On November 27, Nate Cohn noted in the New York Times that the policies put in place by President Joe Biden and the Democrats are hugely popular, yet Biden’s popularity numbers have fallen into the 40’s. disconnection that Cohn explains by suggesting that, above all else, voters want “normalcy.”
Heaven knows that Biden, who took office amid a pandemic that has collapsed the economy and faced an unprecedented insurgency led by his predecessor, has been unable to ensure normalcy.
In her own article, journalist Magdi Semrau suggests that the media are at least partly blaming this disconnect, since they have given people some idea of the cost of Biden’s signature measures without specifying what is there. in it, centered on negative news (negotiations are described as “disarray,” for example) and ignored the fact that Republicans refused to participate in any law-making, choosing instead simply to filibuster. As Semrau puts it, “Democrats want to fix bridges, provide child care, and lower drug costs. Republicans don’t. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them. “
To that, I would add that the Republican attacks on Democrats, which are straightforward and emotional, get a lot more traction and therefore a lot more coverage in the mainstream press than the slow and successful navigation of our complicated world.
To illustrate the uneven weight between emotion and policymaking, Biden’s poll numbers were hit hard between mid-August and mid-September, dropping six points. This month saw the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has been widely described as a disaster at Biden’s hands that had severely damaged the credibility of the United States. In fact, Biden inherited Trump’s deal with the Taliban under which the United States promised to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, provided the Taliban fulfills several requirements, including that they stop killing American soldiers.
When Biden took office, there were only 3,500 American troops in Afghanistan, compared to 100,000 under the Obama administration. Biden had made no secret of his aversion to US involvement in Afghanistan and, faced with the issue of whether to honor Trump’s deal or send troops back to the country, vowed to complete the pullout, well that he postponed the date to September.
What he didn’t know, in part because Trump’s withdrawal had taken so many intelligence officers out of the country, was that as soon as the Trump administration struck the deal with the Taliban, Afghan troops have started to make their own agreements to lay down their arms. The Biden administration appears to have been surprised by the sudden collapse of the Afghan government on August 15. As the Taliban captured the capital Kabul, Afghans terrified of the Taliban takeover rushed to Kabul airport, where an attack killed 13 US servicemen. staff trying to cope with the crowds.
Republicans responded to the mid-August chaos by calling for Biden’s impeachment, and the press compared the moment to the fall of Saigon in 1975. This coverage overshadowed the extraordinary fact that the United States had airlifted more than 124,000 people, including approximately 6,000 US citizens, outside Afghanistan in the six weeks prior to official departure from the United States. It was the largest airlift in US history – 7,000 were evacuated from Saigon – and evacuations have continued since, mostly on charter flights.
By comparison, in October 2019 under Trump, the United States simply left northern Syria without helping its former allies; senior US diplomat in Syria William V. Roebuck later said the US had “been listening and watching” an “intentional ethnic cleansing effort.” And yet this lack of evacuation received almost no coverage.
To complicate matters further, rather than agreeing that the pullout was a foreign policy disaster, many experts say it helped the credibility of the United States rather than hurt it. According to Graham Allison, former dean of Harvard Kennedy School, “The anomaly was that we were there, not that we were gone.”
And yet, in mid-September, when 66% of Americans supported leaving Afghanistan, 48% believed Biden had “gravely mismanaged” the situation.
Aside from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, is it true that Biden hasn’t accomplished much?
Biden set out to prove that democracies can be useful to their people and that the United States can, once again, rule the world. He quickly reinstated international agreements that Trump had left, including the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, and renewed those that Trump had weakened, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. . Biden has set himself a goal of leading the world in coronavirus immunizations, making the United States the world’s largest vaccine donor, although U.S. vaccinations, which started quickly, slowed dramatically after the Republicans began to turn against them.
Under Biden, the United States has recovered economically from the pandemic faster than other countries that have not invested as much in the stimulus. In March 2021, Democrats passed the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout stimulus package to rebuild the economy, and it worked dramatically. Real gross domestic product growth this quarter is expected to be 5%, and the stock market has reached new highs. Two-thirds of Americans are happy with their household finances.
The pandemic has entangled supply chains both because of shortages and because Americans have shifted spending from restaurants and services to consumer goods. The Biden administration mobilized workers, industry executives and port managers to clear the cargo piled on the docks. Over the past three weeks, the number of containers at the docks has fallen by 33% and shipping prices have fallen by 25%. Major retailers Walmart, Target, and Home Depot all say they have plenty of inventory on hand for the holiday season.
With more than 5.5 million new jobs created in ten months, jobless claims are at their lowest since 1969, prompting the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to tweet: “Armstrong is walking the road. moon! … Wait, sorry! It’s a headline from last year, jobless claims were so low. Workers’ compensation has jumped 13% in some industries, and there are opportunities in the job market.
The American Rescue Plan initiated our government’s reorientation to meet the needs of ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy who have dominated our politics since 1981. It has provided over $ 5 billion in rent assistance, for example, and expanded the child tax credit, so by the end of October, $ 66 billion had gone to over 36 million households, halving the child poverty rate.
Over the summer, Biden negotiated an extraordinarily complicated infrastructure package, winning a bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion bill that will repair roads and bridges and provide broadband across the country, and securing the largest $ 2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill across the House. Now before the Senate, the bill calls for universal pre-kindergarten, funding for childcare and elderly care, a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and protection from climate change.
Did the Biden administration accomplish anything? He created a radical change in our country, rebuilding its strength by steering government away from the economy on the supply side that led lawmakers to protect the interests of the rich, and towards the much more traditional emphasis on the supply side. building the economy by supporting ordinary Americans. .
Heather Cox Richardson is Professor of American History at Boston College. This article first appeared in his online newsletter, Letters from an American. Visit heathercoxrichardson.substack.com to read his daily entries.