The Inherent Weakness of the Joe Biden Presidency
This past month has been one of Joe Biden’s most successful as president. He passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a pared-down version of the Build Back Better package that comprised much of his agenda, as well as a semiconductor production bill and gun reform legislation. He brought Sweden and Finland into NATO and killed the leader of Al-Qaeda. Biden even got credit in some quarters for tapping into the nation’s oil reserves to bring down gas prices, a questionable plaudit if not for the months of criticism he had received earlier for prices rising as high as they did.
A handful of legislative and economic successes should not disguise the considerable hole that Biden has found himself in. His approval rating remains an abysmal 39.6 percent. Biden’s basic competency is questioned by members of both parties on a regular basis. There is endless speculation about if he is too old for the job and whether or not he will run for a second term. Biden’s presidency has always been weighed down. But by what?
Donald Trump was always able to count on fervent supporters in the farthest right-leaning corners of the party. This group remained wildly vocal in support of every action that Donald Trump took. They cheered on his inane statements and his daily attempts to anger liberals. Far-right pundits and social media accounts constantly lied and spun for their president. Many of the attempts were bland, obvious, and pilloried by mainstream outlets. But they succeeded in buttressing President Trump’s support. Millions of Americans received the message that Donald Trump was perfection incarnate and that everything he did was commendable. Many of these Americans did not also hear the rebuttals.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, will never receive the unwavering support of his left wing. He ran as the centrist candidate, one who rejected some of the policies of the left and ceded that ground to Bernie Sanders. The left wing has responded to Biden in kind. It has been inherently critical of nearly every policy pursued by the Biden administration. Biden receives almost no unwavering, uncritical support. He has no army of sycophants who can bolster his every message no matter the attitude of mainstream media outlets.
The most glaring example of this approach was last year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. This withdrawal was decidedly bungled and had numerous flaws. But it was also a fulfillment of one of the left’s greatest foreign policy objectives. The left had called for withdrawal from Afghanistan since 2001 and had criticized Bush, Obama, and Trump for keeping troops in the country. Biden could have benefited from constant praise from his left wing on achieving a goal it had sought for years, despite logistical challenges and operational failures. But many on the left were either silent or critical of the withdrawal. Biden was not their candidate. Why should they support what he did, even if it was something they had wanted for twenty years?
Without support from the left, the Biden administration has had to rely on Democratic party regulars, pundits, and the mainstream media for its strength. These groups have a vested interest in not praising the Biden administration at every possible moment. Even Jennifer Rubin, arguably the most ardent Joe Biden supporter in mainstream media, criticizes the president from time to time. These pundits and commentators must keep at least a basic level of objectivity that Gateway Pundit or Breitbart have never dared to take when covering the Trump administration. As a result, the current president’s lows are lower than Trump’s, and his highs can never be as high.
One can argue whether outright propaganda in support of the president is a moral good. Honesty is a virtue, especially when it comes to coverage of the leader of the free world. But Democrats have to be aware that a president without a large base of support at the edge of their party will always have a weakness. That weakness could translate to more trouble at election time. Democrats can easily make the case that the tradeoff is worth their political integrity. But they should still be ready for the possible consequences.