Steve Clemons, Editor-at-Large of The Hill and former Editor-at-Large of The Atlantic, and Orson Porter, Teneo Senior Managing Director and government affairs expert, joined Kevin Kajiwara for an important discussion on what to expect on the U.S. political scene heading into the new year.
United States Political Landscape
2022 is set to be another contentious and complicated year as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of new variants, historically high and rising inflation levels and soaring economic uncertainty. Meanwhile, Biden is trying to reassert American leadership across the world against the backdrop of China threatening to invade Taiwan and Russia amassing troops on the Ukrainian border.
President Biden’s overall approval ratings have reportedly stabilized over last month’s figures but still remain underwater. Recent polling also suggests that Trump would be well-positioned for a hypothetical rematch against President Biden.
The Build Back Better (BBB) Act
The Biden administration are unlikely to meet their end-of-year goal of passing the BBB Act, which will have immediate consequences for families as the enhanced child tax credit is due to expire at the end of the year. Despite historically low unemployment levels and the President securing the largest infrastructure bill in generations, the Biden team are facing mounting pressure.
The Democrats are eager to maintain their narrow control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives in next year’s mid-term elections. However, Biden’s inaction on voting-rights legislation, uncertainty over passage of the BBB Act, as well as ongoing global supply chain issues, job gaps and economic fear and uncertainty are all fueling frustration which is playing into the latest polling data. Following historic trends, the Republicans are poised for gains, leaving the Democrats with an uphill battle to maintain their majority.
On the state and local side, there will be 36 governor races across the U.S., and “kitchen table” issues are likely to be top of Democratic and Republican agendas in their vote-rallying efforts.
The U.S. Economy
The White House is struggling to sell economic growth and job gains to a population that are more concerned about COVID-19 and soaring prices for goods and services. Americans do not trust the government and are left feeling frustrated and economically insecure in an era of rising inflation that produces trifling, or even negative returns on assets. Additionally, Americans do not feel confident with their long-term job security and fear that technology will lead to large swaths of people losing their jobs, which is heightening levels of anxiety and uncertainty.
Lawmakers across the aisle will seek to rein in the power of big tech in the new year, with bills aimed at policing the activity of companies such as Google, Facebook, TikTok, Amazon and Apple.
Meanwhile, there is growing frustration that Congress has yet to approve The Endless Frontier Act (now known as The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act), a bill which aims to inject billions of dollars into U.S. scientific and technological innovation to bolster competitiveness with China over the next five years. Having passed the Senate with bipartisan support in June, the bill now faces stalled progress in the House of Representatives. Arguably, President Biden has missed an opportunity to rally full support for this legislation, which is critical for addressing the threat posed by China.
International Relations and Foreign Policy
The Biden administration has struggled to reestablish the United States’ position on the world stage. The President is also facing criticism over his foreign policy strategy, which has led to escalated tensions between Russia and China and has further tested Biden’s ability to manage antagonistic leaders.
Authoritarian states who are not afraid to engage in hybrid war, malware attacks and distorted news present broad and serious challenges to democracies across the world. Despite the President positioning diplomacy at the center of his foreign policy, refraining from military action can portray a lack of commitment and intent. The U.S. needs to constructively send a signal of power, short of war, to assert its strength against authoritarian regimes, boost its domestic resilience and restore relationships with its allies.