(CNN) — Presidents get into trouble when they are seen to be controlled by events and not the other way around. This is the situation Joe Biden now faces.
The president faces a series of intractable internal and global crises for which he does not have the power to fix quickly, a series of political crunches caused and exacerbated by his own decisions, and a deepening sense that the White House is under siege. .
Rising gasoline prices and inflation, global supply chain support that could empty Santa’s sleigh, and a pandemic that Biden was chosen to end but will not go away dominate a challenging political environment. The economy seems to have forgotten how to get people back to work. That’s largely due to a sudden spike in covid-19 in the summer driven primarily by conservatives who refuse to receive vaccinations and who view wearing face masks and mandates as an act of government oppression.
Biden has been in Washington for nearly 50 years, so he may be more optimistic than most about the boom and bust cycle of presidencies that has been made more extreme by social media and corrosive national polarization. Yet with his approval ratings plummeting, the president is faced with a political imperative to assert his authority amid a lingering national feeling that a lot is going wrong. Democrats already fear that next year’s midterm elections will be a defeat to Republicans. And former President Donald Trump is on the prowl, gleefully painting a horror show about Biden’s struggles to fuel the sense of chaos his demagoguery thrives in ahead of a possible 2024 campaign.
Even the White House admits that things are not going very well.
“This is a really difficult time in our country. We are still fighting COVID, and a lot of people thought we would get over it, including us,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted on Friday.
Successful presidents can bounce back, dig into crises and turn their fortunes, and not be defined by nightmares as Jimmy Carter did with the hostage crisis in Iran or George W. Bush with the Iraq war sinking.
But the stack of challenges on Biden’s Oval Office desk is overwhelming, extending overseas, where Beijing’s relentless pressure on Taiwan is worsening an already tense multi-front confrontation between the United States and China.
In at least one domestic problem, Biden’s hands appear to be tied. No amount of pleading, flattery or intimidation from Biden, for example, has worked with conservatives who have refused to get vaccinated or follow basic public health guidelines. The president showed his frustration last week, telling those who resist getting vaccinated: “Our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost us all.”
Biden’s huge political agenda, including a historic $ 3.5 trillion spending package on healthcare, education and climate change, and a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, meanwhile, are stalled. The contending Democrats, and not the filibuster Republicans, are the problem here.
The sense of progressives that the spending plan must count comes as Senate Republicans have blocked their other priorities, including a botched bid for bipartisan police reform, changes to immigration law, and a widespread voting rights bill. . And a Democratic loss in a tighter-than-expected Virginia gubernatorial race next month could trigger outright panic in the party. It could also identify connection issues with the moderates and independents in the suburbs who helped Biden realize his lifelong dream of the presidency.
Biden also faces an unprecedented challenge from a Republican Party that has largely renounced democracy itself. While trying to unite the nation, Trump attempted a coup and convinced millions of supporters of the lie that the election was a fraud because his fragile ego could not bear the truth. A relentless conservative propaganda machine casts falsehoods into the alternate reality that Trump supporters prefer to live in 24 hours a day. And fears mount that Lincoln’s now autocratic party will steal the White House in 2024.
In a sign that they will do anything for power, Senate Republicans nearly sent the economy into default last week to score political points and may do it for real in December after warning that they will not agree to raise the borrowing limit again. federal government to pay off Trump’s huge debts. A government shutdown is also looming if Biden cannot pass a funding bill by then.
How Biden is the author of his own misfortune
But not everything depends on everyone else. Biden and his Democratic Party also have much of the blame for their current plight to share.
The president presided over a chaotic retreat from Afghanistan in which American service members were killed. His rhetoric was at odds with events and he tried to blame others for the mess that allowed the Republican Party to portray him as weak. The heartbreaking scenes appear to have robbed him of any credit for ending America’s longest war, a distinction three previous presidents evaded.
Even if his leadership contrasts with Trump’s negligence, Biden hasn’t been perfect in the pandemic either. Your White House has at times delivered mixed messages about masks and public health guidelines. Even when he declared a partial victory over the virus on July 4, it was already clear that the delta variant meant his “Mission Accomplished” moment was premature. The administration’s failure to appoint a commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains a mystery in the depths of a pandemic.
Biden and the Democrats in Washington, after the success of a $ 1.9 trillion covid aid bill, have so far not exercised power effectively. Progressives in the House of Representatives played a power game, but they have yet to show they understand that governing is about compromise. Senate moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema took a “my way or nothing” approach that left Biden’s agenda on a razor’s edge. The president may need to be much more proactive. His laid-back (critics might say absent leadership style) that helped him in 2020 doesn’t fill the pulpit with the bullying. And questions about his rigor will always be tricky since, at 78, he is the oldest president of the United States.
If the bills fail, Democrats may also regret their tactics. Given that many voters in 2020 viewed Biden as a moderate, was it wise to authorize a wave of multi-million dollar spending that the Republican Party could describe as radical? And was it a gamble to ask too much of the tiny majorities in Congress who always meant that the comparisons to Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt were exaggerated?
Biden’s big gamble was based on the need to show working-class Americans, including those seduced by Trump’s populist nationalism, that the administration they believe ignored them can still help them. Democrats, who are favorites to lose the House next year and have an unattractive list of Senate seats to defend, were always going to go all out if they got the chance, fearing that their lease on the Washington’s power be brief. But unless Biden can unite his party soon, he may have alienated the more moderate voters who elected him in 2020 for nothing. And the idea that voters will reward Democrats even if the bills pass remains an unproven theory.
Trump creates an image of chaos
The administration’s handling of immigration, one of the most toxic political problems, has also been messy.
An influx of undocumented immigrants to the southern border of the United States offers an opportunity for Republicans almost every day. Republican claims that millions make it are outlandish. But the White House often seems to ignore a dire situation. And Vice President Kamala Harris has apparently had little impact on conditions in Central America that spur migration, on a mission assigned by Biden. Meanwhile, the deportation of hundreds of Haitian refugees back to a violence-ridden homeland that many left years ago has ripped apart divisions within the administration and caused angry splits within the Democratic Party. Like the failure of a bipartisan police reform push in memory of George Floyd.
All of this plays into Trump’s hands. The former president may be a serious threat to American democracy, but he remains unmatched in turning dire events into a grassroots political message.
“Violent criminals and bloodthirsty gangs are taking over our streets, illegal aliens and deadly drug cartels are taking over our borders, inflation is taking over our economy, China is taking over our jobs, the Taliban are taking over. they have taken over Afghanistan, crazy leftists are taking over our schools and radical socialists are taking over our country, “Trump said at a rally in Iowa Saturday night that underscored his continued control over the Republican Party.
Trump has no governing power, so it’s easy to criticize. Biden, however, faces a situation in which all presidents find themselves. While on the campaign it was the contrast of Trump’s failed presidency, the disregard for democratic values and the volcanic temper that shook the world, Biden is now being judged on his own terms. Therefore, external events that you cannot control can be especially damaging and leave little room for error in situations that should be under your control.
Still, there is more than a year before the midterm elections, even if prevailing public sentiment tends to bake months in advance. Presidents of both parties are often frustrated by media narratives of decline and that their White Houses are under siege, and view journalists in Washington as scorers who do not observe deeper trends and the reality of life in the country. . But news coverage helps shape impressions of a presidency, one of the reasons politicians spend so much time trying to shape it, especially for voters who don’t spend all their time following events.
But if the president can change minds in his party and get the infrastructure and a smaller but meaningful social spending program, he will build a legacy that eluded several predecessors. Most importantly, his political position depends on the pandemic finally easing. If children’s vaccines and new treatments kick in, alleviate infections, and perhaps even mitigate the political fury fueled by the covid, their luck could recover. A true end to the pandemic would boost the economy and hiring just in time for the midterm elections, and an ebb of the disease around the world could unravel broader economic woes. If that happens, the environment may not look quite as poised for a GOP midterm sweep and a Trump comeback.
“Our goal is to control the pandemic, to come back to life, a version of normal, so that people can have security going to work and leaving their children and know that people will be safe,” said Psaki.
“And that’s where we think we should spend our time and energy.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism