Sunday, June 26

A year later, the firm and strong leadership that Biden promised has not appeared

Joe Biden appeared before the press this Wednesday to try to control the story about his presidency. It was on the eve of the one-year anniversary of his inauguration on the steps of the Capitol, with the shudder still in the air from the assault a few days by a ‘trumpist’ mob, when Biden promised to straighten the course of the country. Despite some important achievements, that has not been fulfilled and Biden stood on the anniversary with his presidency in disarray. And with him sinking in the polls: right now, he has an approval rating of only 40.9%, according to the ‘RealClearPolitics’ average, the lowest point since he entered the White House.

Biden inherited a country torn apart by the polarization stirred up by Donald Trump and in the midst of an institutional crisis -evidenced by the tragic incident at the Capitol- that was added to the health and economic crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with the untimely management of his predecessor, Biden promised a “strong, firm and stable leadership” during the campaign. He talked about reunifying the country and getting through the pandemic. At the same time, he embraced the aggressive – for some, radical – structural socioeconomic reforms proposed by the leftist current of the Democratic Party.

“I didn’t promise too much”, said this Wednesday in his appearance with the media. “And if you look at what we have managed to do, you have to recognize that the progress has been enormous.”

It is a rosy view of his presidency. It is indisputable that there have been achievements. For example, the approval of the third rescue package for Covid shortly after taking office or the infrastructure plan for this fall. And the deployment of a vaccination campaign – with purchases of millions of doses of the most successful vaccines – that made a quick remedy for Covid available to all Americans. Biden celebrated that on July 4, the US national day, families and friends could meet with their loved ones almost normally. At the same time, employment, plummeted due to the impact of the covid restrictions, recovered strongly. After the harsh wave of cases in the winter of 2021, activity has recovered, leisure and festivals have returned, and the stadiums have been filled.

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At the beginning of the summer, however, the disaster began. The chaotic and tragic rout of the US in Afghanistan it was the antithesis of the promised firmness and stability. It was a historic embarrassment, for which Biden blamed Trump and his exit agreement with the Taliban, but which showed serious flaws in planning and management in his Administration. At the same time that chaos gripped Kabul, a new variant of Covid, Delta, ravaged the US, undoing much of the progress that had been made. Much of it had to do with the inability – not entirely attributable to Biden – of the president to convince the high percentage of the unvaccinated in the country. By September, those who failed Biden in the polls were already more than those who gave him a pass.

In the fall, the problems piled up. Mismatches in the supply chain had a strong impact on the US economy. It is a problem that has been gestating for years and that collided in the midst of the attempts of the first world power to recover its economic strength. Meanwhile, in Washington, Biden’s reform programs were running aground in Congress. The president achieved the milestone of approving a very ambitious spending on infrastructure, of more than a trillion dollars, something very necessary for the country and that resisted Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama. But the centerpiece of his legislative agenda, the pharaonic socioeconomic spending plan, which would open the US to programs common in industrial countries such as maternity leave or medical leave, was failing.

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Biden, who considers himself an expert in forging alliances with the opposing caucus, has had to deal with a Republican obstructionism that he bitterly lamented this week. But it also sounded like an excuse, because much of its legislative agenda has not gone ahead despite having majorities – meager, yes – in Congress. The unruly moderates of the Democratic caucus have prevented it (the same night that Biden gave his press conference, it happened again, with Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema against Democratic efforts to end the ‘filibuster’ or requirement of a reinforced majority to approve a law that guarantees access to the vote). Biden set out to unite the country and he has not achieved it even with his party.

To top off the year, inflation has skyrocketed to its highest levels for the last four decades. And Biden, also in this last press conference, offered confusing messages about the US response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine (he said that the response would depend on the aggression and slipped that it would not be the same if it is a “small incursion”; later the White House had to correct him), in the midst of a tension typical of a new Cold War.

Biden has three years left and his presidency must take flight immediately, with this year’s legislative elections just around the corner and the real possibility that the Democrats will lose their majorities in Congress. You have room to do it. It is likely that the socioeconomic spending plan will be divided into several parts, more digestible for moderate Democrats, and manage to sign up as many legislators. The pandemic shows signs of approaching its end or, at least, reducing its health and economic impact.

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Biden could have used his appearance – nearly two hours with reporters – and the anniversary of his inauguration to show a change of course. It did not. He focused on defending his achievements and minimizing or shaking off blame for his failures. If nothing changes, the three years he has left in the White House could be very long.

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