An Abject Failure, Biden’s Pandemic Response All but Guarantees a ‘22 Midterm Shellacking

More than two years into the COVID pandemic, there is still no end in sight for Americans. The response at the ballot box will be palpable.

Zach Salcido
6 min readFeb 1, 2022
Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash

A year into his first term as Chief Executive, Joe Biden’s plan to deal with COVID and the rampant and highly contagious Omicron variant has deteriorated into shrugged shoulders, a public health free-for-all in a country with no universal health care system and 30 million uninsured citizens. The absolute bare minimum for a first world country that claims to care at all about its own people would be to send a box of N95s, rapid and PCR COVID tests, and a stipend for food and necessities every month to every household in America. Now, while the second major variant runs rampant through our population, the Biden Administration has barely begun to move its feet on shipping out tests to households.

Unsurprisingly, these tests are accompanied by the typical neoliberal limitations, manifesting this time as a cap of four tests per address and the barrier of having to manually order them online despite being free of charge. The magnitude or multitude of losses on the part of the Democratic Party notwithstanding, they continue to repeat the same strategic mistakes through several administrations, sitting on their hands for a full legislative term amongst a trifecta and inevitably losing their majorities in the midterm elections. And now, as America faces the prolonged and devastating consequences of an unmitigated pandemic, the need for radical humanitarianism is more apparent than ever. Joe Biden and his cohort are incapable and evidently unwilling of producing such a reality.

Despite the Biden Administration’s various other failures, this year’s midterms are a direct audit of its response to a once-in-a-century pandemic which can be boiled down to what the acting FDA chief had to say recently on Capitol Hill:

There is one thing that needs to be emphasized north of two years into this pandemic- It is still extremely difficult and expensive to get a COVID test or N95 masks in the richest country in the history of this planet. That is unacceptable, a failure that will linger in the minds of Americans who may have voted for Biden in 2020 but are getting cold feet for 2024. While he himself is safe this time around, the down-ballot consequences of Joe Biden’s ineptitude at the federal level could be disastrous for the Democrats and an already razor-thin House and Senate majority.

The chances of terminating the filibuster and passing comprehensive voting rights legislation are slim even as the cards currently fall, and that window of opportunity is quickly waning as November marches closer. Unable or unwilling to employ the powerful bully pulpit that is the Oval Office, Joe Biden has allowed two rogue Democratic senators from Arizona and West Virginia to stymy his cornerstone legislation, the Build Back Better Act, and to maintain the anti-democratic Jim Crow era status quo in the Senate Chamber, thwarting any progress to those ends.

The COVID pandemic is markedly worse than when Trump left office, and there are no clear plans to cancel this country’s cumulatively massive student loan debt. Climate action is nearly unspoken of, and Republicans are tilting the body politic in their favor through gerrymandering and the systematic denial of voting access.

It is difficult to even imagine what national strategy would look like for the Democrats if they lose either or both chambers of Congress, especially in the wake of Biden’s inaction on reforming congressional mapping. If they lose the House or the Senate, it could be more difficult than ever before to regain. Without truly independent congressional mapping, Republicans in state legislatures will continue to conjure up favorable redistricting that makes it harder and harder for any Democrat to win in certain areas. This is essentially the blueprint for entrenching a conservative minority rule, likely for years to come.

Republicans only need five seats in the House and one in the Senate to gain back control of those chambers, and you would be hard-pressed to draw up many scenarios where Democrats do not break even or worse. I have already written about the daunting task that is restoring true voter protection statutes in an era of a super-conservative Supreme Court. The rhetoric shift required to win back votes for the Democrats would be seismic, a full-throated embrace of Medicare For All, student loan debt cancellation, climate action and numerous other widely popular progressive policy proposals. This is of course highly unlikely from a government headed by the guy who frequently has this to say to a country desperate for competent leadership:

President Biden’s response to a lack of progress on Build Back Better

Barring a complete 180 on policy and rhetoric, the Democratic Party’s current and future fate rests on the shoulder’s of a 79 year old man who, in only his first year, has shown to be unfit to move this country’s ostensibly left party forward. By ceding power to corporations to gouge Americans for at-home tests and high-quality PPE, Joe Biden is sacrificing normal people in middle-America to appease the market and keep the economy running. The CDC’s rapidly changing guidelines reflect this as well, conforming to whatever metric they need to get people back into work, despite the lack of employee protection, paid sick leave and hazard pay. The upcoming 2022 midterms might already be past saving, but if the planners at the DNCC want any sort of chance at 2024, Joe Biden(or Kamala Harris, for that matter) cannot be named on that ticket.

I would not be the first person to point out the danger of losing one or both chambers of Congress to the Republicans, and in fact conservatives have been telling us directly for decades- they won’t stop at repealing Roe, and will attempt to reverse additional jurisprudence protecting the sale of birth control and the rights of same-sex couples in Griswold and Obergefell. They’ll use the Supreme Court to essentially eliminate the idea of a “zone of privacy” that previous courts held was implicitly implied through the the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Along with the degradation of voting rights, the delegitimization of the current court will allow for a complete gutting of many other core civil rights. That is is what the future looks like in a United States that is ruled by conservative social, political and economic agenda.

If the Build Back Better Act fizzling out unceremoniously is any indication of the Democrat’s chances to hold the congressional chambers, they are in trouble. Rather than viewing the COVID pandemic as a potential inflection point in this country’s history with respect to labor and the structure of our political economy, this administration has done nothing more than advocate for a regression to the mean, a mean in which corporations control our Congress and the laws it produces. That approach won’t propel this country out of this once-in-a-century pandemic, and it will most certainly come back to bite the Democrats on the first Tuesday of November.



Zach Salcido

Oregon Law student. Interested in writing about politics, public policy, and law.