Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Column: Biden is in big trouble. He can still bounce back

When Joe Biden ran for president in 2020, he had all the benefits of not being president in a year when things went wrong.

Biden has waged a cautious and disciplined campaign built around a simple message: he will end the pandemic, restore the economy and restore normalcy. After the chaos that reigned during the Trump years, that was enough.

It was more difficult to manage. The pandemic caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus is not over. The economic recovery was accompanied by alarming inflation, shortages and supply chain problems. Opinion polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Biden’s popularity fell so rapidly. His work approval rating in the Gallup Poll fell 14 points, from 56% in June to 42% at the end of October, making him less popular at this stage of his tenure than any other recent president, with the exception of Donald Trump.

“We are in a bad political, economic and COVID environment,” Biden researcher John Anzalone told me last week. “Sometimes it takes a new year to push the reset button.”

Republican sociologist David Winston elaborated on this topic. “Expectations were high after [Biden’s] elections, ”he said. “People expected COVID to end; this is not true. Voters thought they were electing normalcy, but that’s not what they get. “

“Biden’s problem isn’t just that something went wrong; the point is that things seem to go wrong. “

Presidents often run into trouble during their first year in office, and some manage to recover. Ronald Reagan drove the economy into a deep recession in 1981 and lost 26 seats in the House of Representatives the following year, but once the economy recovered, he was re-elected with tremendous success. Bill Clinton had a disastrous first year and lost control of Congress in 1994, only to master the art of bipartisan negotiation and win re-election in 1996.

Biden’s job is to find his own path to recovery – a way to achieve the “reset” that his sociologist spoke of.

The first step is to solve two big problems that the president promised to solve in the first place: the pandemic and the economy. Biden focused on these priorities, but his progress has been slower and more dramatic than many voters expected.

After months of delay, the House of Representatives gave him a boost on Friday with a bipartisan vote of his $ 1 trillion infrastructure plan. The president acted wisely by announcing that he plans to invite both Democrats and Republicans to the signing ceremony – a nifty way to remind voters that he managed to convince members of both parties to cooperate this time.

But he still needs Democrats in the House and Senate to pass another cornerstone of his legislative agenda – a $ 1.75 trillion social spending bill that isn’t bipartisan at all.

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Meanwhile, there is still something he can do: look for problems with the kitchen table that he can solve, or at least show voters that he is trying.

People are unhappy with the rise in gasoline prices. Biden spent time in Europe last week urging oil-exporting countries to increase production. It was ridiculous during the supposedly climate change trip, and the oil producers didn’t react immediately – but it was still a sensible policy.

Likewise, Biden and his aides have announced several actions aimed at alleviating supply chain problems, including keeping the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach open around the clock and imposing fines on shippers who do not move containers fast enough. Most likely, these steps alone will not solve the problem, but if the bottlenecks disappear, the president will be able to point out what he did to help.

Another suggestion: insufficient promises and overspending. Biden too often did the opposite, announcing victories prematurely. This habit contributed to undermining his position in opinion polls.

For example, on July 4, Biden held a White House celebration of what he believed was the impending end of the COVID pandemic, a moment he described as “proclaiming our independence from a deadly virus.”

The Delta option soon rose sharply, robbing the president of victory and stumping the economy.

On Friday, after the Labor Department released strong October vacancy figures, the president announced his victory again and said his policies were commendable.

“Our economy is starting to work,” he said. “This recovery is happening faster, stronger, fairer and wider than could have been foreseen.”

He acknowledged that inflation was still an issue, but said his social spending bill would “reduce inflationary pressures” by lowering prices for child care, health care and prescription drugs. In an economy with a shortage of labor, he will need a dose of luck for this prediction to come true.

Despite these problems, Biden’s recovery is still possible, even in a deeply polarized country.

“The Republicans decided that the country would go to hell in the trash bin because Biden and the Democrats rule, but the Independents and especially the Democrats are much more driven by events,” said GOP sociologist Whit Ayres.

“If COVID is under control, the economy starts to boom, inflation drops, and Congress actually accepts part of Biden’s agenda, then these voters will be more positive about the country’s direction.”

Biden has run comeback campaigns before. His 2020 presidential campaign has been declared dead on more than one occasion; he bounced back to win the nomination and the election.

He and his aides say they have a simple plan: campaign in support of “one of the strongest democratic messages that ever existed,” Anzalone said.

Biden is instinctively inclined to lower his head and move forward. It worked for him before. Let’s see if he can challenge the odds again.

Nation World News Desk
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