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A State of Disunion: Biden’s Move Towards Centralism II



One Year in Office



Judging from a more superficial level by looking only at approval ratings, one would think that Biden follows a general trend, yet slightly more accelerated, that following election, approval rating falls by around somewhere in the region of 5%–10%. This may be explained, for the most part, by observation of a generally lackluster first year, bar one or two exceptions.


As opposed to his predecessor who seem to make numerous controversial statements a week, Biden seems to follow a more diplomatic approach, weighing his options fairly carefully (sometimes too much so) and discussing outcomes with other members of his party. This makes his time in office, on the most part, slow running where at times the public can feel more detached from decisions, due to an expectation that had arisen out of the twitter stream we had seen previously.


On domestic policy, Biden had focused mainly on recovering the nation from COVID, which tied into his initial vision for building America’s domestic market back up again. Whilst we are now hopefully seeing the success of COVID policies, for a short time, it looked as though Biden was going back on his July 4th message of victory when freedoms were curbed due to an infection resurgence following the Omicron variant’s arrival. For the most part however, many domestic analysts have looked past policies surrounding COVID, instead looking at Bidens lack of new announcements following the shooting down of the ‘Build Back Better’ bill in the Senate; for this reason, many argue, whilst Biden made some subtle adjustments to aid Americans, this was more in line with the current trend of governments worldwide in 2021. There was nothing remarkable in Biden’s domestic policy for 2021.


When looking at foreign policy, on the front of climate change, Biden made a quick move to rejoin the Paris agreement and promised alongside China to reduce emissions following the COP26 conference, in line with the trend of democratic views towards the issues. Looking elsewhere to military: the most notable moment of Biden’s 2021 presidency was the Afghan withdrawal – this was one of the most targeted actions by both left and right activists and saw universal condemnation of its execution, correlating with around a 4% drop in approval ratings. In a way, the withdrawal was a lose–lose scenario: the decision to withdraw was not made by Biden, and therefore he was simply continuing previous policy – had he cancelled the withdrawal, it would have angered the left, so he remained on course, yet by doing so angered the right even more.



State of the Union and Looking Forward


The circumstances surrounding the State of the Union this year, have somewhat played into Biden’s hand, yet these conditions are of an upsetting and frightening nature; just one week before Biden’s speech, Russia launched an unprovoked attack on its western Neighbour Ukraine. This allowed for a show of unity and strength from both parties, something less common in this day and age, drawing a moment of solidarity and rightly so. The situation provides a possible opportunity for Biden, a Transatlantic policy veteran, to reunify the nation for the mission of defending western democracy, yet this does not mean all his problems are over, and even means new ones have arisen.


So far, 2022 has seen the continuation of a spike of inflation, now reaching 7.5%, following intense handing out of stimulus packages during COVID. American now must focus on controlling it, yet rising oil prices and overall price forecasting suggest that the current situation is going to get worse before it gets better.


There was a noticeable lack of democratic policies, and when mentioned, were briefly overlooked – this was in line with the general sense of a focus on more centralist policies throughout such stating that it is necessary to “fund the police,” drawing applause from both halves of the chamber, as well as calling for a joint approach from congress on combating the opioid crisis, working to help people defeat mental illness, supporting veterans and ending cancer.


Biden has broken his domestic economic agenda into smaller parts following the failure of his all-encompassing plans failed to pass last year. Whether these get through will be a matter of unified approach on the democratic side and perhaps a need for some Republicans to support the position as well. Biden will see that he needs to have some support of the Republicans going into the midterms where the democrats will most likely lose control of the Senate and perhaps even the house.


If Biden is wanting to stay relevant and try his best to push forward Democratic agenda, he must reach a compromise with his counterparts and perhaps even offer concessions – Biden must work towards centralism which he has indicated he will be doing in his State of the Union address – whether this plays out for him is another question; the second half of his current term may turn out to be even more lackluster and unrevolutionary as his first.


Glossary

Approval Ratings – Percentage of those who support a particular policy/politician, determined by polling

Senate – The upper chamber of Congress, smaller body

Transatlantic Policy – Brining light to the strain the key pillars of western democracy are under

Inflation – The rate of increase in prices over a given period of time

Opioid Crisis – The misuse and addiction to prescribed drugs in the US

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