Bill Clinton was ridiculed in 1995 for defensively insisting “I am relevant. The Constitution gives me relevance.” It was a cringe-inducing example of what Clinton sounded like when his charisma failed him and his petulance took over. Nevertheless, he wasn’t wrong that the president is, by definition, relevant.

Someone should tell Joe Biden.

A Senate bill on aid to Ukraine and Israel is in genuine danger of going down in flames today. And although a last-minute compromise is possible, the nature of that compromise has already split the Democratic caucus—and it is political malpractice that it ever got to this point.

Republicans insist that, as they have said all along, the aid bill must contain Democratic concessions on border security. They want to rein in a specific presidential power through which the president can grant migrants temporary permission to live and work in the U.S., arguing that Biden’s overuse of it is an end-around immigration law. Democrats swear they’ll hold firm and call Republicans’ bluff. Republicans say they aren’t bluffing and appear to be united on this issue.

Here’s the thing: Republicans have the advantage and it’s not particularly close. A headline from April: “Biden is ignoring immigration issues, voters say in poll.” Six months later, the situation hadn’t improved, earning the party this headline: “Poll finds Democrats’ handling of immigration at all-time low.” Two weeks ago: “Democrats’ border problem is getting real.”

That last piece, in the Washington Post, reviewed a bevy of recent polling showing just how much the public dislikes Biden and his party’s handling of border security.

This is starting to look like the old joke about the man who is drowning and refuses repeated rescue attempts because he believes God will save him. What will it take for the president to see that the public has been showing him the way to dry land all along?

Republicans aren’t asking for a particularly costly concession, and Biden is heading into his reelection year. Why wouldn’t he have avoided this standoff altogether by giving a little on this issue to gain a lot, partially neutralizing an obviously potent weapon against him in 2024? Biden fancies himself a dealmaker, and his current negotiating strategy makes no sense. This isn’t up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Biden’s the boss. He should act like it.

Similarly, while it’s great that the White House condemned the recent mob action against a Jewish-owned Philadelphia restaurant, Team Biden is still largely ignoring the wider threat these constant pro-Hamas marches pose to Biden’s reelection campaign. Violence and vandalism have already accompanied the mobs, and Biden himself is getting heckled by a contingent of progressive anti-Israel activists at his public appearances. Looming over it all is the Democratic nominating convention next summer, which will be in Chicago—the city whose name is synonymous, for Democrats, with disaster.

At a tree lighting in Nantucket, protesters drowned out the Christmas music in the background with chants of “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide! We charge you with genocide!” and “Free Palestine.” At a White House tree lighting the president was greeted by jeers of “Genocide Joe!” For weeks, the Washington Post reports, “nearly every public event has meant confrontation in more direct ways than [Biden] has faced during much of his presidency.”

Progressive anger over Biden’s support for Israel could cause some left-wing voters to stay home or vote against him next year, but the more immediate threat they pose to his quest for a second term is that they continue to split the party, drain the base’s enthusiasm for Biden, and make him look weak and vulnerable throughout the campaign.

The Democrats were also the incumbent party in 1968, when the Democratic National Convention was engulfed in left-wing protests and internecine chaos. Amid opposition to the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson declined to run for reelection. One leading candidate to replace him was Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated by a Palestinian terrorist in California after Kennedy won that state’s primary. Antiwar candidate, Eugene McCarthy, was thereafter the main challenger to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who won the nomination. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ordered a police crackdown on the protests, the situation descending into violence. The protests and the chaos from which they sprang are widely understood to have helped Richard Nixon win that election and make Democrats perpetually vulnerable on issues of “law and order.” Today’s CNN poll shows voters giving Republicans a fourteen-point lead on handling crime.

The pro-Palestinian protesters, meanwhile, don’t just follow Biden around. They have been disrupting public ceremonies across the country, sparring with police, and assaulting counter-protesters. “If the protests endure or escalate, they will draw more attention to problems that this White House — any White House — is ill-powered to fix,” presidential historian Russell Riley told the Post.

Which is all the more reason for Biden to ensure U.S. allies Israel and Ukraine win the wars they are fighting, rather than imperiling aid and angering immigration voters with unwise standoffs with Republicans.

And while Daley’s resort to force backfired, the president does need his local allies to step up. Where are the pro-Biden demonstrators that should also be following the president wherever he goes? Philadelphia and New York are Democratic-run cities; why, heading into a presidential election year, would they give hostile mobs the run of the place? Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, meanwhile, won his election with the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America, a key pro-Palestinian organizing force early in the current conflict. What kind of help can Biden expect up to and during the Windy City’s nominating convention?

Biden is doing himself no favors, and his party behaves as if Democrats don’t even control the White House. The last thing Biden needs heading into 2024 is to have voters asking: Is the president still relevant here? But he’s increasingly giving them reason to wonder.

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