Credit: Gage Skidmore under licence CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

In America, Biden’s political woes deepen

Yesterday was supposed to be the biggest day of Joe Biden’s nascent Presidency of the United States. Specifically, it was supposed to be the day that Congress passed the centrepiece of his domestic political agenda: A spending plan unprecedented in size, with almost six trillion dollars being spent on revamping American infrastructure, expanding welfare programmes, and investing in all sorts of things ranging from childcare, to climate change, to job programmes.

It did not happen. And it failed entirely because of infighting in his own Democratic Party. There remains a chance that some kind of slimmed down agenda will pass in the coming days, to save face, but for now, the Biden agenda is in deep trouble.

With small majorities in both houses of Congress, Biden’s Democrats are divided between left wing progressives who favoured a huge plan (supported by Biden) and more conservative moderates who wanted a much smaller, $1.9 trillion plan that simply focused on infrastructure. The two proposals were divided: A stand alone $1.9 trillion bill, and a separate $3.5trillion bill to follow later. Yesterday, the $1.9 trillion bill, already approved by the US Senate, was due to pass Congress. It failed, because the left wingers refused to vote for it before the bigger bill was passed by the Senate. And the Senate cannot agree amongst Democrats on passing the bigger bill. It is a political disaster for Biden.

And that’s not his only problem:

Voters in Texas give President Joe Biden a negative 32 – 61 percent job approval rating. This marks a 24-point net change from June 2021, when 45 percent of Texas voters approved of the job he was doing and 50 percent disapproved.

On Biden’s handling of the response to the coronavirus, voters give him a slightly negative 44 – 49 percent approval rating. This is a substantial drop from June 2021 when they approved 58 – 37 percent.

On Biden’s handling of the situation at the Mexican border, voters give him a negative 20 – 71 percent approval rating, which is a drop compared to a negative 29 – 64 percent rating in June 2021.

Texas is just one state, and not one that Biden even won, but still: Last year, he won 46% of the vote there. Now, his approval rating is just 32%. Nationally, his approval rating is in the low 40s. Safe to say, if there was an election today, Biden would be in substantial trouble.

The problems have piled up: Afghanistan was a political disaster of his own making, with the withdrawal, while popular, turning into an event which undermined perceptions of his basic competence. Most voters feel it was badly handled and embarrassing.

Covid, too, is a lingering problem: After promising to defeat the virus, Biden finds cases stubbornly high, and vaccine hesitancy the new front on the culture war. At the southern border, there is a new refugee crisis.

And all of this while the economy remains stubbornly sluggish.

Republicans, by contrast, have made few political mistakes, staying mainly quiet and simply saying that Biden won majorities, and must Govern. With the exception of repeated statements decrying the election from the defeated President, Republicans have mainly focused on opposing Biden’s plans, and letting the Democrats do the rest for them. At this juncture, it looks like working.

A year from now, Americans will vote in the “mid term” elections which will elect a new congress. Most analysts are now projecting that absent a serious turnaround in his fortunes, Biden will lose at least one, if not both, chambers of Congress. That would put an end to any hopes of a major domestic political achievement in his first term. More pertinently, it might start significant chatter on the left about whether, at the age of almost 80, and with low popularity, he should even seek a second term.

The good news is that Biden has a full 12 months to steady the ship and turn things around for both himself, and his party. But this morning, he looks as politically weak as any American President has for a long time.

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