Juan Williams: Biden and Manchin are 2021’s most influential politicians

Greg Nash, Julia Nikhinson

President Biden’s approval rating is low. His party suffered a big loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race. And every pundit in D.C. is predicting doom for his party in the 2022 midterms.

So, how is Joe Biden the winner of my 2021 Politician of the Year?

He gets the title because he is the politician who in the last year had the biggest impact on national politics.

{mosads}To see why Biden deserves the honor, take a step back from the ledge of doom. Then look beyond the tired conventional wisdom.

Begin by asking yourself a simple, revealing question:

Is Biden on track to be one of the most consequential presidents in American history?

The answer is yes, absolutely.

Here are the facts.

First, Biden put the historic COVID-19 pandemic largely in the rearview mirror by getting most Americans vaccinated. And he did it despite Republicans undercutting him by making vaccinations, mask-wearing and social distancing into polarizing political fights.

Second, Biden passed a massive relief package that kept the economy afloat through the past year’s dire days.

Yes, people are now worried about inflation.

Again, look beyond the conventional wisdom.

The fact is the nation’s economic foundation is strong, thanks to high consumer spending and wages going up. Savings are up, child poverty is down and the stock market has hit new highs more than fifty times during Biden’s first year in office.

Third, Biden passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill, the most expansive such piece of legislation in years.

Oh, and he stepped up to keep his campaign promise to end the longest war in American history. The war in Afghanistan bled the country of treasure and American soldiers’ lives.

Presidents Trump, Obama, and Bush all knew it was long past time to get out of Afghanistan. But advisers told them it was a risky political step.

No exit is ever easy, and 13 Americans lost their lives.

But how many more soldiers would have died if another president had allowed the war to go on?

As if that wasn’t enough, it is entirely possible that Biden will get another historic legislative victory now that the House has passed his big bill to repair and expand the social safety net.

How can the conventional wisdom about Biden be so wrong?

Keep in mind, no one in the press wants to look like they are praising Biden after so much criticism of Trump.

Biden’s exceptional year comes immediately after Trump repeatedly deceived the public about the severity of the pandemic, failed to get it under control, and failed to deal with the economic damage it caused.

Trump did push pharmaceutical companies to speed development of the vaccine. But his historic mismanagement of the virus cost him a second term. Check the exit polls.

And Biden deserves extra points for getting a politically divided nation back on track despite Trump’s dirty tactics. Trump refused to admit he lost last year’s election and then incited an insurrection on Jan. 6.

Another Joe finishes second on my list of Politician of the Year: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Like Biden himself at times, Manchin has been the target of ire from progressive activists in the halls of Congress, on social media and on cable news.

Earlier this year, comedian Bill Maher quipped of Manchin that, “for a Democrat, he is the most powerful Republican in the Senate.”

Frustrated liberal commentators who also regard the West Virginia Democrat as too moderate sarcastically refer to him as “Prime Minister Manchin.”

Well, I don’t know I would go that far.

But it is true that Manchin has stood in the way of bigger spending on Biden’s bill to improve the nation’s social safety net programs.

{mossecondads}By reining in spending, Manchin has made liberals angry. But he is also making that bill more palatable for moderate, suburban voters.

Democrats will need those voters in next year’s midterm elections.

Conventional wisdom from the left and the right overlooks that Manchin continues to stand by Biden and the Democrats’ historic legislative agenda.

“I believe in President Biden,” Manchin said in a recent CNN interview. “We just have to work together. We can’t go too far left…We are a center, if anything a little center-right, country… I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.”

It is hard to argue with Manchin’s reading of the electorate, especially after the results in Virginia.

Manchin and Biden are wagering that Democrats can enact policies that Americans will want to reward with their vote.

“Presidents are judged by history,” David Brooks wrote in the New York Times last week. “This administration will be judged by whether it reduced inequality, spread opportunity, created the material basis for greater national unity. It is doing that.”

For their efforts and effectiveness in carrying this banner, the two Joes are the top politicians of 2021.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags 2021 2022 midterm elections Bill Maher Build Back Better bill Democratic Party Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin

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