The Biden 2021 report card: The not so good, the bad and the ugly

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

President Biden leaves 2021 with 43 percent approval from American voters per the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of major polls, with 53 percent disapproving.

The numbers are upside-down from inauguration day 2021, when the president in the same RCP average stood at 57 approval and just 37 percent disapproval. 

Add it all up, and Biden has shifted negatively by more than 30 points. No president since World War II – not even Donald Trump – has seen such a massive slide.

So how did the 46th president, who received more votes than any candidate in U.S. history, get here? Let’s break down his performance issue by issue.

The economy: When Biden entered office, the economy was already roaring back from an unprecedented pandemic and shutdown of the U.S. economy. Unemployment was back down to 6.3 percent, a sharp drop from 14.4 percent in April 2020 when businesses were forced to close across the country.

Unemployment has continued to fall back to 2019 levels, while the stock market is at all-time highs. But despite that good news for Biden, inflation dominated economic headlines throughout 2021.

The administration continually insisted over the summer that inflation was “transitory” and may actually be a good thing for the U.S. economy. White House chief of staff and prolific tweeter Ron Klain even attempted to portray inflation and the supply-chain crisis as a rich man’s problem.

This was, of course, a patently tone deaf (and inaccurate) argument to make considering inflation affects poor people the most because they have a harder time than the rich absorbing skyrocketing prices on food, gas and home heating. And as 2021 becomes 2022, it’s clear inflation is not transitory, while the supply-chain crisis may extend well into this year, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Overall, inflation – which is at a 40-year high – is a major issue that likely will be around well past the 2022 midterms in November, according to three-quarters of economists in a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. Year-end consumer prices also rose at their fastest rate since 1982. No spin can change what voters feel on line at the store, or at the pump or when paying their bills.

2021 grade on the economy/inflation: D

Crime: Sixteen cities reported record-high homicide rates in 2021. What’s the one thing those cities have in common? All are run by Democratic mayors. Some have called for defunding the police or “reallocation” of police funds. Thankfully, voters rejected such measures in beleaguered cities, including Minneapolis and Portland, while moderate Eric Adams – a former NYPD officer – was elected mayor of New York City.

As for the Biden administration’s performance on the issue, there’s not much performance or even rhetoric to point to. President Biden and Vice President Harris (a former California attorney general) almost never speak about the crisis, as if they’re hoping it will simply go away. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki even blamed Republicans for wanting to defund the Police, which earned her Four Pinnochios by the Washington Post’s fact-checker.

 

As president, Biden has made stopping and controlling the pandemic and the multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better spending bills the primary focus of the few speeches he’s given. He rarely if ever mentions what he plans to do to combat the violent crime epidemic.   

The public easily spots the lack of focus, the lack of a plan. ABC News finds that just 36 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of crime. And according to a Rasmussen poll, 89 percent of likely voters say crime will only get worse. That’s a direct indictment of the president and his strategy on the crisis.

2021 grade on crime: D

COVID-19: The year that was supposed to be a good one for the country (and by extension for the president) has ended in awful fashion. Positive COVID-19 cases are shattering records. Lines for testing extend blocks and even miles in the cold of the holiday season.

At this point, there is no good excuse for this president and his administration on testing. They had almost a year to prepare for a winter holiday surge everyone saw coming. Instead, they focused their energy on the multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better bill.

 

 

And the excuse from Biden and Harris? They claim they didn’t see this variant coming so fast.

 

It’s the Taliban of COVID variants, with omicron moving too quickly for this administration to get ahead of. They were caught flat-footed in Afghanistan (grade: F) when the Taliban took Kabul before this administration even knew what had happened. Now they’ve been caught flat-footed on omicron.

Polling now shows the president down 20 points from his high based on his handling of this virus, a virus he said he would “control” and “stop” (his words as a candidate). 

The old rule from sales to politics remains the same: underpromise and overdeliver. The president did the opposite of that here.

2021 grade on COVID-19: C

Border/immigration: More than two million migrants entered this country illegally in 2021. Kamala Harris, who was tasked with addressing the crisis, has been missing in action and almost never speaks about it. Border officials are overwhelmed. Democratic lawmakers in border states are demanding the federal government and particularly the vice president do more to stem the never-ending tide but can’t even get a response. Result: The administration is consistently polling in the 20s on immigration and the border. 

2021 grade on the border/immigration: F

As for 2022, things will likely only get worse for Joe Biden and Democrats as a whole. 

Build Back Better is essentially dead. The party is in the throes of what appears to be a civil war. Most Democrats don’t even want Biden to seek a second term, while the House will surely go back to the GOP, which needs to flip only five seats.

The Senate, currently 50/50, will also likely flip, given the president’s toxic coattails and the state of the economy and crime. 

Overall, Joe Biden is showing he won in 2020 not because he’s Joe Biden but because he wasn’t Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and he wasn’t Donald Trump. 

And given that the first year of any president’s first term is often his most productive, his most positive, it’ll likely only get uglier from here. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags Bernie Sanders Biden approval ratings Donald Trump immigration crisis Jen Psaki Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg Presidency of Joe Biden president's handling of COVID-19 Ron Klain

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video