One year in, Biden's presidency is on life support
One year in, Biden's presidency is on life support

By Christian Datoc

Just 365 days after President Joe Biden entered office, the country looks very different.

The deployment of coronavirus vaccines and boosters, not to mention the development of new therapeutics and treatments, has equipped the country to tackle a third pandemic year with some sense of normalcy, and states around the country are chomping at the bit to start receiving billions in new infrastructure funding shepherded through Congress by Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Still, the president’s approval ratings have nearly halved across that same time frame, and the prospects of passing any of his more progressive proposals dwindle with each passing day. His second, more focused effort to pass two voting reform bills received a resounding defeat in the Senate late Wednesday night, when Democratic efforts to scrap the filibuster were dashed by two of their own, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Republican opposition to his agenda was expected, as Biden conceded during his marathon press conference Wednesday night, but the president is now also facing growing disapproval among Democrats, caused in large part by his inability to get Manchin and Sinema in line. According to Gallup, a majority of Democrats still rate Biden’s job approval favorably, but that mark fell 16 points across his first year in office. The latest poll from Morning Consult shows just 40% of all respondents approving of his job as president, with 56% disapproving. Those numbers were essentially reversed one year ago, with 56% approving and 32% disapproving at his inauguration.

Biden has also faced increased pressure from a number of progressive activist groups to act on campaign promises he has yet to address, such as addressing the climate, permanent forgiveness of student loan debt, and gun safety legislation.

Deirdre Shelly, Sunrise Movement campaign director, suggested that “on every issue — voting rights, student debt, climate — Biden lets the bad actors set the terms of the debate.”

“Biden has governed all year long like anyone but him is the president,” Shelly continued. “He has refused to throw any punches or posture at all toward the people in his own party who are hindering his agenda, or even to Republicans.”

Michael Ceraso, a progressive strategist and former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer, praised Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but claimed: “That doesn’t give his administration or congressional Democrats a pass on not reforming the criminal justice system, watching voting rights erode and the right to protest stripped, and allowing reproductive health to be under siege.”

Former Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Leah Daughtry questioned whether Biden will “be a hero” or “just somebody else we’ve got to fight.”

“If the folks we have elected to office to carry the banner of the Democratic Party are unable to press the basic principles of the party, then I think they’ve got to reconsider what their role is,” she suggested. “You’ve got a community of people, a nation of people, who are watching to see, particularly in these perilous times, who is fighting for us?”

Biden additionally distanced himself from the progressive wing with an offhand comment during his marathon Wednesday night press conference.

“You guys have been trying to convince me that I am Bernie Sanders. I’m not. I like him, but I’m not Bernie Sanders,” he said in response to a question from Fox News’s Peter Doocy on the subject. “I’m not a socialist. I’m a mainstream Democrat, and I have been.”

The White House has declared Biden’s first year in office a relative success, despite the obvious setbacks. Administration officials note that Biden delivered in particular for “working families,” citing economic rebuilding and the president’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic while avoiding widespread shutdowns of businesses and schools.

The White House is especially proud of Biden’s work to add 6.4 million jobs to the economy — “the most ever” created in a president’s first year in office — and lower the unemployment rate to 3.9%, a 50-year low. Meanwhile, senior administration officials maintain that passing Biden’s spending bill is the only way to solidify the current post-pandemic economic growth.

“Our central economic legislative priority is getting those elements of Build Back Better in place, and part of the urgency of that is to address precisely the challenges that you are identifying,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told reporters at a recent White House press briefing. “Beyond that, we are looking at ways that we can unstick elements of the supply chain that may be getting in the way of, for example, physical product getting to market.”

Furthermore, Biden himself presented optimism about his agenda’s future during the press conference. He told reporters he remains “confident” he’ll sign “big chunks” of BBB into law, specifically $400-500 million in climate provisions, by the end of the year.

As for how he’s handling all of the negative sentiment about his first year in office, Biden suggested he’s using a play from the Trump playbook: “I don’t believe polls.”

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