In a year, Joe Biden will finally take on the role of president

There’s no dressing it up: Year one of Joe Bidenthe presidency ends badly. The fresh humiliation of failing to get a suffrage law through the Senate arrived amid rising inflation and the number of COVID cases; meanwhile, Build Back Better, another signature legislative initiative from Biden, remains stranded in Manchin-Sinema limbo, and the conservative Supreme Court majority blocked the administration’s vaccine or test mandate for large companies. Biden’s job approval rating, at 35% in a Quinnipiac poll last week, connects him with his predecessor for the lowest in at least seven decades by the end of the president’s first 12 months. This is no way to celebrate an anniversary of moving into the White House.

And still.

Six million more people are working now than a year ago, driving unemployment down to 3.9%, almost where it was pre-pandemic. More than 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated in that time – for free. The child tax deduction in the U.S. rescue plan has drastically reduced poverty and starvation rates. After four years of empty Republican promises of “Infrastructure Week,” billions of dollars are beginning to flow in to repair bridges and roads. The United States is again part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden has had more lower court judges confirmed in his first year than any president since John F. Kennedy; he has appointed more black women to the bench than any previous president. And this president has not told the boy scouts any sex-yacht stories.

All of this progress has come despite Biden arriving in the midst of two raging crises: one with public health and the other with democracy. “Think about what Joe Biden went into,” he says Jaime Harrison, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Only a handful of people had been vaccinated. And just a few weeks before his inauguration, we had something unprecedented in this nation’s history, a revolt. “That polarization continues to unfold, viciously though less violently. An almost monolithic Republican opposition in the Senate has blocked Biden’s attempt to pump more money into the economy and strengthen voting rights – and both defeats have been helped by a couple of rogue Democrats, Arizona Kyrsten Cinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. “I do not know why people blame the president,” said a South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, one of Biden’s crucial democratic supporters. “The president has been begging those people for a year now. There’s no principle here. You have someone sitting down in a spa somewhere and telling me if I can vote or not or if my vote will be spoken to. And Joe Manchin – Good Lord. Joe Manchin is just an ass. “

There were painful debacle in 2021, first and foremost the bloody withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan. Still, overall, Biden has a solid first-year record – and has been rewarded with declining polls. His advisers believe that the Americans – rightly – are worn out by the pandemic’s grim death toll and its continuing insecurity, and that they are taking these frustrations out on Biden. “I think people are just tired,” said a senior White House official. “They want life back to normal and we are not quite there yet. We are still working on supply chain problems due to the pandemic. And even though we have made many significant advances in the economic gap, that does not mean that everyone feels it.

All true. The most surprising thing that has worked against Biden, however, is that he has been slow to inhabit the role of president. That’s a strange fact in some ways, given that Biden spent more than a decade in Senate leadership and eight years as Barack Obama‘s Vice President. But being the number one guy is different, and Biden has only appeared in the role. “I thought the biggest mistake the Biden administration made in 2021 was the inability to run around the country and tell everyone what was in the rescue plan. It was the biggest injection of money into the vascular system of our damned economy since World War II. And no one knows! ” says a top Democratic strategist. “Why did they not tell us what they were doing and what was in it? Because I think he acted as the supreme legislator and not as the president. So they wanted to move on to the next legislative package and shoot the moon. But “You have a damn margin of 50-50 in the Senate. You do not have the hand to shoot the moon! They thought they would be the next FDR and they forgot they did not run on it.”

Sure, a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and roadshow would probably have helped Biden’s numbers – marginally. But the value of “messages”, especially with political details, is often overestimated by political professionals. It is unlikely that the president’s polls will increase significantly unless COVID disappears from day-to-day vision. Until then, what Biden can certainly do better is sell himself as a sensible and stable leader in the national storm. His strongest political hand is the fact that he is not Donald Trump-a contrast that the president has drawn more strongly on recently, most vividly in his speech on the anniversary of the right-wing attack on the Capitol on 6 January. Voters understandably prioritize the pandemic and the economy over the uprising. But they want the resident of the White House to be a stabilizing force, someone who fights for the public good and not just to stir up fights. It was a tough year in far too many ways. But this January 20, the country is far better off than it could have been. “Hey, you know what?” says Biden pollster John Anzalone. “To everyone who whines and worries and falls into a fetal position – remember every day that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump and is President of the United States.”

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