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Why Joe Biden is such an elusive target for his critics


Updates from Joe Biden

As the rowdies go quiet, post-Trump Washington will need to be done. This summer, the Catholic bishops discussed refuse communion of a character no less important than the American president. The gesture was twice stupid. First, regardless of Joe Biden’s line on abortion, neither his pastor nor the Holy See supports its exclusion. Second, and here the clergy will have to forgive a dip in earthly politics, they only served to highlight the valor of the president’s church. There are White House employees who have done less work for its image.

Here is, in miniature, the Biden problem of American conservatism. What he is – old, white, conventional to the core – strikes voters more keenly than what he does. And so, after six daring and sometimes reckless months as president, he is more or less marked by the insult of radicalism. Even in its diminished state, its approval rating is above the 50 percent that escaped its predecessor. After his first 100 days, hailed and cursed for the magnitude of their ambitions, voters considered him more moderate than Barack Obama during the same point.

The revealing comparisons don’t stop at her former boss. If a President Hillary Clinton had pulled American forces out of Afghanistan at Biden’s speed, she would have been presented as a pacifist. Who will try this line against the father of a veteran? If President Bernie Sanders had overseen a rise in national crime, it would have been linked to the innate laxity of the left. The sponsorship of a serious crime bill in 1994 spares Biden this accusation. By dint of biography, even identity, the president has a particular latitude.

With her, he stages this American paradox: the reformer fuddy-duddy. Just like a blue blooded Franklin Roosevelt made the New Deal, and a rude Texan Lyndon Johnson embraced civil rights, a 78-year-old left-wing scourge could pass three spending bills worth more than $ 1 billion each in one year. . The principle at work here is that which has moved Jean le Carré to say that British private schools should be closed and that his royal family should be held back – “by a Conservative government”. Voters leave the business of change to those who do not seem overly fond of it.

In Biden’s case, this implicit trust is quantifiable. Rarely have a politician’s poll numbers been so captivating in their boredom. From December 2018, even before having declared his candidacy, in the spring of 2020, he led the Democratic primaries with an almost perfect consistency. Against Donald Trump, he kept a lead 14 metronomic months before the elections last November. Since his inauguration, he has not had the highest approval rating but the most stable of all post-war president.

Everything suggests that most Americans established their take on this man, a staple of their public life half a century, years ago. It doesn’t inspire their enthusiasm, but it doesn’t arouse their fear either. It will take a long time for them to see him again as a Manchurian candidate for the left-wing stringers.

The consolation for the right is that Biden is a problem for both sides. For now, it’s the Republicans who have to adapt. Having lived off the superficiality of politics – the broad but false sense that Trump was strong and good at business – they are now the victims of it. Biden only has to appear on the screen, invite God to “protect our troops”, and the left seems further removed from its administration than it sometimes is. It’s a shortcut to trust that Democrats would otherwise have to work hard for. Such is the power of gut feeling, or what pollsters call “valence.”

What he cannot do is reproduce. For Democrats, the embarrassing fact about Biden is that there is one of him. Aside from Senator Joe Manchin, he is perhaps the latest high-profile incarnation of the white, surly and often Catholic voter party that anchored the New Deal alliance in the middle of the last century. All other plausible leaders are from the liberal city dwellers who infused the party afterwards. Vice-President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Cabinet recruit Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the congressional “scouade”: all arouse reflex suspicion. Some of them are ideological and therefore fairly fair. Some are too atavistic to need to be spelled out. Either way, Democrats shouldn’t get used to the political license Biden gives them.

He will be 82 in the month of the next presidential election. While not Dan Quayle, the vice president and presumed heir can be clumsy at the national level. It is said often enough that, as Trump prepares to run for re-election, Republicans have a dilemma ahead of them in 2024. It is, as so few things are, multi-partisan.

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