The Guardian view of Joe Biden: he needs to face opponents within – and without


Powered by article titled “The Guardian view of Joe Biden: he needs to face opponents within – and without” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Sunday 16th January 2022 17.31 UTC

The US president, Joe Biden, suffered his worst day in office – so far – last Thursday. Mr Biden had begun that morning hoping to convince his party to support his push to change Senate rules to pass two voting rights bills. Even before he got a chance to make his case, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a rightwing Democrat, rejected the president’s plan. At a stroke, two key parts of Mr Biden’s agenda – racial justice and democracy – appear stalled. On the same day, the US supreme court struck down the Biden administration’s requirement for businesses to make employees either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or test weekly and wear a mask at work. The president’s pledge to lift the threat of the pandemic won’t be redeemed any time soon.

Mr Biden’s opponents paint him as a leader of drift and dwindling energy. If this view settles, then it’ll be ​​an image hard to shift. There’s little room for reassessment in politics. That is why the president must change course and have a clear-eyed view of his opponents within and without. The “moderate” wing of the Democratic party has already gutted the president’s climate plans. These Democrats, like most Republicans, depend on a donor class which wants to ​​render legislation inert that would hit corporate profits.

On the campaign trail Mr Biden said he would deal with the threat. In office he has not done so. The president faces a concerted campaign of leveraging money to protect money. Employers claimed that his “vaccine-or-test” mandate would cost billions of dollars to implement. A number of Republican-dominated states have fought its imposition. Covid-19 has killed almost a million Americans and hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients. Conservative judges share an ideological aim with the Republican party to dismantle the system – at the cost of American lives during a pandemic – which permits the federal government to repeal unfair state laws.

Mr Biden’s problem is that, on paper, the Democrats seem unassailable: controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency. But this is far from the case. Democrats were once something of a “party of state”. They controlled both the House and the Senate between 1933 and 1981, interrupted only by two brief Republican interludes. The Democrats won the presidency two-thirds of the time during this period. Today neither party perceives itself as a permanent majority or permanent minority. This helps to polarise politics as party differences cut against collaboration.

Slim majorities now make radical change. Democrats demonstrated this with Obamacare. Republicans did the same with taxes in 2017. Bernie Sanders advises the Democrats to boil down their offer to its most popular elements and hold votes to extend child tax credits, cut drug prices and raise the federal hourly minimum wage to $15. This feels right and ought to appeal to Mr Biden: putting Democrats on the right side, and Republicans on the wrong side, of public opinion before November’s midterm elections. The stakes could not be higher. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times warned: “Joe Biden better Build Better or he won’t be Back”. That might open the door to Donald Trump – or someone worse. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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