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Commentary: Autopsy

I find it fascinating how so many in the media are giving detailed, sometimes gruesome, descriptions of the corpse of the Biden presidency. They say the autopsy reveals – take your pick of the political version of:

  • Gluttony – Tried to ingest too much.
  • Strangulation – Tried to ingest everything at once.
  • Psychosis – Multiple personalities tore it to pieces.
  • Diabetes – Overconsumption of sweets and carbs.
  • Senility – We told you he was too old.
  • Colitis – Republicans are too big a pain in . . .

Some of the post-mortems are a result of the pressures of 24-hour news cycle. Some of them are a result of, sadly, a profound lack of understanding of the political process. Some are because 2021 is a year unlike any other and many of the usual benchmarks and touchstones have gone missing.
Whatever the reasons, commentators are lining up to proclaim the electoral disaster that awaits Democrats in 2022 – losing both houses of Congress – and especially 2024, when Donald Trump wins another narrow Electoral College victory, aided by current Republican voter-suppression activities at the state level.

We shall see, of course. A year is a geologic age in politics. I’m more inclined to view what’s going on right now like Jennifer Rubin, the respected Washington Post columnist, does. She said it’s: “A tied baseball game delayed by rain.” I’ll happily add to the metaphor:

  • Senators Manchin and Synema cavorting on the tarp that covers the field, crooning into the mic – “Watch us, because it’s all about us!”
  • Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi under the stands begging fans not to leave the ballpark.
  • Senator McConnell wondering why there are only lobbyists and no other Senators in his luxury suite.
  • The big scoreboard toggling between weather radar and live coverage of the Trump rally in Des Moines.

She’s onto something. President Biden is pretty sure that, as soon as the squall line has passed, he will get one and probably two big infrastructure bills passed that Democrats can campaign on in 2022 and 2024. Longer term, he also knows that the Democratic ground game will be much better next year than it was last year, especially in minority communities.

And he has Donald Trump, who said in mid-October, and I quote: “If we don’t solve the presidential election fraud of 2020 . . . Republicans will not be voting in 2022 and 2024. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.” He hasn’t taken it back and Republicans are apoplectic, because they remember Georgia in January, where Trump’s rhetoric hurt Republican turnout and elected, very narrowly, two Democrats to the Senate, giving them their current majority.

If Trump continues to say to his base: “If the 2020 result is not overturned you must stay home in protest,” and if enough of them take him either seriously or literally – it doesn’t matter which – Republicans will lose many races they should and could win.

President Biden can channel Mark Twain, who said “The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.” And he can quote Napolean, who said: “Never interfere with the enemy when it is in the process of destroying itself.”

Dr. Terry Smith is a Political Science Professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.