Biden’s first 100 days: Too early to pass judgement
While the US president is currently riding high, history shows that there are plenty of pitfalls that lie ahead.
As United States President Joe Biden marks his 100th day in office on Thursday, he is basking in the enthusiastic kudos of his fellow Democrats and the approval of a majority of Americans – a honeymoon most presidents enjoy in their first few months on the job.
But as Biden pushes forth on his aggressive agenda and with Democrats ready to defend their slim House and Senate majorities in the November 2022 midterms, it is important to note that history shows that a president’s first 100 days – a mere 6.84 percent of his term – is almost never an indicator of a president’s standing on day 1,461 – the last day of his first term.
Riding high, so far
Biden began his presidency on January 20 in the wake of a historic, politically tumultuous four years under former president Donald Trump with the added crisis of a global pandemic ravaging Americans health-wise and economically. From the outset, Biden pledged to focus on battling COVID, boosting the economy and toning down the frenzied political environment that Trump so infamously encouraged.
Judging by Americans’ sentiment towards Biden, it seems he’s succeeded so far.
According to RealClearPolitics, an average of polls shows that 53.1 percent of Americans approve of his job performance at this point with 41.8 percent disapproving.
Around two-thirds of Americans approve of his handling of coronavirus and over half approve of his handling of the economy, according to several polls released in the past few days.
And, according to a Pew Research poll conducted earlier this month, more Americans like the way Biden is conducting himself as president (46 percent) than don’t like it (27 percent).
As he presses forward with massive spending proposals on infrastructure and on a so-called “family plan”, he is seeing widespread support for not only those proposals but also his answer to how to pay for the $4 trillion price tag: tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy.
His support is broad, as well, coming from independents as well as all corners of his own party, even progressives, who have been very vocally skeptical of Biden since he announced his candidacy two years ago.
“The Biden administration and President Biden have definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had,” the de-facto leader of the progressive “Squad” in the US House, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said last Friday. “I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.”
Warning signs ahead
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are music to Republicans’ ears, who are as unified in their opposition to Biden as they are in their continued support of Trump.
They see Biden and Democrats overreaching in their policies, pushing too far to the left, far outside the mainstream of Americans’ palettes, in their view.
They appear to plan on beating that drum from now until next year’s midterms, attempting to paint Democrats in districts and states where Trump won or are considered battlegrounds as “too liberal” or even “socialist”. It was a strategy they used with some success in 2020, picking up 15 House seats and holding down Democrats’ expected gains in the Senate, in a year in which a majority of Americans disapproved of the Republican at the top of the ticket – Trump – who ultimately lost.
Republicans aren’t the only ones who see this as a potential problem for Democrats, there are plenty of Democrats who do as well.
For instance, James Carville, the political strategist who was the architect of Bill Clinton’s presidential victory in 1992, said the party’s messaging is too out of step with “ordinary people”, using language that appeals to elites while “the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language.
“We won the White House [in 2020] against a world-historical buffoon. And we came within 42,000 votes of losing. We lost congressional seats,” Carville told the news site Vox. “So let’s not have an argument about whether or not we’re off-key in our messaging. We are.”
Republicans also feel that Biden has a significant Achilles’ heel: the surge of migrants flooding the US-Mexico border and the current administration’s scrambling to deal with what many consider a crisis.
It’s the only top issue on Americans’ minds – border security and immigration – where there is significant disapproval of Biden’s handling of it. Only around one-third of Americans approve, according to several polls released in the past week.
Republicans are also banking on a little history to work in their favour: The party of every first-term president since World War II, except one, has lost seats in Congress in the midterm election, and that includes presidents whose approval ratings were much higher on their 100th day than Biden’s.
Barack Obama, who had an approval rating in the high 60s on Day 100 in 2009, saw Democrats lose 63 seats in the House and another 6 in the Senate in 2010. Bill Clinton was in the high 50s on his 100th day in 1993, but Democrats lost 52 House seats and 8 Senate seats in 1994. Republicans George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan experienced similar stories during their first terms in 1990 and 1982, respectively.
As Biden hits his 100-day milestone on a high note, it bears remembering that he still has more than 93 percent of his first term to go – 1,300 days of successes and failures, smooth sailing and bumpiness – that will wind up shaping history’s view of his presidency.