May 18, 2022 7:08 pm

Inflation, divisions and discontent: the 10 challenges that the first year of Joe Biden leaves

WASHINGTON.- Only an American president in modern times reached his first anniversary in the White House with worse approval than Joe Biden: your predecessor, Donald Trump. The unresolved problems of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic, which continues despite the vaccine, and a list of broken promises rooted the country’s frustration in the Biden administration, which carries a heavy backpack of challenges as it begins the second year of his presidency.

Biden, who has a 43% approval according to FiveThirtyEight, just above 39% that Trump had at the end of his first year, lost allies on all flanks. The Republicans, still under the domination of Trump and Trumpism, deny him everything and want to see him defeated.

Progressive Democrats believe that he has not done enough and has been lukewarm in facing inescapable battles. And the moderates think he went too far. His achievements have been overshadowed by his mistakes, his lack of effectiveness and by expectations that, as the months go by, seem unrealistic given the limits imposed by the reality of the country. Weakened, Biden faces a more difficult political future and more fronts than a year ago. These are the 10 main challenges for the North American president this year.

From the start of his presidency, Biden made it clear that his top priority was defeat the coronavirus. Celebrating Independence Day for the first time as president, Biden told the country last July that they were “closer than ever to declaring our independence” from the virus. But, half a year later, the fight continues.

the coronavirus It has already claimed more than 850,000 deaths in the United States, 250,000 more since that Biden speech. The good start of the vaccination campaign that his administration launched quickly put the country at the forefront of global immunization. However, progress stalled months later, and About a third of the country is still reluctant to get vaccinated. The White House has not been able to break that hard core.

FILE – Dozens of people line up to get tested for COVID-19 in New York’s Times Square (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

A federal mandate to force employees of large companies to be vaccinated was rejected by the conservative US Supreme Court.

This move by Biden, backed by the left, angered the right, which considered it an affront to individual liberty and interference by the US government in people’s private lives.

“I’m very disappointed. On a razor’s edge, the country has gone left. And we have seen that we are pushing to the extreme left. There are globalists, there are communists, there are socialists, I never thought this country was any of those things, it worries me,” says Raymond Kempisty, a retiree who divides his life between the states of Pennsylvania and Florida and who voted for Trump in the presidential election. of 2020, won by Biden.

The US economy has already recovered ground lost to the scourge of the coronavirus. Wall Street sets records. Unemployment dropped to 3.9% and many people quit their job because they got a better one or changed their lives. No president created as many jobs as Biden in his first year, a misleading figure – the previous fall had been deep – that the White House promotes whenever it can. But the bonanza was overshadowed by a phenomenon that caught the country off guard: inflation. In 2021, the cost of living climbed 7%, the highest rise since 1982.

A gas station in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania on Nov. 17, 2021. Americans' incomes overall have risen since the start of the pandemic, but so has inflation _ and a new survey shows many more people are feeling the pain. higher prices than wage earnings. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A gas station in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania on Nov. 17, 2021. Americans’ incomes overall have risen since the start of the pandemic, but so has inflation _ and a new survey shows many more people are feeling the pain. higher prices than wage earnings. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“I do Uber, and fuel has gone up quite a bit. Inflation is ugly, when you go to the supermarket everything is very high,” complains Julián González, 36, of the Dominican Republic, who also voted for Trump, while loading gasoline at a service station. “It is the pandemic, and all the help that the government sent. Nothing in America is free. Biden is struggling with the pandemic, and his ratings are going down,” he continues.

The Democratic president set four goals for his government: end the pandemic, get the economy back on track, attack climate change and break racial inequalities. But its main initiatives, including the project Build Back Better, which includes a strong expansion of state aid to families, were virtually frozen in Congress. Still, Biden said he will stick to his promises, an effort that has already cost him a lot of political capital, which has slipped out of his hands despite the recovery of the economy.

“It’s been tough with work, but here we go. The country is a little better, you see that more jobs are coming out, you see work,” says María Mejía, a 34-year-old Salvadoran, supervisor at a construction company in Washington, and one of the millions of people who got a job last anus. “Right now the worst thing to see is the pandemic, it is a big problem, and inflation from what I have been noticing in the news and in my purchases. When you go to the store, dairy up to two dollars more, toilet paper has gone up a lot, all, all. But that’s not Biden’s fault,” he says.

Russia threatens to invade Ukraine and test, once again, the limits of the West. For the Biden administration, China is Washington’s greatest geopolitical challenge of the 21st century. Although Biden devoted his energies to solving the country’s domestic problems, his tense relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese, Xi Jinping, they mark the pulse of his foreign policy –stained by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan– and his effectiveness in fulfilling one of his campaign promises: to demonstrate that the United States continues to be a reliable ally, an influential power, and that diplomacy can deliver results as central tool of foreign policy.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Despite the long record in foreign policy that Biden brought to the White House, he has not yet achieved achievements that seduce Americans.

The United States will host this year the Ninth Summit of the Americas, which was due to take place in 2021 but was postponed due to the pandemic. It is a meeting that takes place every three years, and the only one that brings together leaders from the entire hemisphere. Biden knows the region very well, but like his predecessors, it lacks a clear vision and policy for Latin America.

His priorities lie elsewhere, but the region still imposes two challenges on him: the growing influence of China, Washington’s global rival, and a latent migration crisis that inevitably draws the country’s attention back and forth to the Mexican border. It is an unresolved problem that Biden promised to deal with, and that, for some, may define their political future.

During his first year in office, Biden had an advantage in Washington: Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. But that control is very fragile, and everything indicates that the legislative election to be held later this year will return the Capitol to the Republican Party.

Historically, the ruling party always loses representation in the first legislative election of the incumbent president, and the majority that the Democrats have is minimal, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. If the Republicans take back Congress, Biden will only be able to govern by executive order, and the opposition will surely haunt his presidency in the same way that the Democrats cornered Trump during the last two years of his term.

One of the biggest challenges Biden has faced during his administration has been keeping Democrats together. The president has been a president pulled by the two wings of his party: the left wants him to raise his flags and throw the full weight of the White House behind his most radical initiatives, while the moderates impose limits on him and insist that a too progressive a presidency will take away the support of a fraction of the electorate that denies a revolution.

The Capitol in Washington
The Capitol in Washington

Biden has navigated that crack trying to build bridges, but the differences will accentuate as the legislative election approaches, and the Democrats try again to resolve their differences in the party primaries.

Most Republicans believe that Biden illegitimately won the presidency of the United States, according to various polls. It is a reality that Biden has had to deal with even before taking office: a fraction of the country will never accept his government, and will reject any decision he makes. The “Big Lie” about the 2020 presidential election – which Biden won with fraud – is still encouraged by Trump, who never accepted his defeat, and endorsed by Trumpism, despite the evidence against him. Biden, who promised to unite and “heal the soul” of the country, offered on the first anniversary of the assault on Capitol Hill his strongest condemnation of Trump and that attack on democracy, virtually burying any chance of unity.

Trump and Trumpism will measure their strength in the legislative elections on November 8, and an eventual opposition victory will leave both in an idyllic position to try to regain power in the 2024 elections.

Even before assuming the presidency, Biden was always surrounded by a question mark: whether he will leave the presidency after a single term, or whether he will seek re-election in 2024. At 79 years old, and with his popularity on the decline, speculation about Biden’s future has only increased.

Behind the scenes and whenever the question comes up, his allies and aides insist that Biden plans to seek another term in two years. The poor work of his vice president, Kamala Harris, and the lack of another replacement figure who can appeal to progressives and moderates like Biden encourage this scenario. But if Biden faced a heavy defeat in the legislative elections, the problems of the United States continued and the decline in his popularity deepened, doubts about his continuity would gain strength, and would become an additional problem for the White House.

“I think Biden has had a lot of bumps along the way, and I think he’s done a great job against all of those bumps. The right continues with nonsense, ”says LA NACION Ernie Marascano, owner of an antique store in Elmore, a small town in Ohio. Marascano, who voted for Biden, believes his approval rating could never be high after Trump. “He ruined the country, and if he had been reelected, the republic would have ended. Having character used to be a given in our government,” he laments.

Biden’s achievements and failures have been marked by a distinctive feature of present-day America: the crack. The country remains as polarized as it was when Biden won the presidential election or took office, and the president himself barely managed to get a glimpse of the unity he promised with his infrastructure plan, which garnered the support of a handful of Republican senators. It was one of his achievements.

In everything else, Republicans and Democrats continue to speak different languages, and bet on the policy of bending the rival. It is a toxic political environment with which Biden, who wove his political career building consensus, seems at times out of date, uncoupled. At least in words, Biden has not given up his desire to unite the country. But the country seems to be in another tune.

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