Calling Biden to action


Illustration by Alexa Druyanoff

An illustration depicts President Joe Biden standing in front of a podium.

When National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, she laid out a vision of hope and unity for the United States’ next four years. Following the brazen insurrection against our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, she urged us to “step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.” After more than 16 months in office, President Biden has found some success in embodying Gorman’s message, as well as the message of his 2020 campaign, but has also fallen short on some key issues.

One positive aspect of Biden’s presidency thus far has been landmark legislation regarding COVID-19 relief and infrastructure. While we have not been able to move past the pandemic in the way Biden hoped, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 included critical provisions such as direct stimulus payments, education funding for school reopenings and unemployment extensions. The bill prevented a double-digit recession in spring 2021, according to a March 2022 U.S. Department of the Treasury report. In addition, the positive impact of Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill has been unfairly downplayed. Over the next few years, we will come to appreciate this once-in-a-generation investment in roads, bridges, broadband access and public transportation.

It is true that the third tenet of Biden’s social spending plan — the Build Back Better Act — was essentially a failure. Democrats could not agree on a bill that would help support working families, and the White House abandoned the legislation when Sen. Joe Manchin pulled his support. Biden’s other major shortfall thus far was in the execution of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Although it is important to acknowledge that by pulling troops Biden finally accomplished what presidents have tried to do for years, he also failed to account for how quickly the country’s capital would fall to the Taliban.

Biden’s verbal and physical gaffes certainly do him no favors, either. From calling Vice President Kamala Harris the President and later the First Lady to mixing up Syria and Libya to shaking hands with thin air after a recent speech in North Carolina, Biden sometimes appears disoriented in public settings. These blunders only play into ageist claims that “Sleepy Joe” is in cognitive decline.

If history is any indication, Democrats face tough prospects in this year’s midterm elections, as ruling parties tend to sustain major losses in their first midterm. And despite record job growth, soaring inflation (8.5% as of April 12, according to CBC) and sky-high gas prices will likely hurt Democrats come November. Whether or not it is fair to put the blame on Biden for these realities, his approval rating, hovering in the low forties, according to FiveThirtyEight, is not a good omen.

When former President Barack Obama visited the White House on April 5, he provided a preview of a message of persistence for Democrats going forward. But to avoid shellackings in 2022 and 2024, Biden needs to stand on his own two feet and make the case that the country is in danger of losing power to the Republicans if Democrats do not present a clear vision for the future and maintain a united front. Biden must restore public trust in his leadership — and clearly explain his accomplishments — before it is too late.