Biden shuffles along from a summer of disappointment to a winter of troubles

The standing of President Biden amongst Independents could improve once his two signature legislations become law but here again, there is a catch

Joe Biden, gun violence bill
US administration and the White House are slowly settling down to the domestic legislative agenda and wrangling over things all too familiar on Capitol Hill

Even if the last nine months has not been all song and dance for the 46th President Joseph Biden, he pretty much had things under control and according to plan; and was vigorously going by the checklist of his legislative agenda, starting with the stimulus plan on COVID-19 that passed Congress. And then came Afghanistan.

On the one hand, it would seem that it was unfair to hammer President Biden for how it turned out on the world stage, for after all, he was only following a script laid out by his predecessor, albeit a few months late.

It was not that Biden was bringing the curtains down on the Forever Wars that sucked money and blood out of America; but the fashion in which the clumsy pullout was handled, and the continuation of a bogus argument that America was not in the business of nation-building.

And to add to this, the utter naiveté of President Biden that everything was hunky-dory with the government of Ashraf Ghani, including the “fine” Afghan military forces that eventually folded without even a shot being fired. For starters, Biden should have known that the count of 300,000 in the Afghan army was cooked up to use the payroll that the Americans were bankrolling as pocket money. And Americans have not forgotten that tens of billions of tax payers’ money was wasted in training and equipping this “fine” fighting force!


For the Biden White House, it must be comforting that Afghanistan is falling off the radar of the media — no more horrific scenes of people falling off airplane wings and engines, or stories of bodies found in undercarriages and landing gears. The administration and the White House are slowly settling down to the domestic legislative agenda and wrangling over things that are all too familiar on Capitol Hill.

Also read: Biden survives a scare but issues hardly resolved

For the time being, the hot air on raising the debt ceiling limit has subsided and taken off the table at least until December, when lawmakers will revisit it again. Now, the focus is on the $1.3 trillion Infrastructure Bill that has little trouble in the House of Representatives and the Senate; and the massive social spending legislation, for which the exact tab is yet to be confirmed. It started off with an outlay of $3.5 trillion.

Biden’s signature on the Infrastructure and Social Safety Program Bills was at one time seen as the return of Big Government, an anathema to conservatives; but one year ago, polls showed that 54 per cent of Americans wanted the government to step in and play a role.

The coronovirus pandemic and the scandalous role of the Donald Trump administration could have contributed to this perception; but in the wake of COVID-19 seemingly coming under control, the same 54 per cent is now calling for the government to step back, stressing that the government is “doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses”. Only 43 per cent are calling for the government to “do more” to solve problems.

More than anything, what should be of concern to Biden and Democrats is that if in 2020, some 56 per cent of Independent or unaffiliated voters wanted the government to do more, the latest Gallup Poll shows only 38 per cent feel that way.

Legislatively and from a short-term point of view, the Biden White House needs the Independents to clear both massive legislations; and from a political point of view, for both 2022 and 2024, the Democrats cannot do much without Independents in the House and Senate races as well as that of the Presidential showdown.

President Biden is aware that if he came away the winner in November 2020, a lot of this has to do with the 13-point advantage he had with Independent voters, the same voters that Hillary Clinton lost by a four-point margin 2016. Democrats know that holding on to the center is critical. But if a raft of polls taken between June and September are anything to go by, it is clearly a wake-up call to Biden and the Democrats: The President’s standing has dropped among Democrats and Republicans, but the figures are alarming for Independents, a drop of anywhere between 16 to 19 points.

Analysts point out that if Biden beat Trump in November 2020 by 13 points among Independent voters, his own standing in the group was a mere 6 points; the rest made up on the anti-Trump sentiments.

Pollsters now argue that President Biden is now on his own, with Independents judging him on his track record. In August, an NBC News survey showed that only 32 per cent of Independents are leaning towards Democrats or Republicans, and 38 per cent of “pure” Independents maintained that Biden had accomplished a “great or fair deal” in office; as opposed to a vast majority of between 64 per cent and 59 per cent of those Independents who lean or are “pure” saying that the Democratic President has done only “some to very little” in office.

Also read: Biden is slipping and democrats should be worried of political Tsunami

One perception is that the standing of President Biden amongst Independents could improve once his two signature legislations become law. Here again there is a catch: independent voters are divided on the two bills, favouring infrastructure spending by a 57 per cent to 27 per cent margin; but split on a 48 per cent to 37 per cent over the social programmes spending.

In fact, President Biden has more trouble with Independents and Progressives within his own party; the latest coming out of The New York Times that the Biden White House has gone back to the drawing board on climate change, as Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who is from a coal rich state is opposed to replacing coal and gas fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energies. And Senator Manchin’s vote is absolutely needed to get past any tie-breaker!

The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington DC for about 15 years
covering North America and the United Nations

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