by Massimo Gaggi and Viviana Mazza
As in Afghanistan, the Democrat has made missteps and frivolities with top-secret documents. But inflation seems to have passed, aid to Ukraine has reunited NATO and the chances of re-election remain good
NEW YORK — Two years ago, on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden entered the White House and introduced himself in a hushed tone like a doctor called to heal the wounds left by the attack on Congress a few days earlier would have. In reality, the Democratic president wanted to enact an extremely ambitious plan consisting of public investment, revitalizing the most advanced industries, and expanding social spending: reforms unlike anything seen in decades in an increasingly politically polarized America without a parliament , who has been semi-paralyzed for a long time. It wasn’t just about the money. After four years of Trump, a president accustomed to improvisation with no governing culture, Biden also wanted to give America back a sense of what the White House can do. The democratic leader has achieved important successes in infrastructure, the fight against climate change and the social network. It was not, as his supporters would have wished, a Franklin D. Roosevelt taking historic measures to counter the Great Depression, or a Lyndon B. Johnson enforcing the Civil Rights Act against racial discrimination after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and introduced the main social protection measures of the post-war period, giving birth to the so-called Great Society. But Biden, unlike those predecessors, did not have a majority in Congress and was operating at a time of profound misunderstanding between the two parties. It’s been a rollercoaster two years, with those who supported him, beginning with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, often repeating: Never underestimate how much Biden is underrated.
Seen by Biden as the foundation for the progress to bequeath to Americans as his presidency’s legacy, the economy was at first a great hope, then turned into a nightmare as inflationary phobias mounted. Until the return, now that prices seem to be under control again, a positive factor also in view of the 2024 presidential election. Biden had already made a good start when he entered the White House, also thanks to the lack of opposition from a Republican party, who is still stunned by Trump supporters’ attack on Congress.
The $1,900 billion family and business support package, intended to cushion the recessionary effects of the pandemic and guarantee an income for those temporarily out of work, also aimed to launch a family support policy with a fixed monthly contribution for minor children . After it expired, Biden failed to renew that part of the package, but in any case, his actions succeeded in halving child poverty in America for at least a year and demonstrating that it is possible to reduce inequality, albeit very expensively .
In that first season, in which he managed to win the trust of Liberal Left leader Bernie Sanders and thereby avoid a split in the party, Trump’s successor had then attempted to launch a modernization of the country on three fronts: a massive one Investment in public infrastructure that has been neglected for decades; an industrial policy intervention aimed at bringing the most advanced technological productions back to American territory, beginning with microprocessors, then transferred to China and other Asian countries with low labor costs; an energy transition plan consisting of supporting green industries and incentivising the development of green consumption: in reality a revised and certainly less ambitious version of the pharaonic Green New Deal pioneered by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s radical left.
Biden managed to push through the infrastructure plan while being blocked on the other two fronts for a year by opposition from Republicans and also from some Democratic lawmakers elected in conservative-majority states. Soaring inflation, driven largely by the wartime cost of gasoline and other fuels but also influenced by massive subsidies that overheated the economy, appeared to have dashed the president’s reform ambitions and jeopardized his chances of re-election.
Also, the anti-Covid strategy that had brought Biden great popularity in the first months of his presidency thanks to the excellent organization of the vaccination campaign, had then become a negative factor due to the emergence of variants, which had given way to a recovery of infections when Biden ruthlessly spread the coronavirus -Emergency declared over.
But despite headwinds, a razor-thin majority, and humiliations from senators in his own party, Biden never gave up. And in the end he got the introduction of an industrial policy in support of advanced technologies – a turning point for the United States and for the world, which was portrayed as a hindrance to China’s rapid growth – and also the approval of a reduced but still substantial version. of the environmental plan of the democratic left.
The liberal left in his party wonders if Biden’s legislative successes — not just the environmental and infrastructure plans, but also cutting prescription drug costs and some modest interventions in arms proliferation — are more important than failures in some of the goals that have become the progressive banner: policies ranging from maternity and paternity leave rights to raising the minimum wage, free preschool, suffrage laws and a ban on assault weapons in American cities. Interventions blocked by the Republican opposition and also by the doubts of some Democratic lawmakers. Biden has sought to act unilaterally on some issues young people care about, pardoning thousands of convicts of marijuana possession and partially forgiving student debt. But after the Republican appeal, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of this latest intervention in February. Some of its projects have stalled: there has never been a serious attempt in the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform or more restrictive weapons measures.
From Ukraine to Afghanistan
The withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 is perhaps the low point of the Biden presidency. Foreign policy was to become his forte: he served as president of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and then as Obama’s deputy. But the indelible images of the Taliban’s lightning-fast capture of Kabul and the desperation of Afghans have prompted their own allies to voice doubts about the government’s competence and – at a moment of legislative deadlock and Covid uncertainty – contributed to the plummeting of the President’s approval rating below 50%. Even those who believed the withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right decision saw the execution as ominous: perhaps delaying the withdrawal or leaving a small military contingent behind offered a chance to stabilize the situation. But Biden, still furious that the Secret Service didn’t predict the consequences of the pullback, has never said he regrets the operation. Ukraine, on the other hand, has been a testament to the leadership Biden promised when he, as President-elect, announced America is back — from the exchange of intelligence information to military and humanitarian aid and sanctions against Russia. It has also led to a strengthening of NATO and its enlargement, although we still do not see an end to this war, which is causing enormous suffering in Ukraine, causing great economic difficulties, especially in Europe, and always in danger of escalating uncontrollably to lead.
The interim vote and that of 2024
The huge investments approved by Congress — thanks in part to the backing of a key ally, Nancy Pelosi, who has just ended her mandate as Speaker of the House — will only bear fruit in a few years. The Democrats were therefore prepared to pay for Biden’s inflation in the near future with a crushing defeat in the midterm elections last November. But there was no election decay: the right-wing-backed Supreme Court abolition of abortion rights likely spooked many Americans; while other voters’ dissatisfaction eased to some extent as prices began to show signs of cooling ahead of the vote.
Before Biden stumbled on the issue of top-secret documents found in his apartments, Biden was catching up in opinion polls and had wind in his sails, thanks in part to gasoline prices returning to pre-crisis levels of two years ago. In early 2023, everything appeared to be going well for Biden: Republicans were at war and divided over Trump’s 2024 bid for the White House, while Democrats accepted the seemingly inevitable reinstatement of Biden, who turned 80 there last November.
The discovery that even a veteran politician like himself, after accusing Trump of irresponsibility for the top-secret files kept at Mar-a-Lago, committed a similar sin (although, unlike that of his predecessor, it was apparently unintentional), is a gift to his opponent and to the Republicans, who now that they control the House of Representatives, will conduct full-scale investigations into the President, his son Hunter, the Justice Department and federal agencies.
The case of classified documents could also drain over time, and if the economy holds up, Biden will retain a good chance of re-election, but from war to recession risks, there are still many unknowns for him. Beginning with the threat from Trump’s wing of the Republicans to force the administration to shut down because it can no longer mobilize resources in the absence of Congressional approval to raise the federal debt ceiling. A default by the world’s most powerful nation could have devastating consequences for the US economy and global financial markets.
January 20, 2023 (change January 20, 2023 | 09:41)
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