President Biden at the COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo: Eric Haynes)
by Aria Balador, staff writer
When Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump last November in the 2020 presidential election, many in the country, myself included, sighed in relief. Unfortunately, all these months later Biden is experiencing the lowest approval rating of his presidency so far, around 43 percent, and losing ground among the minorities and independents that lifted him to the presidency. How did everything go wrong?
Just a few months ago, Biden’s approval was in the low 50s. Vaccine distribution was increasing, foreign policy achievements, such as the aspects of rejoining the Iran nuclear deal and ending the Yemen war, were deemed possible, and the goal of passing progressive legislation appeared to be achievable, even probable; the nation was cautiously optimistic.
The Afghanistan withdrawal changed the optimism.
While Biden’s approval rating held relatively constant before the withdrawal, Afghanistan dealt a major blow to his support. In just a month, his approval had gone from 51 percent to 46 percent.
One can’t blame the public’s uneasiness either; the media constantly stressed the brutality of the Taliban and the helplessness of our Afghan allies. Eventually, the chaos behind Afghanistan in the media passed. However, Biden’s approval stayed the same.
Attention was diverted to other problems that seem to have kept his approval ratings low: inflation and high coronavirus rates. Even Biden’s progressive and popular agenda was restricted by the two most conservative senate democrats, Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, and the president has been claimed to be too passive in the face of their obstruction. Foreign policy hopes have also been dim, as despite some initially expected, the Iran deal has yet to be rejoined, several drone strikes in Syria and Afghanistan have occurred, and the Israel-Palestine conflict remains as messy as ever.
This aspect has especially been worrying for me; I hoped for a foreign policy to fix the errors the Trump administration had made, yet so far no major change has occurred. Yes, we have left the Yemen war. Yes, we no longer want to completely starve Iran. Yes, we no longer want to pursue our aims above all else. However, these successes don’t make up for the inefficiency of other cases. The JCPOA, a deal that seeks to prevent Iran’s nuclear weapon program, is a perfect example of this. While the Biden administration has consistently insisted on returning to the deal, negotiations are so deadlocked between both countries that no major progress has been made, and every day Iran gets closer to a nuclear weapon–an outcome that should be avoided at all costs. Similar issues are present regarding the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, Afghanistan and other areas of the globe. Fortunately, there seems to have been recently some more ground being made geopolitically, so one can stay hopeful. Nuclear talks with Iran are set to start occurring again, along with increased cooperation with other nations to monitor global situations.
While Biden currently may be struggling, looking back at previous presidencies reveals that there still may be hope. As Susan B. Glasser of the New Yorker points out, “Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were also considered by many to be failed Presidents early on in their tenures, and saw their parties each lose their first midterm elections as a result; both went on to be among the most popular two-term Presidents of the modern era.” If Biden manages to pass his agenda, things may turn around for him. Many of his decisions are appealing to the public, accomplishing them is what’s important.
The Build Back Better plan has taken steps towards being fully implemented, having been passed by the House of Representatives on November 19th. Though slimmed down in budget and ideas from the original bill, it still offers a much-needed helpline to the American nation and awaits the decision of the Senate to be fully registered. As for the coronavirus, a new strand called “Omicron” has recently started spreading around the United States and the rest of the world, providing Biden yet another chance to impress the American people in the realm of virus response, if the unvaccinated listen, that is.
While things may be rough now, the future bears some promise of opportunity for the Biden administration. Let’s just hope he takes it.