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The Biden Record

 

The Biden Record                    Gerry OShea

President Biden’s poor approval rating is causing consternation among Democrats. His score in various polls hovers around 45%. This is the lowest of any president at this stage of his tenure in the last half century. The one exception is his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, who, a year into his term in the White House, was judged to perform even more poorly at just above 35%.

 Nearly all the experts predict that Republicans will win a majority in the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections, with dire consequences for the Democratic agenda. The leadership of the senate is also in danger of changing from Schumer to McConnell.

Our era is defined by chaos and uncertainty. We have the jitters worrying about covid and climate change, police brutality and mass shootings in schools. Democracy itself is under attack with about 50 million Trump voters firmly convinced that Joe Biden thieved the election. It is imperative to reiterate that nearly sixty judges and Trump’s own Department of Justice could not find a scintilla of evidence to suggest voting malfeasance in any state.

The War in Afghanistan was a humiliating disaster for the United States. With no prospect of victory, both political parties decided it was time to cut our losses and get out. Mr. Trump had agreed the terms of the American exit with the Taliban but, at their insistence, without the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, at the negotiating table.

Candidate Biden favored complete withdrawal and letting the government forces, well-equipped with American weapons, deal with the hated Taliban. In reality, Karzai and his army caved and scampered, leaving the country in a chaotic state. The American forces had to deal with thousands of locals who rushed to Kabul airport justifiably scared of the new rulers.

There is no sustaining positive narrative for America’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan. We went there to establish order and to promote a semblance of democracy. Over 2400 of our forces lost their lives and eight times that number were wounded. We were chased out of the country by the terrorists we went in to subdue. America spent hundreds of billions developing the country and building up an army that disintegrated before the advancing Taliban forces.

 We should have learned the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq and stayed away from an unwinnable tribal war. The British in the 19th century and the Russians in the 20th endured the same fate in their efforts to dominate that country.

The airport scenes with the Taliban setting exit deadlines while flaunting their victory caused a sense of national humiliation throughout the United States. Subsequent reports of starving children and subjugated women remain President Biden’s worst nightmare.

The whole withdrawal fiasco played a major role in his sinking approval rating. Irrespective of who deserves the most blame, he is the man in the White House and the mayhem and hunger in Afghanistan will continue to impinge on his popularity.

The covid crisis is defining life in America and beyond. Donald Trump’s leadership in this area amounted to a mixture of bumbling pronouncements, false promises about impending cures and the denigration of scientific evidence. Many commentators believe that his inept leadership in dealing with the pandemic cost him the election.

By comparison, President Biden has provided a mature and stable approach to alleviating the country’s health calamity. He follows a top-class advisory team which has fostered a sense of stability even as the variants change and present new challenges.

The President has played by the book and despite the massive number of deaths and the disgraceful rejection of vaccination by close to 40% of the population, prospects for 2022 look a little brighter as the drug companies promise anti-viral pills in the near future that will greatly mitigate pressures on hospitals and doctors.

Inflation is dogging the current White House. Gas has increased by more than a dollar a gallon in the last year, daily suggesting to unhappy motorists that Washington incompetence is costing them in their pockets.

Supermarket prices are also harming the president’s standing. Housewives complain that their trips to the vegetable and meat aisles reveal prices that are well up over just twelve months ago.

Mr. Biden knows that what people pay in the gas station and the supermarket matters a lot to his core middle-class voters. It is the economy, stupid, as James Carville pointed out in the Bill Clinton era.

Still, Bloomberg News named Biden’s first year as exemplifying the best presidential leadership in the last fifty years. They point to national unemployment figures below 4% and modest increases in workers’ salaries in the past twelve months.

The stock market has jumped 20% in the last year, which registers with about half of the American population who own shares, mostly in pension funds. This does not impact the other 50% who barely get by from week to week and look especially to Democrats to improve their lot.

Low wages and benefits at a time of burgeoning numbers of millionaires and billionaires relates directly to the low number of unionized workers. More than any previous president, Joe Biden recognizes this fact and frequently urges workers to organize and demand decent wages and conditions.

The present administration can point to the Covid-19 stimulus plan which was passed shortly after they took over in the White House. This included a major boost to the child tax credit which reduced family poverty by close to 50%. Progressives correctly point to this as a huge accomplishment, unmatched since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society days in the sixties.

The Democrats also passed an important infrastructure bill which will improve transportation - roads, bridges and waterways – throughout the country. These major projects will provide good union jobs for young people who don’t have a college degree, a group that has been left behind in modern developments.

The Joe Manchin saga around his wobbly support for Build Back Better continues. Failure so far to pass this bill which provides financial help to many vulnerable groups remains a serious setback for the president.

Mr. Biden is also facing a mass movement questioning the legitimacy of his election. Democracy is under ferocious and unprecedented attack by former-president Trump, astonishingly supported by 70% of Republican voters. They assert without any evidence that their man won the November 2020 election and should still be in the White House.

We are talking about a fracturing of truth as people increasingly view reality through the prism of their own prejudices. No previous president faced a violent insurrection before he was even inaugurated. And to ensure that they will get their way the next time they are undermining election protocols in places where Repyblicans control the state government apparatus.

There is a strong sense that in Yeats’ words “things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed,” and we are slouching towards some kind of autocracy where Trump or one of his minions will dictate a new autocratic regime from the far right.

President Biden in his inspiring speech to the nation on the anniversary of the attempted January 6th coup stated clearly why Donald Trump remains a serious menace for the American way of governing. The future of democracy may well provide the major theme for the mid-term elections in November, and that could result in a surprisingly good day for Democrats.

Gerry OShea blogs at wemustbetalking.com

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