America during the presidency of Joe Biden has been wracked with difficulties. There is no question about that, and I am not here to persuade skeptical readers to the contrary. And of course, the president receives blame for events that cause malaise among the mass public, whether deserved or not. Thus, it’s not surprising to see President Biden’s numbers mired at levels that reflect the country’s widespread feeling that something is wrong. But Biden’s approval ratings do not accurately represent the quality of his performance as president.
Has Biden been a Great president? The answer to that question is no. Like much of his party–and like me–he misinterpreted the mandate of a narrow election to believe that he had been granted the go-ahead to transform America’s political economy. Clearly, that was mistaken. But a fair review of his performance in other areas points to the conclusion that much of what has made Biden unpopular was really out of his control, and that he is not getting adequate credit for the successes that his administration has achieved.
First, the difficulties. By far the most important factor driving Biden’s numbers toward their current, abysmal levels is the challenge of inflation. Voters rightly hate inflation, which is eating into real wages and making daily life harder for millions. If inflation were primarily the fault of this president, he would deserve ample criticism for letting prices run rampant. The reality, however, is that inflation rates are rising in every part of the world. It would be absurd to blame Biden for high inflation in Sweden, but that is in effect the position one has to take if they are to place primary blame on Biden for inflation concerns in the United States. Inflation is a global, not a local, problem, and the Biden administration has shown interest in giving Americans relief from its cost.
The other major sources of discontent, likewise, are not fairly attributable to failures by Joe Biden. He has tried mightily to end the pandemic and been thwarted–partially–by the intransigence of vaccine refuseniks and right-wing governors who refuse to protect their people. Left-wing voters frustrated by Biden’s supposed unwillingness to “fight” are being ridiculous. The administration put in dogged efforts to get a progressive agenda through the Senate and has issued an executive order protecting doctors who perform emergency abortions. I have literally no idea what else the far left wants out of this administration except perhaps for more pugnacious rhetoric, which would undermine the president’s signature image as a unifier.
Meanwhile, this administration has achieved genuine successes. The Biden team presided over a remarkably successful vaccine roll-out, which has protected tens of millions of Americans from the dangers of COVID-19. On the legislative front, the Biden years have seen breakthroughs on issues (many of them of deep concern to progressives) that have flummoxed Congress for years. Multiple presidents tried to get an infrastructure bill passed as a signature accomplishment; Biden got one. Mass shooting after mass shooting have scarred the country for decades, but at long last President Biden signed a gun-safety bill that almost no one thought would pass. These bills each received at least ten Republican votes.
So Joe Biden has accomplished more than he gets credit for, and received too much blame for crises that he could not have realistically done anything about. That’s something to keep in mind as the country goes to vote this November.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.