One year since Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump’s troublesome presidency, American opinion, judging by waning approval ratings, is not exactly overflowing with enthusiasm. The Democratic president, called upon to reverse the populist Trump administration and fix a country fractured by polarization, does not seem to be fulfilling his mission. And it is common knowledge that what a president fails to achieve during his early days in office only becomes more difficult to do later.
It is clear that Biden has tried to invoke the revanchist ambitions of the most radical members of his party, while at the same time plunging into a social rescue plan in response to the devastating impact of the pandemic. But his legislative agenda is still in its early stages. He has not managed to advance in-depth reform, and has not even been able to persuade his fellow citizens that it is necessary to reach much higher vaccination rates. Not to mention the embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan, an event that was traumatic and poorly justified as a matter of security. There is nothing as obviously symbolic of decline as relinquishing the exercise of democratic hegemony, which the United States, as the remaining leading power, has fully exercised since the end of World War II. On the contrary, Trump’s successor has hardly tried to distance himself from the isolationist legacy left by the former Republican president, jeopardizing the Atlantic alliance and joint defense agreement with European nations that gives meaning to NATO.
In the next midterm elections in Virginia, Biden will face a real plebiscite. And there are numerous signs that already point to an early failure, something that further damage his image. He is not helped by his listless demeanor — his nap at the climate summit being only one example that was quickly exploited by his detractors — or by how disappointing his second in command, Vice President Kamala Harris, is turning out to be. She rose as quickly as she disappeared from the scene.
In any case, Biden’s first term has only just begun. He has time to design the political legacy by which he wants to be remembered. Trumpism is by no means an exhausted movement, despite the fact that it went out with a bang after the shameful attack on the Capitol. That movement is waiting for the moment to return to power. Biden created reasonable expectations that helped him win. He has to act as soon as possible to live up to the hope people have placed in him.