Governing and elections aren’t perfectly symbiotic. How much legislation you pass through Congress and sign as President has very little to do with your re-election, while history tells us your unemployment rate, ability to not raise taxes on most people, and global events beyond your control have a lot to do with it. Jimmy Carter did a lot of innovative things as President, but was undone by lines at the gasoline pump, hostages in Iran, and inflation. High gas prices and inflation may very well do the same to Joe Biden.
With that said, it’s hard to argue Joe Biden isn’t achieving things or that his White House has nothing to sell to a restless public. In his Administration, the following acts have reached his desk, or are about to:
- American Rescue Plan of 2021– The major Covid recovery bill signed in 2021, valued at $1.9 trillion that mostly went to money for small businesses, vaccines, and other areas impacted by the disease.
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021– This $1 trillion, bipartisan bill provided money for highways, broadband, mass transit, and much more.
- Protect Our Kids Act of 2022– The most significant national gun safety bill to pass since the opening two years of Bill Clinton’s Presidency, done so on a bipartisan basis.
- The appointment of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson– approved on a bipartisan basis, Judge Brown Jackson became the first Black Woman on the bench.
- CHIPS and Science Act of 2022– This bipartisan bill will make cars, household appliances, and computers cheaper, and was approved on a bipartisan basis. This will also help our national security agencies meet their technological needs, domestically.
- PACT Act of 2022– This is the “burn pit” bill that was held up by Ted Cruz and other Republican Senators. This will help veterans receive the care they were promised.
- And finally, The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022– The 2022 Reconciliation Bill would make record investments in fighting climate change, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and lowering the deficit over the next decade.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were pretty effective Presidents from the Democratic side, and both oversaw very good economic outcomes in their tenure, but neither accomplished this much in their first two years. Action on infrastructure unmatched since Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, the most important gun bill since 1994, tens of millions of vaccines administered, a major climate bill, a historic Supreme Court judge, major action for veterans and technological industries, and money to save millions of small businesses in the first two years. No, it isn’t a perfect first two years, and certainly Democratic frustration with the pace on Capitol Hill, not to mention with the Supreme Court, is warranted. It’s worth noting though that Biden’s peers on getting things done in his first two years are both known by their three initials, LBJ and FDR. Part of the promise of Biden in the 2020 campaign was that he would actually get things done. Things have certainly been done.
I’ll close how I opened though, being good at passing legislation is not a sign that an incumbent President will be good at winning re-election, and I certainly think the Biden White House has had messaging issues the first two years. Like Obama and Clinton before him, his communications team set the expectation that the mere arrival of this President would mark the beginning of better days ahead, and that was never realistic. Everything from the inflation and gas prices to the empowerment of the least progressive forces in the Senate Democratic Caucus was absolutely predictable and should have been baked into the expectations the team set. There is also the bigger problem- continual messaging that doesn’t nearly celebrate the achievements of this White House enough, and allows the media to spin victories into defeats reigned supreme in the first two years. The achievements of this President are historic. The inflation and growing pains of his administration are all cyclical and to be expected coming out of a predecessor who thrived on creating chaos. The team around the President needs to do a better job of framing his results within the paradigm that is reality, and stop trying to create the utopia that some of these folks (many who weren’t Biden people to begin with) want to give to the country. If they can do that, Joe Biden will get the second inaugural, with a big crowd this time, that he deserves.