When people cast a vote for president, they are hoping – sometimes against hope – that the person they have picked will do things to make their lives better.
It’s the most basic expectation that voters have of a politician: I voted for you … now go do what you said you would do.
So, when voters feel as though the politician for whom they voted isn’t delivering on what was promised – or isn’t doing much of anything – that’s when things get really dicey for the politician.
Which brings me to President Joe Biden and this quote from a Washington Post story detailing the mounting frustration swirling around him – particularly in the Black community, one of the pillars of the Democratic base:
“I think the frustration is at an all-time high, and Biden can’t go to Georgia or any other Black state in the South and say, ‘This is what we delivered in 2021.”
That’s W. Mondale Robinson, who runs the Black Male Voter Project out of Georgia. And while Robinson is talking about Black voters in particular, it’s a sentiment that appears to be growing among the broader electorate toward Biden too.
In a Quinnipiac University national poll earlier this month, a majority of Americans – 54% – said that Biden had not been competent in running the government. That finding mirrored the 53% who disapproved of the job Biden was doing. (Four in 10 voters approved of how Biden was handling the presidency.)
It’s not hard to figure out why Biden is languishing. Just 41% of voters approve of how Biden has handled the economy. Just 39% approve of his handling of taxes. And a meager 26% like what he has done on the issue of immigration.
Those numbers closely correlate to the deciding lack of action on what people perceive to be the major issues facing the country.
Consider that, at the moment, the Biden administration is at an impasse with Democrats in Congress over the bulk of its domestic agenda: A $1 trillion “hard” infrastructure plan and a larger “soft” social safety net measure that could cost upward of $3 trillion.
The last few months have been consumed with a battle between liberals and moderates within the Democratic Party over which of those bills should be a priority and how much each of them should cost. To the consternation of many moderates (and even some liberals), Biden has been unwilling to put his foot down on either side of the debate – choosing instead to offer vague assertions that everything will, in the end, work out.
The problem for Biden and his party is that voters – of all political leanings – know that Democrats are in charge of everything in Washington right now. And fair or not, they expect that control to mean results – things getting done that Biden said he would get done.
Aside from a coronavirus stimulus bill passed early in his term, there’s precious little for Biden to show for his time in office.
As the Post notes, liberals are disappointed that Biden hasn’t pushed harder for a $15 minimum wage and that he appears to be unwilling to call for the elimination of the legislative filibuster. Moderates within the party can’t believe that Biden didn’t lean more heavily on House and Senate leadership to get the “hard” infrastructure bill passed – and seems to still not have a plan on how to get liberals on board to vote for the bill.
All of it looks bad. It looks as though, even with his party in control of everything, Biden can’t make good on his promises to the public.
(Sidebar: Democrats are far less in control of Washington than it might seem to the average observer; narrow majorities in the House and Senate coupled with the existence of the legislative filibuster tie the party’s hands more often than not.)
But what’s clear is this: Democratic waffling about what to pass – if anything – of Biden’s agenda badly handicaps their chances of holding on to the majority that they barely cling to at the moment. In politics, doing nothing – when voters expect you to do, well, something, is a recipe for political disaster.