‘Joe Biden owes us’: How a struggling administration can win back voters

“Why is Biden talking about Trump?” Sayed, a Lyft driver, asked me last week in Boston. “Why doesn’t he talk about what’s happening today?” That people can’t feed their families. That my kids aren’t learning anything in school because they have so many sick teachers right now.

On the first anniversary of Joe Biden taking office, there is a strange sense of political paralysis. As Omicron sweeps across the United States, with nearly one million daily cases and two thousand daily deaths, the administration fails, even rhetorically, to connect with the struggles many people are experiencing.

A few weeks ago, for example, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, mocked the idea that the federal government should deliver home tests to people (a position on which the administration has since U-turn); while Vice President Kamala Harris told people to “googlewhere to find a test when asked about shortages. Biden himself, meanwhile, was barely questioned by the press – holding fewer press conferences in his first year than any other president in the last 40 years.

But the problems are much deeper than the Omicron wave or communication problems.

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Biden has laid out a bold agenda, promising to pass major climate legislation, grant the vote and cancel some student debt. However, a year later, with the likely failure of the Democrats’ signature Infrastructure and right to vote legislation, he alienated many political allies and central constituencies who rallied to get him elected.

Bernie Sanders – who had been a vocal ally of the administration last year – publicly claims the party has turned its back on the working class.

Query of Gallup says the Democrats started 2021 with a nine-point advantage. In the fourth quarter of 2021, that reversed, with the Republicans holding a five-point advantage.

Polls of young Americans (aged 18-29) are even more striking. Biden currently has 46% approval rate, having lost 13 points since the beginning of the administration, according to Harvard Kennedy School. Some 52% of young people in the United States believe that the country’s democracy is “struggling” or a “failing democracy”.

This palpable frustration comes from many people I spoke with across the country this week.

Last week, after Biden’s trip to Atlanta, I spoke to Stephanie Ali, policy director of the New Georgia Project Action Fund. “When Biden was showing up, there was a lot of talk about being able to work with us and having experience in Senate rules and getting deals — and that just didn’t materialize,” he said. she declared. The New Georgia Project Action Fund, Black Voters Matter as well as several other civil rights groups, boycotted the President’s visit.

“Working class people, disproportionately black and brown, delivered the fucking election to Joe Biden, he actually owes us,” said Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker and co-founder of The Debt Collective. , which advocates for the cancellation of student debt. , when we spoke last week.

Meanwhile, Republicans are mobilizing effectively and Tightening on the right to vote in state legislatures across the country. And the Democrats now appear doomed to lose control of Congress by the November midterms of this year.

After a very brief honeymoon period, can the administration turn the tide to avoid those midterm losses and a Republican victory in 2024? It’s possible, but as I’ve heard, Biden really needs to start delivering — even without Congress.

Retracing the road to nowhere

Biden has promised to deliver trillions to invest in green energy and jobs, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, cancel a minimum of $10,000 in student debt, enact the right to vote, lower prices prescription drugs and more. He wasn’t Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren — but for the former vice president and centrist senator from Delaware — that was pretty impressive.

In the months following Biden’s election, Democrats swiftly passed the $1.9 billion US bailout package, which handed out one-time $1,400 checks to most Americans, along with funding for schools, municipalities and small business loans. The plan also reduced child poverty rates by nearly 30%, with the child tax credit whereby 36 million households received monthly cash payments (up to $300 per child under six and $250 for children under 18). However, these programs now all have essentially dried up.

Congress also passed the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package, which includes funding for roads, bridges and water pipes. (However, these include does little to reduce the production of fossil fuels.)

And the administration has made significant progress thanks to the power of the executive. Biden has withdrawn his troops from Afghanistan (but is now imposing severe punishments in the country, leading to one of the worst in the world humanitarian crises), considerably limit drone strikes overseas and appointed Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission, which spearheads anti-monopoly actions.

Yet the bulk of Biden’s political capital last year went into passing — along the thinnest of party lines — the Build Back Better package, which included many progressive policy elements such as investments and significant climate incentives, an extension of the child tax credit, prescription drug pricing reform and paid vacations.

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