Every Day, Biden Smells Like More of a Loser
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty
With a hint of confusion in his eyes and a hint of failure in the air, Joe Biden watches his approval ratings continue to decline until only 42 percent of Americans approve of his job.
Which makes sense since Biden really doesn't seem very good at being president, at least so far, despite having dreamed and prepared for it for decades. With his staff trying to hide him from the press and his penchant for saying confusing things, Biden is rhetorically unable to talk himself out of this mess. He was elected with a simple mandate not to be Trump, but after promising not to do Trump things, doing his own thing has proven to be more difficult.
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To a certain extent, he has put himself in that corner. By ruling while campaigning (as a competent centrist), Biden, along with his existing democratic coalition, may have imprisoned a ruling majority of estranged center-right Americans. However, Biden chose to abandon efforts to transcend the current political paradigm and instead appease his grassroots. Talk about a tragic turn in the story.
His deference to progressives was hinted at early on: first when he reversed taxpayer funding for abortion during the election campaign, and then with the partisan passage of his COVID relief bill in February. But real trouble came this summer when he prematurely declared “independence” from the virus (followed by mixed messages via boosters) and his withdrawal from Afghanistan went dangerously sideways. It then became clear that if progressives were allowed to hold their bipartisan infrastructure law hostage, it would create more than a temporary delay.
One could argue that Biden's decision to join the left flank of the Democratic Party caused or exacerbated the various crises he is now facing - from the border crisis (his "compassionate" politics and rhetoric served as a magnet) to to violent crime (it's hard.). Blaming Biden for this, although his party's “defund the police” rhetoric didn't help) on inflation, now linked to COVID as Americans 'top concern (Biden ignored Larry Summers' warnings about the economy overheating). The current stalemate on its legislative agenda is the clearest example of this deference to the progressives. And since its stalled legislative agenda feels especially like a self-inflicted wound, it's worth spending a little more time here.
That one fundamental flaw goes beyond Biden's presidency
Had Biden tried aggressively to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he would likely have won dozens of Republican votes, and progressives would likely have either given in to his will or proven impotent. At least that is my counterfactual analysis.
Instead, however, Biden let progressives urge him to link the passage of the bipartisan bill (so to speak) with a $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package for social welfare. Now, in trying to have it all, there is a chance he will not get either.
Why would a seasoned former senator and vice president who spent his career across the aisle make this mistake? Here's a hypothesis: ideas have consequences. And the claim has become commonplace that Americans are so polarized and ideologically sorted that persuasion is stupid.
Every US president since Bill Clinton has essentially bought his way into this premise, though all but Trump have specifically fought as a groundbreaking entity. Bush and Obama won re-election with this formula, which probably explains why it is not so easily abandoned, even if America’s development feels at least this time as if it’s downward. Biden had a new opportunity to break the cycle, but instead followed the path of his predecessors.
Apart from that, his more fundamental problem is a lack of competence. We have seen this in Afghanistan, where the dubious decision to withdraw all US troops was compounded by the shameless manner in which the withdrawal was carried out. And the same lack of competence is evident when it comes to Biden's stalled legislative agenda.
If Biden had made the foolish decision to link the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the reconciliation bill, he could have first made sure he had all 50 Democratic senators on board.
It's no surprise that West Virginia-born Manchin would be a roadblock to getting the Democrats' “green” agenda items passed, so talks with him should have started on day one. Instead, Biden and the Democrats tried to push through their own framework - and sell it to him retrospectively.
Of course, it's even more complicated since Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema is the other holdout. In contrast to earlier examples in which duos like the unruly Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine could be won at the same time, Manchin's problems with the bill (mainly climate-related) are completely different from Sinema's (usually with taxes). And don't forget the fact that too much appeasement could alienate other, more progressive democratic voices. This is just a big mess.
And the problem for Biden (and America) is that the problems keep mounting. China threatens Taiwan and tests hypersonic weapons (Biden says we will defend Taiwan if attacked). Gas prices have risen, with Biden admitting they won't be falling anytime soon. And then there is the ongoing supply chain crisis.
Biden's problems pile up so quickly that it reminds me of Hank Williams Jr.'s text: “Interest has increased and the stock market has fallen. And you will only be attacked if you go downtown. "
These texts, recorded in 1981, reflected those dark times. It's worth noting that Ronald Reagan won 49 states three years later.
Joe Biden better hopes for a similar turnaround.
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46th and current President of the United States
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