The Biden administration is over. Sure, he has another two years plus in the White House and might even win a second term (if he runs and if the GOP nominates an unelectable candidate), but he’s lost the ability to set the agenda for the country, and he’s not getting it back.
Some people argue he’s been derailed by events which, as former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously said presented the biggest challenge to any administration, but that’s not true. Biden and his people have exhibited a degree of organizational incompetence and a tin ear for the public sentiment on key issues.
Emblematic of all this is special climate envoy John F. Kerry, a former Secretary of State and the 2004 Democratic nominee for president. He cheerfully travels the world in private jets to receive awards for his work combatting global warming, is caught flying maskless on commercial flights despite his own administration’s transportation masking mandate and reacts to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by voicing concerns it will distract from the effort to move the economy of the West away from its reliance on fossil fuels.
Kerry’s also dismissive of the job losses and economic dislocations that would occur if, as the Biden administration is pushing for, the U.S. economy were to transition from one dependent on fossil fuels to one where renewables were the dominant energy source. He called that an “opportunity” rather than a major crisis for millions of working-class families and employees in the energy sector. Maybe they can just learn to code or grow Belgian endive.
It’s hard to imagine anyone more out of touch with the hoi polloi than that. Unfortunately for us all, Kerry is just the tip of a very large iceberg of party leaders and policymakers indifferent to the needs of hard-working Americans trying to find their way back to prosperity and economic security in the face of rising interest rates and record inflation.
Biden doesn’t have a plan to deal with any of it. He says he does, but that’s posturing. The White House announced with great fanfare nearly a month ago that the president has authorized the release of fuel stocks held in the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves to blunt the spike in the price of gasoline he blamed on Putin.
To set the record straight, gas prices were rising before Putin launched his attack. Energy prices are going up because of Biden’s policies, not global events. Yet the contracts to get the oil in the SPR to market were only completed Thursday. Good thing there wasn’t a real emergency like a nation hostile to the United States or a terrorist group seizing or disabling the Suez Canal.
As for inflation across the economy, the New York Federal Reserve Bank has shown that inflation took off appreciably in 2021, the first year Biden was in office. Even former Obama-Biden Economic Advisor Jason Furman said the inflation now reducing the purchasing power of working Americans is not transitory as the White House originally tried to claim but will instead continue due to increased demand created, as the RNC recently pointed out, by excess savings built by the Democrats’ endless government checks from their $2 trillion so-called COVID stimulus.
All this is costing Biden, as is his failure to push the Build Back Better legislation through Congress or to achieve any progress on the other critical campaign promises he made to the voters who chose to back him in the primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or in the general election against former President Donald Trump.
Much of this is borne out in the latest Gallup Poll, which shows the president to be “stuck” – to use the word employed by the venerable polling firm – in an unpopular place. “During Joe Biden’s fifth quarter in office, which began on January 20 and ended on April 19, an average of 41.3 percent of U.S. adults approved of the job he was doing as president. The latest average is essentially unchanged from the 41.7 percent in his fourth quarter but significantly lower than his first three quarterly averages.”
To put this in perspective, Biden’s latest rating “is lower than that of any prior elected president,” Gallup said, save for Trump, who nonetheless is consistently polling ahead of the current president in polls testing how each would fare in a potential 2024 rematch.
Between then and now, of course, is the 2022 midterm election. Forecasters are predicting the GOP will win control outright, not just of the U.S. House of Representatives but Congress as a whole, further burying Biden’s ability to set the agenda.
Gallup’s analysis of the latest numbers confirms this, saying the president’s low job approval numbers – which are unlikely to improve before the election and it would be ahistorical if they did – stand as “a significant threat to the Democratic Party’s chances of maintaining its slim majorities” in Congress after November. “Typically, unpopular presidents’ parties have lost seats in midterm elections, with the number of seats lost usually much higher for presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent.”
If the GOP wins control of Congress, it may prove to be the president’s political salvation. Just as Bill Clinton was helped immeasurably by his party’s losing control of the legislative branch in 1994 to Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America Congress, Biden may find it easier to moderate his positions and engage in successful negotiations to get legislation to his desk if he no longer must concern himself with the ability of “The Squad” and other extreme progressives like Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to tank any bill them deem to be insufficiently socialist-leaning all by themselves.
Like Clinton, Biden would look like the moderate he claimed to be in the campaign by agreeing to Republican efforts to bring in budgets that look balanced, rein in the rate of increase in federal spending, get inflation under control, require work once again in exchange for welfare payments, continue real criminal justice reform, make it easier to start and fund charter schools and do other things that have appeal to suburban voters and working Americans.
If Biden and his staff are smart enough to realize this is how to play the hand the voters are about to deal them, then he becomes a much stronger candidate for a second term – just not on the terms he and others close to him might like. If they go into 2024 forcing the American electorate to choose between heading left or heading right, Biden – or whoever the Democratic nominee is – will almost certainly lose.