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The bad news for President Biden is still coming. He ended 2021 at a low level in his presidency and hoped to turn it around in the new year.
But things only got worse. His spending and voting rights plans are in the dead ends of Congress. Inflation remains at its peak for several decades. The omicron variant of coronavirus continues to spread rapidly. The Supreme Court has decided to vaccinate or test against its government’s mandate. And threats from Russia and North Korea are on the rise.
Presidents must be able to do more than one thing at a time, but that puts a lot on Biden. And his ratings suffer because of it. Biden’s average consent rating is about 42%, and this week’s Quinnipiac poll was 33%.
Such numbers must relate to the White House – and Republicans cheering.
Biden acknowledged the fighting on Friday as he gave a speech on the country’s failing infrastructure and how the bilateral infrastructure law he signed in November would rebuild many bridges and roads.
“There’s a lot of talk about disappointments and things we haven’t done,” Biden said. “I could add that we will do a lot of them. But this is something we have done and it has a huge impact on the country.”
Given that the Democrats in the Senate have the narrowest of the narrow majority – 50 to 50 with a vice president breaking ties – it is remarkable in some respects how much they have done: for example, the trillion dollars in infrastructure, as well as almost the COVID $ 2 trillion and a diverse group of dozens of judges.
But with Democrats watching the mid-term elections and Republicans preferring to take over the House, there is great frustration on the President’s side for failing to push through some important key items on the agenda, namely his Build Back Better bill, which highlighted months of difficult months. public internal party negotiations that seemed to be going nowhere, and, of course, massive voting rights legislation.
It’s not just legislative frustrations like filibuster (discussed below); the pandemic is still raging.
The rapid spread of Omicron is causing confusion across the country. While vaccinated cases have been milder, hospitals are flooded with unvaccinated patients and schools are in disarray, trying to come up with a Rubik’s cube that is constantly changing colors.
The White House has made it a point that it is not ready for the latest wave and shortcomings in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention messaging.
Testing was a big problem. On Thursday, Biden said the administration would increase its purchase of COVID-19 rapid tests from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion. On Friday, Biden announced that Americans could start ordering free home tests next week.
The timeline means that Americans will not receive the tests until the end of the month at the earliest.
In an interview that aired on Thursday, Craig Melvin of NBC asked Vice President Harris if more tests should be ordered earlier. Harris didn’t admit the mistakes, but said, “We’re doing it.”
“But should we have done it sooner?” Melvin insisted.
“We’re doing it,” Harris said.
Omikron, labor shortages, some ongoing supply chain problems, adverse weather and climate change are once again resulting in empty shelves in grocery stores.
It is reminiscent of the beginning of a pandemic, although the reasons are a little different and the rarity is not that long.
But that hasn’t stopped Conservatives seeking to regain power in Congress after this year’s mid-term elections to establish the #BareShelvesBiden hashtag.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the administration’s request for a vaccine or test (a separate rule for health professionals was confirmed) was another blow to the Biden administration, recalling the importance of the president being able to appoint a judge.
And it’s just home. Overseas, Russia is once again a real threat to Ukraine, and NATO and North Korea have launched further missile tests, which have led to a brief grounding of aircraft on the US West Coast.
What to expect when expectations are too high
As is well known, Democrats’ priorities have mostly been held by two of their own senators, who continue to resist what they consider too far away.
This has been the case since Biden took office and nothing has changed. So Biden can rightly be criticized for setting too high expectations for what could actually be done.
Lots of politicians are to blame. They promise the Moon during the campaign, but to find the presidency there is a rocket ship without much of its own fuel.
“This is the presidency’s dilemma,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor at Dartmouth who deals with misconceptions about politics. “The president has relatively few powers. In order to try to transcend the limits of his powers, he is trying to defend this agenda publicly.”
But because their powers are so limited, Nyhan added, there is a “cycle of hope and disappointment that repeats itself over and over again.”
People who expect the president can do more than allow the checks and balances of the system is something Nyhan calls the “green lantern theory” of politics.
The comic book hero, Green Lantern, has a ring that can do almost anything. However, the key to its strength is the user’s own will.
In other words, the only thing that limits the wearer of the ring is the failure of the imagination.
But that is not how the presidency works.
“Biden is falling victim to Green Lantern-style expectations,” Nyhan said. “People expect him to be able to change votes, and he thinks the failure of suffrage is due to his lack of effort.”
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Nyhan pointed out that it is just as likely that the more public Biden supports the legislation, the harder it is for someone like Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to support it.
This is because Manchin comes from a state where Biden won less than 30% of the vote in the 2020 election.
Big things happen with the vast majority
A major change usually goes through Congress only if the president has numbers on his side.
Think: FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society Measures, Barack Obama’s Health Rework.
Those presidents had far larger majority than Biden. At those previous congresses, these presidents had a pillow. That luxury, that room for error, simply does not exist today.
While Manchin comes from a very conservative state, the second detained senator in most cases, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, is in the purple state, which Biden won by just over 10,000 votes.
Her calculation is likely that if she does something like removing a legislative pirate – who is supposed to encourage negotiations in theory – it could damage the politically independent image she has developed for herself.
In practice, of course, the filibuster has been abused in recent years, requiring 60 votes to end the debate and move up or down. It basically set the standard for 60 votes to pass any legislation, which was never the intention.
Biden was a pirate defender. But to hit the brick wall of Republican intransigence over voting rights – and to face a troubled progressive base that wants to see him do something – Biden changed course.
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“Unfortunately, the United States Senate – nominated as the largest advisory body in the world – has become the shell of its former self,” Biden said during a speech on voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday. “It gives me no satisfaction to say that as an institutionalist, as a person who has been honored to serve in the Senate. But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so serious that we must find a way to circumvent these draft voting rights laws. , discuss them, vote.
“Let the majority win. And if this absolute minimum is blocked, we have no choice but to change the rules of the Senate, including getting rid of the bully.”
This is not a negligible shift for the man who served in the Senate for 36 years, has long been perceived as a man seeking compromise and guided by the very idea of unifying the country.
And yet, despite Biden’s move, many voting rights activists did not attend his speech. They felt that his support came too little, too late.
This is despite the fact that it has been clear since the beginning of Biden’s presidency that there have been – and still are not – votes in favor of removing the rapist. And it is not at all clear what Biden, who would oppose the filibuster from the beginning, would do.
Too much emphasis on personal politics
Biden puts a lot – perhaps too much – on his persuasive skills, both at home and on the world stage.
For example, the President has met Manchin several times and they seem to have real respect for each other. But Manchin did not move to support Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better plan – or to eliminate filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
Biden thought he could get Manchin and Sine to move toward his position through personal politics, and it didn’t. It’s just hard to negotiate without numbers, leverage or incentives.
It could be argued that all the months of internal party negotiations have only brought an extension of the inevitable – and venting out a lot of dirty democratic laundry for which it would be better to stay in the basket.
“People have drunk deeply from a well of presidential mythology and are finding it difficult to come to terms with the limits of office,” Nyhan said.
This does not mean that it should not be worth trying to enforce the legislation. There is always a chance that the senator could be inspired and come. But it rarely works and people should lower their expectations, Nyhan said.
“It’s important for people to see that this pattern is structural,” Nyhan said, adding: “When it happens to the most talented and qualified politicians in a country over and over again, you have to realize that it’s not people, it’s people. institution.”