From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Biden’s road back: Asking Republicans ‘What are they for?’”:
With the president’s approval ratings languishing, the first anniversary of his inauguration has turned into a Rorschach test for partisans and commentators. Advice on how to turn his presidency around bears an uncanny resemblance to the preexisting views of those offering their counsel….With 6.2 million jobs created on his watch, the unemployment rate is at 3.9 percent, far lower than anyone anticipated when he took office. Gross domestic product is up and workers have more bargaining power than they’ve enjoyed in decades.” Further, “Nearly 210 million Americans are fully vaccinated, as Biden noted, through more than a half-billion shots. With very narrow congressional majorities, Biden secured his $1.9 trillion economic relief package and a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. It’s a good record. The problem is that much of this occurred in the first part of Biden’s opening year. His approval ratings then, a healthy 50 percent or better,, reflected this.”
Dionne notes some of the reasons for the decline in Biden’s approval figures, and writes, “He needs to focus incessantly on the virus and inflation — twin challenges that are top of mind for most Americans. Biden clearly knows this, which is why he spoke at length on Wednesday about how his administration has made testing widely available through an easy-to-use website and is boosting access to high-quality N95 masks. Going forward, he needs to settle on a strategy that reaches toward as much normality as is consistent with the virus threat, and he needs to put an end to confusing messaging from various parts of the government. Neither will be easy….On inflation, he needs highly visible efforts to unsnarl the supply chain. One idea: Create a task force on these issues. Possible members: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Have them report publicly every week on concrete steps the administration is taking to fix the problems.
But as progressives insist, Biden also needs to resolve the core contradiction of his presidency — between his longing to be the great unifier and his desire to do big things Republicans were bound to oppose. Not, mind you, radical things. Simply helping Americans on health care, child care, education and relief for our ailing planet….And on the biggest struggle of this generation, the battle for voting rights and democracy, Trumpified Republicans are plainly committed to giving the states they run free rein to suppress votes and subvert elections….Democrats need to enact whatever they can of the Build Back Better legislation and then move on to passing pieces of what’s left individually, if only to force the question Biden asked of Republicans at his news conference: “What are they for?” And whatever happens the next few days on voting rights, they cannot walk away from the struggle — in Washington or in the states.”
Dionne concludes, “Biden’s task is to combine effective, visible engagement on the front-burner problems with a determined effort to raise the stakes in our politics. Americans need to come to terms with the radicalism of the Republican Party and its attacks on our democracy. If the president can make progress on the first imperative, he’ll earn the nation’s attention on the second.”