In a nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll taken on August 11 and 12, approximately 51% of Americans approved of President Joe Biden’s job performance, while 43% disapproved. Just one week later, the same pollster found a strikingly different result: 46% approval, 49% disapproval.
As far as I can tell, it’s the first time Biden has been underwater in a major media survey. Given the disastrous consequences of the president’s retreat from Afghanistan — an unwise policy carried out with gross incompetence — the Reuters/Ipsos finding will prove no outlier.
Indeed, the John Locke Foundation’s new Civitas Poll depicts Biden’s tumble with North Carolina voters in stark terms. Our state has a redder electorate than average, of course, so it was hardly surprising that Biden got mixed results in previous Civitas Polls taken during 2021. In June, the numbers looked like this: 46% approval to 48% disapproval. In the just-released August poll, however, only 42% of North Carolinians approved of the president’s job performance while 53% disapproved.
If you graph Biden’s support since his inauguration, you can see gradual deterioration. That’s normal for presidents, who typically start out with skeptical voters willing to give a new leader the benefit of the doubt. Over time, some are won over. Others are lost. And partisan loyalties often reassert themselves.
But I don’t see the Afghanistan debacle as a garden-variety political dispute about budgets, regulations, or judicial nominations. Although the prospect disgusts me, I consider it highly likely that American citizens, not to mention Afghan allies, will be captured, brutalized, and perhaps even executed in front of video cameras.
If I’m right, public support for the president will crater. If Biden and the Democrats expect the issue to go away quickly, they are guilty of yet another catastrophic lapse in judgment.
Because I know many smart Democrats, in North Carolina and elsewhere, I suspect they are not so unrealistic. They know public confidence in the president is tottering on the edge of a cliff. They know that their own political fortunes are inextricably tied to his.
In the Locke poll, for example, North Carolina Republicans now lead Democrats by four percentage points in generic-ballot tests for Congress and legislature. Gov. Roy Cooper’s longtime net-approval has disappeared. There are other political issues in play, naturally, but like it or not the Afghanistan story is dominating the public’s attention.
Perhaps the president’s costly mistakes, and manifest inability to explain or take real responsibility for them, bother Democratic political operatives as much as they do everyone else. Or perhaps they are just unnerved by the sudden and sharp decline in their party’s political fortunes in the coming midterm elections. Something must explain why the politicos who run the Democratic caucus of the North Carolina House resorted last week to a grotesque calumny against the John Locke Foundation, the think tank I helped found and ran for a quarter of a century.
On August 19, a man from Grover, North Carolina parked a pickup in front of the Library of Congress for several hours, claiming to have explosives and rambling on about Afghanistan and the president. The authorities quite properly treated it as a potential terrorist incident. Thank goodness they were able to bring it to a close and take the man into custody without injury or loss of life.
“While we are grateful this ordeal is over,” snarled a tweet from the official account for North Carolina House Democrats, “it is a reminder of the continued danger posed by the extreme narrative being pushed by groups like @FoxNews, @ncgop, and @JohnLockeNC.”
There is no evidence linking the pickup driver’s actions to any messages conveyed by the Locke Foundation or the other institutions. To allege otherwise is, as Locke CEO Amy Cooke and President Donald Bryson put it, “abhorrent to civil government.”
I can understand Democratic activists being anxious and fearful about their party’s immediate future. But its problems weren’t concocted by conservative media outlets. They were birthed in the White House.
John Hood is a Carolina Journal columnist and author of the new novel Mountain Folk, a historical fantasy set during the American Revolution.