Democrat Party and Midterm Elections: Is Nancy Pelosi the Achilles Heel for Joe Biden?

“Our country could not be more…it could not be better served, than with this most experienced, capable hands than yours, President Biden. He’s just perfect! The timing couldn’t be better.”

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee holiday celebration, 2021

The rumour that Nancy Pelosi would run for office was laid to rest when Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden. Though nothing prevents her from running for the presidency, and her political career is enough evidence of her understanding of politics, it is unlikely that this possibility might manifest. For Biden and the Democrats, however, things are not looking too well in the midterm elections due November 2022. Joe Biden has not been able to win American hearts and minds, let alone convince international allies that he is better than what they got from the United States under Trump. With her party and President not being able to resist oncoming pressure, things cannot be worse for Nancy Pelosi. The recent outrage at gun violence and school shootings and the serious backlash on how the United States will regain lost ground on its foreign policy canvas are colossal barriers the Democratic Party must overcome if it hopes to succeed in Midterm Elections. For Nancy Pelosi, having Republicans dominate her House would spell disaster in the coming presidential elections. Not only does that leave room for Donald Trump to contest for office, but it also stands to redo all that Biden promised to undo in his first 100 days in office.

For Pelosi, the issue is not with the Republican Party but with the choice of candidates they might wheel out when elections happen. Donald Trump was successful in avoiding impeachment proceedings going any further despite January 6 Committee still haunting his political future. The main issue is that if Democrats lose the majority in the coming midterm elections and Biden remains unable to consolidate his commitments, United States’ competitors would see this as an opportunity to overtake Washington DC on the world stage. Pelosi has always been regarded as an aggressive politician who commands reason as well as she commands provocative rhetoric. Her attitude as a politician is significantly intimidating, and her quotes often end up being unfriendly, to say the least. Being the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives in United States history, she could easily be perceived to be contesting for the presidency but is it what she eventually aspires for? Being second in line in substituting the President, her office also grants her the ability to manoeuvre government policy and legislation. If her party loses the current advantage, she might have to switch to a more direct role for the Democrats.

Pelosi’s actions amid surging inflation only add more fuel to the fire, and opting to engage in an international conflict to restore post-withdrawal glory may not be a suitable scenario.

So when she plans to visit Taiwan and South Korea, amid warnings and provocative military deployments by Chinese armed forces, is Nancy Pelosi trying to make a statement? Why would she neglect Biden’s advice and proceed to accomplish an undertaking that puts the United States in direct contact with Beijing? The Republicans pushed their rivalry notion with China quite aggressively. Such a narrative can prove to be damaging in the coming midterms, considering how Beijing and Moscow have postured against Taiwan and Ukraine, respectively. Perhaps Pelosi has taken it upon herself to repair political damage by actively and aggressively visiting all points of concern for the United States’ foreign policy. Such visits include her recent tour to Taiwan and South Korea with an intent to reaffirm American commitments toward collective and extended security. She previously visited Ukraine amid its war with Russia which indicates how she aims to address core issues that the Oval Office should take an interest in.

The Democratic Party feels that it will be unable to offer substantial resistance in the coming elections, and its track record of being able to defend such a position has remained tumultuous even during the Obama administration. Biden is already under the shadow of his vice presidency days and his accomplishing any significant political victory for his party is debatable. Nancy’s actions might seem to be damage control for her parry, but a reluctant president or a president in tow of House Speaker are not really the confidence boost they are looking for. Her actions abroad may not have a significant domestic impact, but they will surely resonate negatively on the foreign policy front. Russian advance over Ukraine has not subsided, her visit to Taiwan has created a new fissure in the Western Pacific, and her visit to the DMZ would surely resonate with a similar sentiment. Even after taking out Al-Zawahiri, United States’ position abroad may not improve, and any possibility of extended confrontation in Europe and Southeast Asia may cause financial damage to the United States and the world. Such visits and prospective backlash do the United States no good; it also does not improve Biden’s position, not even his approval ratings back home. Pelosi’s actions amid surging inflation only add more fuel to the fire, and opting to engage in an international conflict to restore post-withdrawal glory may not be a suitable scenario. Biden’s team would have to stick together and decide their actions carefully if they hope to achieve any dividends from the situation the United States is in.

United States’ domestic political landscape during the pandemic and the Trump administration has come a long way from being influenced by Cold War antics. Pelosi’s decision to make the Democrats seem more proactive may just be Biden’s Achilles heel and may even pave the way for Donald Trump. Even though Mitch McConnell supports her visit to Taiwan, Democrats hold a nominal advantage in both houses of Congress. This means that if Biden is unable to capitalize on the situation or at least take control of the impending economic recession, Pelosi’s efforts would be severely damaging to her party and the government. The United States cannot afford to divide its focus between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and it surely cannot take on China while its allies struggle to make sense of where they stand in a rekindled Cold War. United States allies are not in a position to brace for prolonged conflicts, and the United States is too domestically engaged for a policy shift. The Russia-Ukraine war has substantially proved how devastating conflicts can be for the world which is recovering from an economic hiatus. The State Department does not oppose her active international exposure to territories of concern but whether the Democrats and Biden himself be able to absorb the fallout is not something Pelosi may have planned for.

Muhammad Shareh Qazi

Sharreh Qazi has done his PhD in International Relations from Punjab University, where he also serves as a lecturer. He tweets @SharrehQazi

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