The economy and the job market are experiencing strong growth, and foreign policy is on the right track, but the president is spurned by the public. Why?
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has oscillated between 40% and 42% since last summer. It’s very bad. It is just as bad as it was for his predecessor at nearly his best, which is no small thing.
Two other presidents suffered a similar tumble in public opinion. Jimmy Carter never recovered. During the same period, Ronald Reagan was at the same point in the spring of his second term, but he climbed back. Biden can afford to hope, but nothing is guaranteed.
Biden Is Doing His Job
Biden’s defenders are not wrong to highlight his successes. He has restored dignity to the presidency, which is no small thing. Gross domestic product growth and employment numbers have been spectacular since he took office. He has set in motion a historic infrastructure program where his predecessor failed miserably. His record on judicial appointments is impressive, including his nomination of the first African American woman to the Supreme Court.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan was costly for Biden, but a seamless pullout was impossible. Since then, he has succeeded at reestablishing America’s international leadership, which was damaged by Donald Trump, notably within the NATO alliance. (By the way, it is laughable and intellectually dishonest to claim that Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if Trump were in office.)
Yet, Biden’s approval ratings have not taken off.
Clearly, some 30% of voters who have converted to Trumpism or are addicted to Fox News or Newsmax would not support Biden if their lives depended on it. For the rest, the main concern is the level of inflation, unprecedented in recent history. Even if Biden has little to do with it, he is paying the price.
That’s not all. The voting public is also worried about the deteriorating social climate, rising crime and the enduring mess in American immigration policy — all preexisting conditions Republicans know how to target and use to their advantage. And, despite the laudable efforts of the Biden administration to help Ukraine overcome the Russian invasion without dragging the United States into the spiral of global conflict, the worldwide insecurity fed by this crisis is not helping the president.
At the same time, Republicans and their disinformation networks are again mobilizing the conservative electorate by waving the specter of wokeness and pressing all the culture war buttons. True to form, the Democrats are busy tearing each other apart and blaming Biden for the do-nothing Congress, where Republicans make up a solid bloc of opposition to everything.
The Storm before the Calm
From now until November, Washington will be paralyzed. Since the centrist Democrats in Congress will take no risks to help an unpopular president, Biden and his party will have a hard time improving on their legislative record. Barring an unforeseen shift, Congress seems to be lost in advance for them.
For Biden, things will worsen as long as he is compared with an unattainable ideal as opposed to the known disaster that choosing Trump would be. Still, in the longer term, the expected hardening of Republicans, and the probable nomination of Trump as party leader, should facilitate a rise for Biden, unless the economy takes a dive.