Home Youth activism The Democrats are facing an asymmetric war. It’s time to wake up and fight | Ben Davis

The Democrats are facing an asymmetric war. It’s time to wake up and fight | Ben Davis


Jhe New York Times recently released a poll that marks an exclamation point on months of bad news for the rapidly faltering Biden presidency. Biden’s meager 33% approval rating is in line with other polls, but the shocking and worrisome number for the White House is that 64% of Democrats think he shouldn’t seek another term in 2024. That number reaches an absurd 94% among Democrats under 30.

While young voters have consistently given Biden lower ratings than other cohorts this year, that number now stands at a miserable 19%. Young voters are not a group that can be ignored as flighty non-voters: they are the backbone of the Democratic Party’s recent victories. In 2020, youth voting hit an all-time high and young voters gave Biden a 24-point margin. Without both high turnout and high margins from young voters, Biden would have easily lost every swing state. Increased youth turnout also provided much of the headroom for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

Biden’s low approvals, especially among young people, have caused a crisis of confidence not seen in a sitting president’s party since at least Jimmy Carter. Should Biden step down in 2024? Unless the administration and the Democratic Party radically change their posture, he may have to retire to prevent the election of a man who only attempted a coup last year. More importantly, however, he has in his power the ability to overthrow his presidency.

It is clear to Americans of all political stripes that we are in crisis. Many fundamental rights and principles of our democracy have been completely ignored by a party that has not won the popular vote in a presidential election in 18 years. There is a huge disconnect between the will of the people and the actions of the state. This is a situation not seen since the Civil Rights era or potentially even Reconstruction, but the President has not treated it as such. Basically, people, especially young people, want to feel like the president is fighting for them.

The Biden administration and the leadership of the federal Democratic Party seem devoted to broken and undemocratic institutions. Given the power these institutions wield, it seems hopelessly disconnected. The main solution offered by the administration has been to show up for a midterm vote to potentially codify Roe, or more likely, stave off a federal GOP ban on abortion. None of the proposed solutions even come close to the situation.

This is an asymmetrical war, with the Democrats playing by an entirely different set of rules. While the Democrats remain attached to archaic institutions and procedures, the Republican Party has remade the state in its image without even rallying the majority of voters. The Republican Party has long wanted to undermine many American institutions: many serious presidential candidates, sitting senators and sitting judges have proposed repealing the 14th Amendment (the foundation of modern American law), the 16th Amendment creating the income tax, the 17th Amendment directly elect senators, and more. The Democrats did not respond seriously at all. They are dedicated to playing by the rules of a game that everyone has long since stopped playing.

The main response to the rollback of several fundamental rights has been “vote and donate”. Voting is of course necessary, as are donations and all kinds of political activism. That doesn’t make it any less insulting. People voted. The last two elections have seen record turnout for Democrats. The party has unified control of the government, despite all the caveats. The problem is that in the current system, voting will not work, and people know it.

It would take decades of uninterrupted Democratic control of the presidency to overturn the Supreme Court of the United States. With the current coalitions and political structure, it is effectively impossible for Democrats to win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Even a simple governing majority requires a clear Democratic wave in the popular vote, and that majority would almost certainly require more red state Democrats like Sinema and Manchin blocking the legislation.

In short, “just voting” and using current institutions is impossible, and voters recognize that. It is not possible to win back the right to abortion, to basic environmental protection, to schools free from religious indoctrination, to basic gun control, to the protection of contraception, marriage equality and personal sexual activity without sweeping changes in the basic structure of American governance.

Winning elections doesn’t hurt anything, but it’s not enough in an undemocratic system that has been manipulated to truly absurd degrees. There is no winning in this system, and that is obvious to most Americans and to the vast majority of young Americans who disapprove of Biden. To salvage his presidency and muster real force midterm and into the future, Biden must boldly champion sweeping democratic reforms, use his power, and dare the Supreme Court and Senate to stop him.

While at other times disempowering institutions and taking unilateral action as president may be unpopular, Americans recognize that our system is completely broken. The Supreme Court has the approval of only 25% of the population, by far the lowest measured. It is an institution that can exercise power only as long as it has the support of the people. Supermajorities support serious Supreme Court reforms.

Young Americans in particular see their future collapsing before their eyes and understand the stakes. They know that Biden cannot unilaterally pack the court or make significant reforms to the legislature or the judiciary. That’s not the point, however; he must put this on the agenda. He has faced a crisis of legitimacy, where the vast majority of the people are loudly opposed to the order imposed on him. He must stand with the people and lead the charge for their rights. There is no way to get past these rigged institutions. Only around. To save his presidency, this must be at the very top of his agenda.

Biden needs to backtrack and get aggressive as soon as possible to counter the lackluster response to Dobbs that has hurt his standing among Democrats and young people. Americans know that the president does not have this unilateral power, even though they know he can do more. Above all, they want a fight. They want to know that the president recognizes the seriousness of the crisis. We have witnessed the most serious rollback of the rights of American citizens since Plessy versus Ferguson in 1896. The majority of Americans are under attack from a minority and they need a president who recognizes this and responds accordingly.

Biden has the opportunity to change course and be a two-term president who has turned the country around in a crisis of democracy. If Biden can’t do it, he will have to be replaced. Not just because it’s necessary, but because it’s the only way to regain popularity and get re-elected.

The Democratic Party must reorient itself around sweeping democratic reforms and disempower the Supreme Court, Senate and state governments. It is both necessary and inevitable. If Biden doesn’t, the next Democrat will have to. If they do not, it will be impossible to exercise any power, regardless of the opinions of the citizens.

Undemocratic government institutions fundamentally reshape society and people have no recourse without radical change. As a smaller and smaller minority wields more and more power, something has to come to a head. A state cannot function so detached from popular sovereignty without a real break. Modern governments rely on at least some degree of consent of the governed.

There is no future where the Democratic Party does not embrace serious reforms of the current constitutional order, as radical resistance to the anti-democratic onslaught is necessary for their continued existence as a party. If Biden wants to lead the country, he must take the lead. Without an aggressive and radical fitness, he will not be able to regain his status. Almost every American understands that the country is going through a crisis that requires a radical overhaul of our institutions. The Republicans are in the lead. Biden is a man out of touch with the world around him unless he recognizes it and acts decisively.