible.

Since early in Biden’s presidency, he has wanted to appeal to both the right and the center, but he has not managed to jettison the far-left elements of his party. He has tried hard in winning over these segments, to the detriment of his previous commitment to work for all Americans.

The majority of ordinary Americans are primarily concerned about crime and economic inflation. If the louder voices of the Democratic Party insist on pursuing far-left policies, then the party will lose the voters that they need to win national and local elections.

By labeling the battle ahead as ‘MAGA Republicans vs. America,’ Biden is unlikely to get the buy-in from the American people that he needs. Biden’s sales pitch misses the pulse and sentiments of the American people. It comes across as tone-deaf when gas is over $5 a gallon in some states.

By going for the broader soul of the nation approach, Biden missed the core potential and openings for him to galvanize and exploit, which the Republicans wisely capitalized on in framing the battle as one that is saving the country from colossal policy mistakes and ignorance of the far left.

The GOPs sales pitch, whether right or wrong, on inflation, crime, parent’s rights, and in some states, ‘saving unborn babies,’ appeals to many voters. To them, crime and high gasoline prices are their only concerns. Climate change, Ukraine, the China threat, and democracy, just aren’t on the radar of most Americans.

If Biden’s intent is to rouse his Democratic base and independents, he has failed miserably. Because of a never-ending media push by FOX News and other right-leaning media platforms, Americans thought they were safer during the Trump presidency.

Unfortunately, moving forward, American politics will never be the same.

The Democrats’ approach and Biden’s Soul of the Nation speech did little to spark a new dynamism in his base and provided a lose-lose scenario. The outcome of the midterm elections is more or less sealed, and the only question that remains is whether the extent of the momentum and greater narrative advantage of MAGA and Trumpism can be maintained and expanded to fuel Trump’s return in 2024, barring any real strategic reforms and reorientations by the Democrats.

Collins Chong Yew Keat has been serving in University of Malaya for more than 9 years. His areas of focus include strategic and security studies, America’s foreign policy and power projection, regional conflicts and power parity analysis and has published various publications on numerous platforms including books and chapter articles. He is also a regular contributor in providing op-eds and analytical articles for both the local and international media on various contemporary global issues and regional affairs since 2007.