The imminent crises facing Joe Biden
The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over in the United States. Vaccines have become widespread, and the CDC recently relaxed guidelines on masks and distancing for fully vaccinated Americans. Many Americans likely credit the Biden administration — at least in part — for the positive turn the pandemic has taken in recent weeks.
However, as Biden’s first 100 days become an increasingly distant memory for voters, there are a number of other massive, imminent crises facing the administration.
Between the multiple cyberattacks from foreign adversaries, spiking gas prices throughout the Southeast, increased inflation concerns and seemingly implacable Republican opposition to his agenda, Biden has a challenging road ahead, even in a post-COVID-19 environment.
Simply put, Joe Biden is no longer in his presidential “honeymoon phase,” and whether the president can succeed on each of these crises individually and collectively will determine whether his presidency can succeed — regardless of his apparent success managing the COVID-19 crisis.
As each of these crises come to a head, a new Ipsos poll found that nearly one-half (48 percent) of U.S. adults say things in this country are on the wrong track, while only 37 percent say things are heading in the right direction — a potentially troubling sign for the Biden administration.
Cyberattacks are a growing threat to U.S. security and daily life, and it is absolutely essential that the Biden administration addresses this crisis head on. The most recent attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which caused gas prices to jump to their highest levels in six years across parts of the East Coast, should not be considered an isolated incident.
“To put it simply, we are on the cusp of a global pandemic of a different variety, driven by greed, an avoidably vulnerable digital ecosystem, and an ever-widening criminal enterprise,” said Chris Krebs, who formerly headed the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, in a written testimony to Congress.
Many experts worry that the way in which these attacks have been handled — the payment of ransoms — will only encourage more cyberattacks. Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million of ransom in cryptocurrency.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advises against paying ransom for this exact reason: paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other criminal actors to engage in the distribution of ransomware, and/or may fund illicit activities.
Biden is also facing mounting challenges with regard to inflation and the American economy. Biden has made it clear that he is making job growth a priority, however, renewed inflation worries could pose a major political and substantive problem for the administration going forward.
On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that consumer prices rose in April by the most in any 12-month period since 2008. Republicans are already set to blame rising inflation on the Biden administration’s big government spending.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted Wednesday after the Consumer Price Index numbers were released, “Inflation was one of the dangers of the bloated partisan Covid relief bill…[and] inflation fears are growing and threaten to harm America’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”
If rising prices undermine the affordability of American goods, Republicans’ attacks on Biden’s excessive government spending will likely gain traction with voters across the country as the midterms approach. This could lead to a politically perilous situation for Democrats in 2022 and 2024.
To that end, perhaps the most considerable obstacle facing Biden going forward is the seemingly implacable Republican opposition in Congress that threatens to derail his agenda.
Biden remains focused on passing his American Jobs Plan — a massive investment in a variety of sectors of the American economy — which will be a nearly impossible sell to Republicans.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has also indicated that he will oppose any bill that goes through reconciliation as Biden’s pandemic relief bill did. To be sure, the chances of Democrats bringing in 10 Republican votes on the American Jobs Plan in its current form are close to zero — especially as Senate Minority Leader McConnell said recently that “100 percent” of his focus is on stopping the Biden administration.
With the midterms 18 months away, Biden will need to find ways to compromise with Republicans if he wants to advance his agenda. This could mean Biden breaks up his larger proposals into more palatable bills — such as a pure infrastructure bill — that actually have a chance of achieving bipartisan support.
With his first one-hundred days behind him, Biden’s ability to address these looming crises — cyberattacks, inflation and bipartisanship — will truly define whether his presidency is deemed a success or a failure.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be over, Joe Biden’s political and substantive troubles are not — not by a long-shot.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. His new book is “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”
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