Juan Williams: Biden gets no respect
The legendary standup comedian Rodney Dangerfield famously complained that he got “no respect.”
After 15 months as president delivering the most successful domestic agenda since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, President Biden is entitled to make the same complaint.
Biden gets no respect even though he has a record of success and Republicans in Congress don’t have any legislative agenda. They are content to stoke culture wars and bash Biden.
But Biden’s poll numbers are in the dumps despite the weakness of the opposition.
He is swimming against big tides of voter discontent rooted in nationwide frustration from living with a pandemic for two years.
Then there is unhappiness with inflation, anxiety over rising violent crime, and upset within his own party about the failure to stop Republicans from suppressing the minority vote.
That is a lot of discontent.
And it all collects around one man: Biden.
Midterms elections are always a referendum on the president. That’s why Biden and congressional Democrats are running against themselves, not Republicans.
Fifty-eight percent of voters expressed openness to backing an unnamed, independent candidate over Biden or former President Trump in 2024, according to a recent Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.
Forty percent of Americans now identify themselves as independent voters, according to Gallup polling. That’s more than the 28 percent who say they are Republicans or the 30 percent who say they are Democrats.
Biden’s real opponent is angst — the fear and exasperation in voters when they think about paralyzed politics at home, Russian aggression abroad and the lies flowing on social media.
The Republicans are in line to benefit simply because they are not the party in power.
Their base is composed of radical extremists. They excuse lies from their top person in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). They close their eyes to violence and to an attempted coup against the U.S. government backed by former President Trump’s loyalists.
The Washington Post’s editorial board last week noted that more than a dozen Republicans running to take control of local elections trumpet the lie that Trump really won the 2020 contest.
“If voters fail to repudiate them in November, U.S. democracy could be at risk,” the editors concluded with alarm.
With Trump supporters locked in their bubble of conspiracy theories and lies, Biden is trying to find the right message to appeal to independent voters and frustrated Democrats.
Those unhappy voters threw out Republicans — from the House majority in 2018 and the White House in 2020 – because Trump’s party made excuses for his demagoguery and chaos.
Now those same voters want to move on, and get past radical Republican grievance and culture wars. They want to move on from infighting between progressive and moderate Democrats, too — especially since these factional struggles are thwarting possible deals in Congress over climate change and child tax credits.
The president’s inability to find a message to win over these discontented voters creates the chilling prospect for Democrats of a wipeout in the November midterm elections.
According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, 53 percent of voters disapprove of Biden’s job performance while 41 percent approve.
Conventional wisdom says whenever a president is below 50 percent approval, his party is in deep trouble as voters head to the polls.
The puzzle behind these poll numbers is that if the Man from Mars landed in America today with no political preconceptions, he’d point out that compared to any real candidate — independent, Republican or Democrat — Biden’s record looks good.
Here is what the Man from Mars sees:
First, unemployment is low, and even with recent volatility, the stock market remains significantly higher than when Biden took office. Consumer credit card spending remains strong despite worries about inflation, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. Purchases of cars, major appliances and computers are going up, demonstrating economic confidence.
When it comes to the economy, Biden deserves praise above all for having kept the economy from crashing in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on.
Second, he got most of the population vaccinated. Last week, top scientists agreed the country has exited the worst of the pandemic, leaving behind large-scale hospitalizations and deaths.
Third, he got bipartisan support to fund repairs for the nation’s decrepit infrastructure.
Congressional Democrats are now in a sprint to pass more legislation to show that they are getting work done in Washington.
“We’ve got less than 200 days until the election, and American families are hurting,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” recently.
“My job right now is to light the fire of urgency. We can’t waste a single day,” Warren said in a subsequent interview with Politico. “We’re not here to fight cultural wars. We’re here to make a real difference in the lives of people who need us.”
Conservative Democrats, like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), agree. He is pushing for Congress to lower prescription drug prices.
Biden might also get help from Republicans.
A ruling from the conservative majority on the Supreme Court ending legal abortion nationwide is certain to energize the Democrats’ base and alarm suburban women by reminding them of the dangers of GOP extremism.
But right now, voters are heading into November driven mostly by discontent with all politics. And Biden is getting “no respect.”
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
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