Washington, DC – Regaining the support and energy of the Democratic base is a critical task for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. As recent polling shows an uptick in President Biden’s overall approval, the State of the Union address and a series of TPS announcements last week offered glimmers of hope that the Biden Administration is starting to get out of its defensive crouch and lean in on immigration once again.
Analysis from Amy Walter in the Cook Political Report, “Can Biden Improve His Grade With Democratic Voters?” highlights why that’s so essential. She finds that “lackluster support from Democrats” is a big reason for President Biden’s decline in approval ratings in recent months. Walter writes:
“[E]ven though Trump’s gone, many of those who voted for Biden don’t believe that the political environment has gotten much better. They see a country that remains divided, polarized and angry. On top of it all, one Democrat from the late January group put it, “the person I voted for isn’t doing the things he said he would do.”
On immigration, the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund released polling last week that underscored that Democrats’ base voters are turned off by Biden’s failure to deliver promised immigration reforms. As NBC News recapped, “In the NILC-commissioned survey, Trump notched much higher marks with his base on how he handled immigration issues (86 percent positive) than Biden did with his (54 percent approval).”
Thankfully, in the State of the Union address, President Biden did what we have been pleading with him to do: he leaned in (read our full take here). While we would have said it differently, President Biden spoke of practical ways to improve a broken system and stated strong support for immigrants, immigration and long-overdue policy solutions. In the process, he offered up a rough political template for Democratic candidates in tough races to discuss immigration in the midterms.
But modeling effective messaging is no match for delivering reforms that change lives. It’s up to President Biden and Democrats to deliver on immigration breakthroughs, not just immigration remarks. While legislation is the preferred route to reform, President Biden should not wait. Last week the Biden administration issued welcome TPS announcements for Ukrainians, Sudanese and South Sudanese. They should keep the momentum going and build on those welcome TPS designations by delivering similar protections to Cameroonians next, with other countries to follow. TPS and other executive actions are an important tool for delivering meaningful progress and advancing America’s interests and values.
According to Vanessa Cardenas, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:
President Biden and Democrats should keep their promises and lean in on immigration. At a minimum, this means enacting meaningful policy breakthroughs through the continued use of executive action, in particular through the designation of TPS to nationals from countries torn apart by war, violence and climate disasters.
This also means leaning into the important contrasts between the parties on immigration. Republicans want to block undocumented immigrants from becoming American citizens. They want to spend billions more on the $15 billion border wall that can be cut through with a $15 dollar hand saw. Some are mainstreaming conspiracy theories such as the ‘great replacement theory.’
Democrats have a different vision of America and the essential role that immigrants play in our economy and society. Their stances are more popular with the American public than the GOP’s. But to make this distinction clear, they need to lean in politically and make progress on policy. If they do so, they can turn immigration into the winning issue it was in 2020.