President Joe Biden’s approval ratings cratered last week to 36 percent – a nadir comparable to President Trump’s all-time low: 33 percent in December 2017. Biden’s deep unpopularity is especially significant, given that he began his presidency with a 56 percent approval rating. Yet, in the eighteen months since Biden entered office, several problems have compounded, leaving the national mood sour and inclined towards the criticism Biden now faces. Biden’s criticism is well deserved, however. He has underperformed to the point that his ineffectiveness has become “conventional wisdom.”
Why I Voted for Joe
I voted for Biden – without much enthusiasm, but I did vote for him. I had several reservations; I wasn’t thrilled about sending the architect of the 1994 Crime Bill – a blueprint for mass incarceration – to the Oval Office; a Senator who had voted to invade Iraq – a blueprint for US hyper-intervention; a candidate who paid lip service to woke ideology – a blueprint for American social division and decline; the guy who had made Delaware a safe haven for corporations; a guy who is clearly, visibly in cognitive decline.
No, I didn’t like Biden – but in the 2020 general election, I wasn’t aware of a viable alternative. Still, I was willing to give Joe a chance, to judge him on his Oval Office performance, not on his five-decade service record.
Today, I’m aligned with the nearly two-thirds of Americans who do not approve of Biden’s performance.
From the perspective of partisan politics, Biden would benefit from making adjustments to his presidency. My intuition is that the 2022 midterms will be a bloodbath for Democrats. Voters, whose quality of life has degraded during the Biden administration – under a never-ending pandemic, another foreign intervention, generational inflation, and the continued creep of widely unpopular, radical wokeism – are likely to vote Republicans into a Congressional majority. From the more important perspective – maximizing the general well-being and prosperity of America and her citizens – Biden should urgently reform his policies.
How Biden Can Turn Things Around
Peace in Ukraine
For starters, Biden needs to initiate a peace settlement to the Russo-Ukraine War, rather than prop up Ukraine in a war they cannot win.
You know, it’s funny: One of the only Biden decisions I enthusiastically endorsed was also one of his least popular, the watershed moment where his honeymoon ended and his approval ratings inverted, never to recover: the Afghanistan withdrawal. While sloppily executed, the decision to finally, finally leave Afghanistan – after two decades of fruitless fighting – suggested that Biden had some backbone whereas his predecessors Obama and Trump had been spineless. The principle behind the withdrawal – that America was no longer going to funnel finite resources into a forever war without strategic benefit – left me optimistic that Biden would practice a more restrained foreign policy in the future.
My optimism evaporated last Spring when Biden committed zealously to policies that would (and have) prolonged the Russo-Ukraine War. The decision, to repeatedly shower Ukraine with cash and weapons, is inconsistent with U.S. strategic interests. Instead of calling for peace, Biden leads a federal response that inflames a nuclear power (Russia), prolongs the suffering of Ukrainians, neglects the only country capable of rivaling the U.S. as a hegemon (China), and spiked the price of gasoline – exacerbating the economic woes of everyday Americans already suffering under inflation. Granted, my prescription is not a political remedy for Biden; most Americans want him to robustly support Ukraine. Rather my prescription is geared toward the stewardship of US interests for which Biden is ultimately responsible.
Biden Has a Wokeness Problem
Biden should stop paying lip service to woke ideology. For one thing, you know that an eighty-year-old Catholic guy from Scranton, with a track record for hanging out with segregationists, does not actually believe the trending wokeisms he professes to value. It’s an inauthentic political ploy.
The problem is that Biden’s inauthentic political ploy gives license to the rest of his party to advance a social worldview/agenda that is widely unpopular, caustically divisive, and reeks of elitism. Carving up our nation’s wonderfully diverse population into discrete pockets – based primarily on pigmentation density – for the purpose of quantifying victimhood disrupts our hard-earned national unity.
And carving up our nation’s wonderfully diverse population into discrete pockets is the opposite of the coalition building needed to win federal elections. Similarly, if you label every American who does not believe men can get pregnant as an irredeemable bigot, well, you’re going to end up labeling the majority of Americans an irredeemable bigot. As Hillary Clinton can tell you, citizens you’ve derided for having moral failings, are unlikely to vote for you.
But dispelling wokeism isn’t about developing a coherent election strategy. It’s about national unity and personal dignity. Moving past wokeism should be a social priority. And while Biden is not a primary engine behind wokeism his tepid acceptance of the ideology ensures its continued relevance.
Time to Tackle Inflation
Preceding woke social ideology or the Russo-Ukraine War in the minds of American voters is inflation. Last June, the rate of price increases hit 9.1 percent – the highest increase since November of 1981; Americans are suffering financially and, increasingly, they are blaming Joe Biden.
Certainly, inflation is a complex problem that Biden is not individually responsible for – and cannot individually cure. But Biden can take steps to help ease the financial pressure on US citizens. For example, Biden can ease tariffs, unclog the supply chain, hire immigrant workers, and encourage price competition. Also, Biden can address the root cause of inflation: the COVID pandemic.
Instead of a third consecutive year in pandemic posture, Biden should guide the federal government towards treating COVID like an endemic. It’s time for a full-fledged acceptance of “back to normal.” In effect, demand for services will ramp up, workers will return, production will increase, and prices will slide back down.
Yet, Biden, an anti-populist corporatist, is likely to craft his inflation strategy on the advice of the pundit-class who are ardently blaming inflation on COVID relief funding. It’s curious. COVID relief, like the CARES Act, mostly sent money upward, to Wall Street and corporations. Only now, regular citizens, who received a couple of hundred bucks in the mail, are being blamed for the worst price surge in four decades. While the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates to combat inflation, expect Biden to clamp down on any sort of expansion of the social security net. Don’t expect a resuscitation of Build Back Better. And don’t expect any student debt relief (despite Biden’s campaign promises). Instead, expect Biden’s inflation response to hurt and anger the average citizen in a way that made Donald Trump a viable candidate.
As I said, I’m with the two-thirds of Americans who disapprove of Biden’s performance. I’m not optimistic he can save his presidency.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.