Biden enters the second year and wants to fight after the signature legislation has stopped

Joe Biden 1.0 was a calming, grandfather figure, a low-key veteran who retired in 2020 to heal a nation deeply divided by Donald Trump. A year later, meet Biden 2.0 – the frustrated, angry fighter.

“I’m tired of being quiet,” he said in a windy speech last week.

Biden specifically referred to his many fruitless “silent conversations” behind the scenes with senators in a doomed attempt to get their signature legislation on voting rights passed. He could just as easily have summed up the irritation during his first 12 months in the Oval Office.

And if 2021 looked mild Biden, 2022 looks set to feature a stronger, more combative version – a president who lacks time, patience and allies to save what remains of his ambitions.

Biden took office on January 20, 2021 – 78 years old, the oldest man to ever become President of the United States – and faces incredible challenges.

Covid-19 was out of control, Trump’s supporters had just two weeks earlier tried to overthrow the presidential election, the economy was in a coma and around the world, US allies were upset by their own Trump shock.

Biden’s response to all of this – not to mention the explosive tensions over racism after a series of black Americans were killed during wrongful arrests – was to promise competence, old-fashioned decency and unity.

“My whole soul is in this. To lead America, to unite our people,” Biden promised in his inaugural address.

And he even seemed to have a chance to make it.

Democrats narrowly controlled both chambers of Congress, Trump had been banished from Twitter and Covid vaccines were ready.

“There were high expectations that Biden, given his experience and knowledge of Washington, could get the trains running on time again,” said Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

“It was all about a return to normalcy.”Fast forward to the start of Biden’s second year.

Surrounded by the Delta and Omicron Covid variants, an increasingly fragmented America and the likely loss of Congress to the Republicans in November’s midterm elections, Biden’s happiness seems to have ended at the age of 79.

With a majority of just one in the Senate and barely more than that in the House, his huge social spending plan – called Build Back Better – is dead in the water. This is the suffrage package that he says is needed to save US democracy from Trump’s supporters.

Biden is a centrist at heart and has failed to join the right or satisfy his own party’s left. As he discovers, the center today is difficult to find.

Average approval polls on fivethirtyeight.com are low at 42 percent, down from 53. A recent Quinnipiac survey, although deviant, showed a worrying approval rating of 33 percent.

Abroad, the picture is similar.

While the world’s allies like to have a US not controlled by Trump back, the country’s humiliating military withdrawal from the Afghanistan Biden administration torpedoed the aura of professionalism. Of course, Russia seems carefree, as it gathers troops on the Ukrainian border.

It all coincides with a bitter awakening from the days when the White House buzzed with idealism and talk that Biden imitated his hero Franklin Roosevelt, who led America through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“Their optimism, combined with the public’s expectation that all of this would be resolved, led them down a path of hubris,” Brown said.

‘Less screaming’ or ‘fight’?

There is still a scenario where Biden comes out on top: the pandemic burns out, the economy stabilizes, inflation declines and with the subsequent feel-good factor, Biden gets his party to turn these legal losses just in time for the intervening periods.

Biden’s aides also point out that they got Congress to approve the $ 1.9 trillion US rescue plan, which put pressure on a Covid – ravaged economy and prevented more widespread misery. Remarkably, the Democrats also received strong Republican support when they sent an infrastructure package of 1.2 trillion dollars.

All that with a razor-sharp majority in Congress.

The more likely outcome for 2022, however, is continued democratic battles, followed by Republicans winning one or both houses of Congress in November.

At that point, Biden can expect aggressive house investigations, and even possibly federal law, as Republicans try to further undermine their opponents’ ability to govern.

And it would become increasingly likely that a challenge from the White House in 2024 could come from Trump, even as the former president continues to try to undermine the 2020 election.

So much for Biden’s promise to restore “the soul of America.”

David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post at the heart of the regular establishment, advises Biden to return to “less shouting and more of Biden’s common sense.”

But Biden, with his back to the wall, signals that he sees things getting darker in 2022.

“I did not seek this fight,” he said in another dramatic speech this month, this time to celebrate the anniversary of Trump supporters’ storming of Congress on January 6.

“But I will not back down from it either,” Biden said. “I will stand by this crime.”

(AFP)

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