For many Democrats, Joe Biden was not their first choice out of a crowded field in 2020. But as he emerged the nominee, voters responded to his promises of putting the country back on track and saw him as a steady hand at the wheel after four years of chaos.
Cut to 18 months after he took office and Biden’s approval numbers were abysmal. Fairly or not, the president is a victim of overpromising and under delivering, of rising global inflation and high gas prices, and of a persistent malaise compounded by years of pandemic anxiety, a recalcitrant Congress and the war in Ukraine.
With the fall midterm election approaching — and control of Congress in the balance — Biden deserves praise for what he has been able to accomplish, even as the road ahead continues to be rife with challenges at home and abroad.
As Biden is judged, it is always useful to remind voters that Americans elect a president, not a miracle worker. It is too easy to forget the mess he inherited. Yet there’s a hint of divine intervention in what seems to be an overnight change in his political fortunes.
Gas prices have dropped steadily for more than a month and Congress recently passed bipartisan legislation to invest billions to address the global semiconductor shortage that has helped fuel inflation. More critically, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whose efforts scuttled Biden’s signature Build Back Better legislation, agreed to a deal that will allow the president to fulfill some of his campaign promises through the newly minted Inflation Reduction Act.
“The work of the government can be slow and frustrating and sometimes even infuriating,” Biden said after the deal was announced. “Then the hard work of hours and days and months from people who refuse to give up pays off. History is made. Lives are changed.”
If the Democrats manage to keep it together, the re-imagined remains of Build Back Better may not match the impact of that ambitious piece of legislation, but lives will be changed for the better.
On climate, the bill — which is heavy with incentives rather than requirements — offers tax credits for electric vehicles and energy efficient homes, helps utilities speed their efforts to switch to cleaner energy sources, and prioritizes American manufacturing in green technologies. Early projections by Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan climate policy think tank, find the bill will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The deal also includes long-delayed prescription drug price reform that would curtail drug company profiteering, an extension of the Affordable Care Act subsidies used by millions of Americans and the creation of a 15% corporate minimum tax rate on companies with at least $1 billion in income.
Biden also deserves credit for effectively leading the allied response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that will revitalize outdated roads, bridges, waterways and transit systems.
Make no mistake, Biden faltered at times, unable to effectively communicate his wins or explain his losses. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was poorly executed, and the administration did not react quickly enough to growing inflation. His list of unkept promises remains long, including action on immigration, housing costs, college debt and child care.
Although he is far from the doddering figurehead that some on the right see, Biden’s age remains an issue. He will be 80 on Election Day 2024 and whether he can effectively serve another term is a discussion worth having.
In the meantime, the president has earned the right to celebrate some much-needed victories. Especially, because when it comes to his policy priorities, a win for Biden is a win for all Americans.