In general, President Biden’s policies at the domestic level have been welcomed by the electorate. PHOTO: Washington Post by Demetrius Freeman.

Edward luce

Let’s slap it on a medium with excess caffeine. A few weeks ago, Joe Biden’s presidency was widely hailed as a triumph. The coronavirus was in retreat. The American economy was screaming its resurgence. And Democrats seemed poised to pass Biden’s ambitious economic bills by early fall. Hasty comparisons were heard between Biden and Franklin Roosevelt.

A few weeks of setbacks have changed everything. The rampant Delta variant has drowned out consumer sentiment and generated a disappointing job report. Predictions of a Democratic defeat in next year’s midterm elections are common today and that would make Biden a weakened leader. Suddenly many proclaim that Biden’s is a “failed presidency.” Others talk about “how the Delta defeated Biden.”

Dismissing him now is as much of a stretch as reserving him a position at Mount Rushmore at first. The turn came over the weekend of July 4. That was the date Biden missed his goal of inoculating 70 percent of Americans against Covid-19. It failed for a few weeks. America’s vaccination rate is now 75 percent, which is not a disaster but lags behind most of Europe. Still, missing a deadline is unforgivable, particularly if you’re working in the media.

Biden’s worst setback, however, was the ill-fated withdrawal from Afghanistan. The closure of Bagram Air Base on July 2 occurred before its self-imposed August 31 deadline. But the manner in which it occurred undermined Biden’s reputation as competent, something that was considered his most attractive trait when he defeated Donal Trump. There is no way the White House pleas will alter the fact that the American exit has hit their interests. Since then, Biden’s approval ratings have dropped about six percentage points, which is quite a bit. As for the media narrative, his presidency is in a tailspin.

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That narrative is not too lovable. Those with medium memories will remember the proclaimed death of Bill Clinton’s presidency after the defeat in the 1994 midterm elections. Clinton actually had to remind Americans that the US president was still relevant. He remained in office for another six years. Barrack Obama was also evicted several times before his re-election. Sometimes these obituaries are well founded. There was little doubt, for example, that Trump had sunk his re-election chances when he allied himself with mad doctors early in the pandemic in the face of rising mortality.

Nothing Biden faces compares to that. While the president has been beaten by his handling, despite all his faults, leaving Afghanistan remains popular with Americans. The main test of his future will come in the coming weeks when he sees if he can get approval for his $ 1.2tn (billion) infrastructure plan and the $ 3.5tn “American families plan”, both of which will have a significant impact on the country’s workforce. One of the reasons most Republicans oppose the first bill and are totally against the second is that they know how popular both would be.

There’s a high risk that Biden won’t get past this hurdle. The Democratic party is divided between the left, led by Bernie Sanders, who believes the projects are too small compared to what Biden promised, and moderates like Joe Manchin, who believe they are too big. Manchin recently called for a “strategic pause” on the largest of the projects and favors approval of the infrastructure-only one. That will not please the left of the party, which has tied the approval of one law to the other.

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In practice, Manchin, who essentially has an equal vote in the Senate, is playing tough. Never has a major domestic law been enacted in US history without being declared dead on the way to passage. Biden’s large project will likely be cut by at least a million million dollars and then approved before the end of the year. There will be quite a few storms before that. Will that make Biden again considered the next FDR?

The answer is no. Rumors that he would restructure American capitalism were always fantasies. These bills would improve the US safety net rather than change its nature. But at the same time they would make the lives of millions of citizens less precarious, which is good in itself and useful at the polls. Another issue is whether that would be enough to beat Trumpism. In the meantime, Biden shouldn’t be dismissed as hopeless and not proclaimed the savior of our age. Like most presidents, he is somewhere between the two extremes.

Copyright – The Financial Times Limited 2021

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