Afghan debacle spells poll disaster for Democrats
The chaotic collapse of Afghanistan and rapid takeover by the Taliban as US forces withdrew from Kabul has shocked an American public clinging to the belief that America “defeated the terrorists.”
With the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that took the lives of 2,996 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 fresh in their minds, people will direct their anger at President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership. That anger is coming at a bad time for Democrats as they seek to retain control of Congress in elections scheduled for November 2022.
History shows that in almost every “off-year” or “midterm” congressional election season, the party in power loses control of the Congress.
Only four presidents in the last 40 US elections were able to win seats and maintain control of the House of Representatives after taking office during the midterm elections.
While the president faces election every four years, members of Congress run for reelection every two years, resulting in a poll during the president’s third year in office. A president’s first midterm election is also the toughest to hold.
In the past four midterm elections, the president has lost control of the House.
In many cases, the issues that sparked the reversal had to do with politics. President George W. Bush managed to hold on to the House during the 2002 midterms only because the nation was at war with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and voters rose above partisan politics.
But the US today is far more polarized than it was then or, indeed, has been at any time in its history, other than during the Civil War in the 1860s.
In the 2010 midterm elections, Democratic President Barack Obama saw his party lose 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate. In 2014, during Obama’s second midterm elections, the Democrats lost 13 seats in the House and nine in the Senate.
In the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, however, the combination of the rise of the Taliban, the welcoming of Osama Bin Laden’s former security chief Amin Al-Haq by Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and heightened concerns about terrorism could lead to one of the greatest reversals in US history.
The return of Amin Al-Haq, who headed Bin Laden’s “Black Guard,” is being reported more aggressively by conservative media, but nevertheless Americans are slowly realizing what is happening.
Public shock could turn into anger at the polling place. The odds of Biden retaining control of Congress are low, but the Afghanistan fiasco is likely to make the election “flip” worse than expected.
Campaigning for the election traditionally begins after the Labor Day weekend next week. Candidates seeking to unseat incumbents will ramp up the rhetoric, and one of the most powerful messages will be how the Democrats allowed the Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan.
Despite the Taliban’s claims of tolerance under a Shariah-controlled society, reports of the killing of former pro-US Afghan leaders and supporters during the past week continue to surface.
Additionally, Biden’s image is one of weakness. The US leader has controlled his message by managing a friendly news media, but that cannot last. Reports that he has been given a list of reporters to call on at press conferences smacks of media management rather than public openness.
US voters are still struggling after almost two years of coronavirus restrictions, cutbacks and economic turmoil. Although jobs and the economy seem to be returning, the resurgence of the virus and a new variant has many concerned. Americans are tired of the curbs on buying, traveling and earning money.
Meanwhile, growing numbers are sinking into credit card and borrowing debt, while the national debt is higher than it was even after the Second World War.
These factors, and the possibility of more terrorist strikes, could push voters over the edge.
In the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, the combination of the rise of the Taliban, the welcoming of Osama Bin Laden’s former security chief Amin Al-Haq by Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and heightened concerns about terrorism could lead to one of the greatest reversals in US history.
The loss of the Congress next year is unlikely to signal a return for former President Donald Trump, whose image has been tarnished by both a hostile mainstream news media and his expulsion from powerful social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Americans will not be hearing his voice as clearly as he needs.
However, the perception of Biden as weak, the collapse of Afghanistan, and the possibility of further terror strikes such as the two suicide attacks at Kabul airport that killed 13 US marines will make it much harder for the Democrats to maintain control.
The party has only an eight-seat lead over the Republicans in the House (220 Democrats and 212 Republicans), while Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats in the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the deciding vote.
Biden’s control of the Congress and Senate is fragile and, as history shows, can easily be lost — and even more so now following the Afghanistan debacle.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania