During the 2020 presidential campaign, we were promised that Joe Biden would be – and be able to do – a lot of things. We were told that, under Biden, America would reemerge on to the world stage, regaining the trust of our allies, and return to a leadership position on a whole range of issues, from climate change to nonproliferation to trade. Supposedly, if Joe Biden got elected, the world would at least respect us again – even those countries that hated us.

Let’s check in on that theory, shall we? While the administration was able to spearhead a global agreement on climate change at the conference in Glasgow, many scientists say it’s not nearly enough, even if it is progress. Moreover, for the United States to enact its goals under the agreement, they’ll need to pass actual legislation – and the prospect for that seems dim at the moment. If Democrats don’t get something done legislatively on climate change soon – that is, almost immediately – it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to get anything done legislatively in Biden’s first term.

Biden also pledged that the United States would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, but that’s easier said than done. If you haven’t heard of any progress in the Iran talks lately, that’s because basically there hasn’t been any. Just as with domestic legislative priorities, they’re working on a ticking clock to restart the nuclear deal, because key provisions of the deal have rapidly approaching expiration dates. Similarly, the new administration hasn’t made any significant progress in any trade talks with other countries, nor have they rolled back the prior administration’s trade limitations as much as some hoped.

Remember how, during the campaign, Biden promised that he would be able to bring people together and get things done in Congress? Supposedly his years of experience as a senator and friendships with people on both would allow him to bring bipartisanship back. So far, that hasn’t held up, either. While Biden was able to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal together, it didn’t exactly bring everyone together: Most Republicans voted against the bill in both the House and the Senate. His stimulus package was even more partisan, failing to earn a single Republican vote in either chamber – even Maine Democrat Jared Golden voted against it in the House. That plan was supposed to save the economy, but instead now inflation is running rampant, and the White House doesn’t really seem to have any plan to deal with that.

Indeed, not only can Joe Biden not garner much Republican support for his proposals, he can’t even keep his own party united. After paring down first the stimulus act, and then his Build Back Better plan to earn the support of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, Manchin announced last weekend that he couldn’t support Build Back Better. It caught both the White House and Democratic leadership by surprise (sending them into full recrimination and damage-control mode), even though it shouldn’t have. Manchin has always been concerned about the overall cost of the legislation and the short expiration dates of many of its provisions; the recent rise in inflation has only heightened those concerns. Much of the administration’s plan to fight climate change is embedded within Build Back Better, imperiling action on that front as well.

It’s not just that Biden and his administration misread the concerns of a single U.S. senator, either, but also that they misread the moment. When Americans gave Democrats the White House and a narrow congressional majority, they weren’t giving them a license for bold, sweeping change of the sort that progressives envision. That was the route the Biden administration chose, though, reasoning that they had to act while they had the majority – no matter how narrow it was. That’s why Biden has largely set aside his campaign pledge to work with Republicans – but the problem with that is it gives enormous sway to a single U.S. senator.

Now, Biden is still in his first year in the Oval Office, so there’s time to right the ship. He may yet find a way to pass some provisions of Build Back Better, and then he’ll at least be able to point to  that as an accomplishment on something this year besides the infrastructure bill.

For the moment, however, this administration is falling far short on many expectations, and they don’t have much time to regain ground and remind Americans of why they voted for Joe Biden in the first place.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @jimfossel


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