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The failures of President Joe Biden’s first year in office are obvious to all. Inflation is raging. COVID is raging. Crime is spiking in some big cities. The U.S.-Mexico border is a mess. The American withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mess. And with it all, the president and his party are obsessed, most of all, with passing a voting rules bill that would help ensure their future election by federalizing the voting system along lines favorable to Democrats.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Democrats, and the president, are spending too much time focusing on issues that are not top voter concerns. That has created a huge opportunity for Republicans. A recent Fox News poll, for example, found the GOP with big leads when voters were asked which party would do a better job handling the economy. The GOP also led on the same question on the issue of crime. And national security. And border security.
And Senate Democrats recently tied themselves into knots debating (and losing) a vote on the future of the legislative filibuster. What is a voter deeply worried about inflation supposed to think about that?
As President Biden approached his first anniversary in office recently, there was much talk of some sort of “reset” or “reboot” or “restart” for his flailing administration. But it turns out it’s just talk. As he pieces together an approach to governing in Year Two, Joe Biden is still Joe Biden. He’s not really planning to do anything differently.
Biden said so himself at his recent news conference. After pronouncing himself “satisfied” with his team’s performance in the first year, Biden said, “There’s three things I’m going to do differently” in the next year. The remarkable thing is that none of those three things was substantive. None involved Biden actually changing course from his unsuccessful first year.
And none will make a difference to voters worried about inflation, crime, education, COVID or any other issue of the day.
The first change Biden listed was: “I’m going to get out of this place more often.” In the coming year, he said, he will travel more around the country and talk to voters. “I’m going to make the case of what we’ve already done,” Biden said, and try to use his record to build support for future action.
Biden’s second change was that he will be “seeking more advice of experts outside, from academia to editorial writers to think tanks.” He specifically mentioned his meeting, early in his term, with presidential historians who told him he had the opportunity to pass sprawling, life-changing legislation like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was terrible advice. Now Biden wants more of it.
Biden’s third change was that he’s going to campaign a lot for Democrats in the midterm elections. “We’re going to be raising a lot of money,” Biden said.
So those are Biden’s big three changes — all designed to not change much of anything.
It is common for struggling presidents to believe their falling popularity reflects a communications problem — that is, they have failed to tell the American people what a great job they are doing. Rarely does a president look in the mirror and admit that he’s not doing a good job. Indeed, one thing Biden did not say at his news conference was this: I’m going to do a better job. He believes he has a communications problem, just as presidents past did as they slipped down the polls.
So don’t look for anything different from the White House in 2022. Remember when some Republicans wished President Donald Trump could change, even just a little bit? Could he smooth off some of his rough edges and be less combative? The answer was no; Trump is who he is. The same is true for Biden. At this stage in his life, don’t look for him to change.