President Joe Biden's response to the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, on July Fourth, in which seven people were killed and dozens wounded, has been criticized by many Democrats as too flat and that he is missing another opportunity to define the stakes of the upcoming midterms, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Some Democrats are concerned that Biden's failure to sustain shock and dismay on the issue and many others dominating recent news cycles could leave the party's base dispirited.
"He's missing the boat here. This is our time to dig in and be absolutely furious because these one-half measures are not working. He's got a real excitability problem," Camille Rivera, a Democratic strategist and partner at the progressive firm New Deal Strategies, told Politico. "Our rights are being infringed upon and then there were two shootings [another in Philadelphia] on the exact day that people are supposed to be celebrating their 'independence.' I really don't understand where this passivity comes from in this situation."
While the White House has defended Biden's response, pointing to several past speeches he's given on gun control, others are worried that the president remains trapped in a bygone age of political decorum and has been slow to recognize both the existential threat felt by some of his backers.
"Everyone is looking for strength and toughness and they feel like the stakes are awfully high," Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump and moderate Republican strategist who regularly conducts focus groups, said of Democrats who want to hear far more from the president. "You can't just hold one press conference or give one speech. It's constant communication.
"They feel a sense of urgency. 'Talk to us. Tell us what the plan is.' Democrats are ready to support him."
The president has made no secret of his bolder legislative ambitions on gun control, but his efforts have been stymied by Republicans in Congress, and he has tried to balance competing demands — righteous indignation of fellow Democrats and the plodding, incremental progress that comes with bipartisan compromise, such as the bill expanding background checks that was recently signed into law, according to Politico.
But some Democrats say the piecemeal bill didn't just sap momentum to continue addressing gun violence but was already giving cover to Republicans.
Rivera added that "we're not going to change the hearts and minds of Republicans, The fight is for independents and Democrats to get up and fight back and come out. And [Biden] is not meeting the moment. He has to meet the moment."
However, Matt Bennett, co-founder of the centrist group Third Way disagrees that the president needs to emote each time there's another mass shooting, telling Politico that "Biden has given a half dozen angry [and] sorrowful statements and they start to blur. There's not much more his anger will achieve."
But for many Democrats the critique goes beyond gun control, also slamming what they consider Biden's lack of fire in responding to other crises, such as the Supreme Court's decision on abortion rights and perceived escalating threats to democracy that grow with every primary win by Republican 2020 election deniers.
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