President Joe Biden’s current plight, being way down in public approval polls, is evidence of this. He, like a modern Diogenes, is burning the lamp oil late into the night seeking to understand why his approval rating is sinking despite some notable achievements.
Legislatively, he succeeded in enacting the American Rescue Plan, which put billions of dollars in the pockets of most Americans, including a Child Care Tax Credit that cut the child poverty rate by half, a stupendous achievement. He passed an infrastructure bill, something his immediate predecessor was utterly incapable of doing, that will create millions of good-paying jobs, provide fast broadband access nationwide, and make long-overdue repairs and retrofits to roads, bridges, water and waste systems, mass transit, ports and airports. He vaccinated the majority of Americans, upping shots in the arms from 2 percent when he took office to almost two-thirds of the population. He brought the economy roaring back from the doldrums, creating 6.6 million jobs in the process, an all-time record. He extricated the country from an unwinnable war that his three immediate predecessors bungled, a two-decade tragedy that wasted thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. As of this writing, he is managing the Russia-Ukraine crisis reasonably well.
Moreover, he accomplished all of this in the face of massive obstruction and resistance by the once-but-no-longer loyal opposition, a Republican Party in thrall to a criminal super-spreader of lies, and that is a policy black hole, its sole raison d’etre being to prevent President Biden from getting anything done. In sum, these are remarkable successes that are virtually unprecedented for a president after only one year in office.
Despite a record that any president would be proud of, Biden gets no respect. Why?
It is human nature to identify someone to blame for our national shortcomings. The president is by far the easiest target. Here are the principal grievances survey respondents cite as evidence of Biden’s shortcomings:
- He has failed to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. To a great extent this is the consequence of the massive right-wing disinformation campaign that lies about vaccines and pandemic safety measures.
- He has disappointed the so-called “Progressives” on his left flank by his inability to overcome arcane Senate rules and protect voting rights from yet another, concerted right-wing/Republican voter suppression effort based on the Big Lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” and the myth of massive voter fraud.
- Inflation has increased to a 40-year high under his watch, making essentials like food and fuel more expensive while offsetting impressive wage gains. A legitimate argument can be made that injecting almost $2 trillion into a growing economy via the American Rescue Plan added to an inflation largely caused by pandemic-induced supply chain bottlenecks for which a president bears little responsibility.
- He presided over the chaotic U.S. departure from Afghanistan. This is a valid complaint although contributing to it was his predecessor’s ill-advised, disastrous pact with the Taliban.
On balance, Biden’s track record is pretty good. However, it is being drowned out by the politics of grievance, victimization, rage, fear and hate that have become the Republican go-to election strategy combined with the mainstream media’s penchant for negative stories that attract more eyeballs than accentuating the positive.
Positing blame has become the governing principle that motivates both politics and the media as well as a large chunk of the voting public. When presidents get elected, they wittingly or not enlist for this. It comes with the office.
February 12, 2022