The current president completes one year in office amid crises and the strengthening of Donald Trump.
It is unusual for a president elected by a massive popular vote to end the first year of his term with major disapproval among citizens. Much less so in a stable democracy like the United States.
Since the administration of Harry Truman (1945-53), when the popularity of U.S. presidents began to be measured, the phenomenon has only occurred twice: with Donald Trump (2017-21) and now with his successor, Joe Biden.
The early manifestation of unpopularity, when one considers only the two most recent presidents, is perhaps not a coincidence. It may be the case that there is now a much more difficult context for the exercise of the American presidency.
Despite these structural hypotheses, the Biden administration completes its first year facing simultaneous crises.
Controlling the pandemic, one of his most significant promises in the 2020 campaign, wound up being undermined by a considerable segment of citizens who refuse to take the vaccine.
Despite having started vaccinating earlier than most countries and having doses in abundance, the U.S. barely managed to protect 60% of its population. Brazil, which started late and dealt with a shortage of vaccines, is approaching 70%.
Biden’s plan to encourage vaccination within the largest companies in the country was blocked in the Supreme Court. Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, the records are just under 2,000 deaths a day.
In the economy, Biden is putting forward his biggest move: a $2 trillion investment plan in infrastructure, social equity and environmental sustainability — held back in Congress by disagreements within his party.
Meanwhile, consumer inflation hit 7% in 2021, a rise in the cost of living not seen in the United States in four decades. Despite the Federal Reserve’s promise of a credit-tightening cycle, whether there will be a drop in prices is uncertain.
As if domestic issues were not enough, Biden still has to deal with the challenge of working out geopolitical alignments with his European partners while facing increasingly likely Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
The prospect for Democrats heading into the midterm elections in November is not good. It will not be surprising if a Republican wave led by Trump takes House and Senate majorities from the Democrats.
Defeated just over a year ago, the former president, with his authoritarian, populist approach, has recovered and is lurking. The example of the U.S. shows that governing well is as important as defeating authoritarianism at the polls, in order to prevent its opportunities for strengthening and returning.