US President Joe Biden on Wednesday celebrated the better-than-expected performance of the Democratic Party as a marker of his administration’s success, saying the results of the midterm elections were good for democracy, and that he would not change any of his policies going forward, even as he recognised voter concerns around inflation and crime.
“While the press and the pundits are predicting a giant red wave, it didn’t happen…We lost fewer seats in the House of Representatives than any Democratic President’s first midterm election in the last 40 years. And we had the best midterms for governors since 1986,” Biden said, at a press conference on Wednesday.
Biden credited young voters, who are seen as having played a key role in enabling the Democratic victory, for making their voices heard, and suggested that the world was looking at the US to see if it was stable and democratic after the events of the past few years, ostensibly referring to the claims of voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and the insurrection at the Capitol by his supporters looking to disrupt the certification of Biden’s presidential victory in 2020.
“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who, I am told, voted in historic numbers again, just as they did two years ago. They voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and the student debt relief.”
He called the generation between 18 and 30 the “best-educated, least-prejudiced, most engaged and most involved generation in American history”, and acknowledged the election of the youngest leader to the House of Representatives, the 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost.
Biden, who will turn 80 in late November, said that voters had sent a “clear and unmistakable message” that they wanted to preserve democracy, and also protect the right to choose, an acknowledgment of the role the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn nationwide abortion rights played in the election’s outcome.
But, Biden also noted the concerns that had driven voters, in recognition of the fact that Democrats had not won. The Republicans are expected to take over the House of Representatives with a narrow majority and Kevin McCarthy positioned to be the next Speaker.
“Voters spoke clearly about their concerns, about raising costs — the rising costs and the need to get inflation down. There are still a lot of people hurting that are very concerned. And it’s about crime and public safety.”
Biden recited the list of achievements of his administration that he believed voters will see more clearly in the coming months as the lag between policy and implementation reduces. These included historic investments in manufacturing; the creation of 10 million jobs; reduction of federal deficit; efforts to lower gas prices; lowering prescription drug costs and health insurance premiums; the fact that the pandemic was a concern but no longer “controlled our lives”; and infrastructure investments.
In anticipation of what many expect to be a divided government with a Republican controlled House, Biden said that he was willing to work with Republicans. But at the same time, the president listed out what were non-negotiable policy items for him, saying he would exercise his veto powers, if Republicans for example, sought to overturn existing policies or pushed a national ban on abortion.
“The American people have made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well. In the area of foreign policy, I hope we will continue this bipartisan approach of confronting Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”.
The president’s statement assumes significance for McCarthy, who during his campaign, had indicated a rethink on Congressional support to Ukraine at a time of domestic economic dip.
Biden also said he won’t step back on lowering prescription drug costs, withdraw climate commitments, accept tax cuts for super rich, make changes to social security and Medicare.
“I will veto any attempt to pass a national ban on abortion.”
When asked about the expected Republican attempts to launch investigations into Biden’s policies as well as the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, he said that people wanted to move on.
“American people will look at all of that for what it is. It’s just almost comedy.”
While suggesting that there was a slow return to decency in politics, Biden issued a warning against the “super mega MAGA Republicans” — a term he has used to distinguish between the extreme right supporters of Trump from more moderate conservatives.
“I don’t think we’re going to break the fever for the super mega MAGA Republicans. But I think they’re a minority of the Republican Party.”
Returning to a theme that he often spoke about on the campaign trail, Biden recalled how, at his first G7 meeting in the United Kingdom last year, when he said the US was back, his counterparts asked him, “for how long”.
The question, he indicated, was sparked by the events of January 6, and how nothing of the sort had happened since the Civil War.
Referring to the world leaders he met, when asked about how the results will affect how the world sees the US, Biden said, “What I find is that they want to know: Is the United States stable? Do we know what we’re about? Are we the same democracy we’ve always been? And that’s the context in which I think that they’re looking at: Are we back to a place where we are going to accept decisions made by the Court, by the Congress, by the government, etc?”