Gratitude is not a political category. US President Joe Biden also had to learn this. The almost 80-year-old Democrat actually earned his party’s lifelong respect when he decided in spring 2019 to return to politics to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected.
Biden believed he was more likely than anyone in his party to defeat the right-wing populist with his countervailing middle course and promise to heal America—and he was right. Only: Winning an election is one thing. Governing successfully is another.
A year and a half later, Biden’s reputation is in free fall. According to a survey by the New York Times and Siena College, even two-thirds of his own party are against a renewed candidacy for their president in two years. There is no longer any talk of his reform plans becoming a second Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson.
Biden set an impressive pace at the beginning of his term in office, launched billions in Covid aid and a gigantic infrastructure package. But his “Build Back Better” plan, designed to modernize America and make it more socially just, is stuck in Congress — not only because of the stubborn Republicans, but also because of his own party. In addition, the division in the country has deepened.
Of course, it’s not Biden’s fault that large sections of the Republican Party refuse to break free of their ex-president’s grip and prefer to follow Donald Trump’s democracy-destroying course. Nor can he help a pandemic that is now in its third year and disrupting the global economy. Or Russia’s criminal war of aggression in Ukraine, which is endangering global energy supplies and putting Biden’s foreign policy to the test.
If he fails, it will also be because of the excessive expectations placed on a US president in the current situation. However, these were fueled not least by himself to make it clear what the fateful 2020 election was about: the future of US democracy and the West as a whole and saving the world from the pandemic and climate crisis.
In the summer of 2022, the combination of dissatisfaction with the Biden government and real concerns about the future is extremely dangerous for the Democratic Party. It can be observed in every corner of the country and in all social classes: according to the survey, more than three quarters of all registered voters believe that the United States is moving in the wrong direction. Only 13 percent are convinced that the course they have taken is the right one.
With these values, it is hard to imagine that Biden can seek a second term. Apparently he is considering this himself, especially in the event that Trump actually runs again. After all, he’s already beaten him once. But the situation would be completely different.
The same applies to his party, however, that they should avoid public disputes about who will start the race in 2024. Because one reason for the success in 2020 was the unity of the party, Biden’s ability to bring together the largest possible coalition. Majorities in the US are so narrow that a divided party runs the risk of losing.
Incidentally, this also applies to the Republicans: If significant parts of the party were to openly oppose Trump while others stand by him, the chances that the next President in the White House will also be a Democrat would increase. However, there is currently little to suggest that his name is Joe Biden again. He would therefore be well advised to listen to the calls for an alternative. It could be his last service to his party – and thus also to his country.