Remember Joe Biden’s uplifting inaugural address – the talk of healing a broken land, and how it stirred hopes that the United States could recover from the backwardism of the foregoing four years?
That was only nine months ago. Today, the 46th president’s dreams are already supposedly shattered. All we hear in Washington now is talk – and not just from Republicans – of Mr. Biden’s fall, of a trainwreck in the making, of doom for the Democrats.
Already? Can the Cassandras be serious? Do nine months a presidency make? Or is it just another half-cocked media pile-on?
The beleaguered Mr. Biden must be feeling like Lyndon Johnson. “If one morning I walked across the Potomac,” LBJ once harrumphed, “the headline that afternoon would read, ‘President Can’t Swim.’”
It’s true that Mr. Biden, who has plummeted about ten percent in the polls, occasionally looks a bit dazed, his folksiness giving way to stumblebummery. From his half-century of experience, we expected to see more of a man in command.
But that the mood of the country has turned sour is hardly his doing. Post-inauguration, the pandemic was supposed to fade, engendering brighter times. It returned in force. It returned in force in good part because of vaccine-refusers on the Republican right.
He does bear responsibility for the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. In the wake of the Trumpian upheavals, Americans wanted competence. Instead of sure-footedness, Mr. Biden in this instance gave them another amateur hour.
As most agree, however, the departure was the right decision. In the long run, what the President does is more important than how he did it. The same can be said for Justin Trudeau and the hysteria that greeted his holidaying on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. He certainly deserved condemnation. But does the fact that his government created the day not count for anything? Won’t that be more significant in the long run? Conservatives, apoplectic over the walk in the sand, might pause to consider their poorer record on justice for Indigenous peoples, beginning with the ditching of Paul Martin’s Kelowna accord.
Mr. Biden’s Afghanistan miscalculation will fade from public memory. On COVID-19, the numbers are getting less lethal. The relief will brighten the mood of the country before the midterm elections.
His fractious dealings with Congress have been another disappointment, however. As a six-term senator, he had a reputation for consensus-building. But impasses with Mitch McConnell’s Republicans were inevitable and it is not as surprising, given divisions in his own party, that Mr. Biden has been unable to gain unanimous backing for his multi-trillion-dollar programs for infrastructure and social reforms. No amount of cajoling has been able to win over Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
But the grandiose spending initiatives have broad public support and Mr. Biden is likely to get them passed, albeit in diluted form. That will give him a much-needed lift in terms of working-class support.
In addition, he must do whatever is necessary – such as overriding the filibuster – to pass legislation protecting voter rights, which Republicans hold far from dear. Nineteen states have enacted 33 laws making it harder to vote – and easier for Republicans to win.
On the immigration crisis at the southern border that he has failed to ease, Mr. Biden made Vice-President Kamala Harris his point person. She has been a dud on this file, as she has on pretty much everything else.
Given this president’s tough start – and given the slim margins he has in both the Senate and the House of Representatives – many analysts are predicting a Republican romp in the 2022 midterms.
But all the Biden badmouthing overlooks the key consideration that his opposition is a Trump-dominated Republican Party. The Democrats defeated the Trump party in 2018 and again in 2020. Trump’s much-touted loyal base wasn’t enough for him to win then. It is weaker now – and, as more revelations roll in about the Jan. 6 ransacking of the Capitol, it could get weaker still.
With Trumpism on the ballot, no one should count out Mr. Biden. Just as when he was deemed a loser by the media – myself included – after his first nine months of campaigning for the Democratic nomination, he is being written off too early now.
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