The U.S. president’s popularity remains stubbornly low, despite his creditable record. But pundits, pollsters and prophets need to take a valium.
NEW YORK — Will the real Joe Biden please stand up? Who is the man who will win or lose re-election in 2024?
Is he George H.W. Bush, who could not win re-election, or Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg, who refused to leave the Supreme Court? Or, someone else?
You are reading: Opinion: Things aren’t as bleak for Joe Biden as you might think
If you believe the contemporary cant, things are bleak for Biden. His popularity remains stubbornly low, despite his creditable record.
Abroad, he has been clear and strong. He’s been a stout defender of Israel, which Americans support, making a lightning visit to Jerusalem just after Oct. 7. He’s led the western alliance defending Ukraine, which most Americans support.
At home, inflation has fallen to 3.2 per cent from 6.5 per cent in 2022. Unemployment is 3.9 per cent, historically low. He’s driven laws promoting microchips, the green economy and infrastructure.
The numbers brought a chorus of despair. One columnist declared he couldn’t sleep, anxious as he is about Biden losing to Trump. Others treated the poll as a divine prophecy. This handwringing, pearl-clutching and finger-wagging is typical of the American political industrial complex, which lives to obsess loudly and confidently over any development, usually without nuance or doubt.
Bush was decent and seasoned but seen to lack empathy as the country sank into recession. He could not feel “the pain” of dislocation, and it cost him his job. “They handed me my hat,” he told me.
Bruni’s “George H.W. Biden” is certainly plausible: the loyal vice-president who won the White House, like Bush, but could not keep it amid economic turbulence.
The other Biden is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose celebrity as a pathbreaking justice of the Supreme Court made her the subject of swooning biographies, documentaries and magazine profiles. RBG became so enamoured of her fame she refused to leave the court when Barack Obama could have replaced her. It was vanity, ego or naïveté. When she died in 2020, Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett, sealing a generational conservative majority that has rescinded abortion rights.
So, in this line of thinking, as Biden is Bush, he is also Ginsburg. Biden could not give up power and threatens to hand the presidency to Trump.
There are flaws here, but you see the point: Biden is either out of touch, insensitive to people’s suffering. Or, he is too old and frail to do the job. Insisting he can, he will undo his legacy.
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Here’s another view: Pundits, pollsters and prophets, take a valium. This conversation is meaningless.
First, polls a year away say little. Second, Trump faces multiple indictments, and the same Times poll found voters will shift decisively if he is convicted. Third, polls are often wrong, as were those predicting a Republican “red wave” in the 2022 mid-term elections. Fourth, it is likely that a third party led by RFK will hurt Trump more than Biden.
Consider, as well, that in election after election, Democrats over-perform on election day, and will again.
In last week’s off-year elections, for example, the Democrats scored big victories in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. Voters may dislike Biden and doubt his fitness, but they dislike Trump more, fear his “retribution” administration and are motivated by social issues such as abortion.
So, here’s another political parallel: Joe Biden as Harry Truman, who was FDR’s vice-president. Against the odds, after three years and a half years in office, Truman came from behind to win dramatically and decisively in 1948.
He wasn’t done then — and Joe Biden isn’t now.