Why Biden Is Crashing
He was elected with more votes than any other president in American history. Why, then, after just 18 months in office, is Biden so unpopular?
President Joe Biden is hardly the first president to fall down in public. Gerald Ford in 1975 fell while climbing the stairs into Air Force One. Ronald Reagan similarly slipped and fell while walking into his plane a decade later. And George W. Bush crashed not once but twice on his bike, including into a police officer while peddling through Scotland.
Still, it was hard to watch Biden falling off his bike Saturday and not read anything in it. He said his foot got caught in a toe clip. Whatever the case, he looked every bit his age, 79. And the crash came just a few days after his disastrous appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” where Biden struggled to complete his thoughts.
And it came after a week where the White House scolded American oil and gas firms as greedy but then asked to meet with them, reinforcing the perception of being ruddlerless. “What else is the plan?” asked a pundit on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “He can't just wag his finger at the oil companies without a plan of what he expects them to come do.”
Biden and his advisors insist that recession is not inevitable, but they are increasingly alone in that view. “My best guess is that a recession is ahead,” Larry Summers told Chuck Todd. “I base that on the fact that we haven't had a situation like the present with inflation above 4% and unemployment beyond 4% without a recession following within a year or two.”
Biden and his aides reportedly fear “talking the economy into a recession” by further spooking investor and consumer confidence. But the result is that Biden and his people look even more out of touch. “On the one hand, they don't want to say, ‘Everything's terrible. Sorry things are so bad,’” said another “Meet the Press” talking head. “On the other hand, they don't want to try to persuade people that gas costs less than it actually does.”
What’s clear is that Biden has become widely unpopular and so too has Vice President Kamala Harris. The speculation has long been that Biden would not seek a second term and instead endorse Harris. But her approval rating is only 41%, which is just 1.2 percentage points higher than Biden’s, and she too frequently speaks in word salad, despite being only 57.
Most ominous for Democrats is the loss of support among Latinos, just 26% of whom approve of Biden’s performance. “Barack Obama had a core base of support that acted as a floor in terms of how low his approval ratings could go,” a politically-connected friend of mine said Sunday. “Trump, too. But nobody really loves or cares about Biden, and so there’s no telling how low his approval ratings could go.”
Frustration among Democratic leaders is boiling over into the public. There was a rare, in-person presentation by White House officials on Capitol Hill last week where members of Congress complained that the White House had no plan. “We need to see the president be decisive,” a lawmaker told NBC’s Peter Alexander, who added, “They really feel like there's decision paralysis.”
Now, sharks are circling. “I just joined Trump’s Truth Social,” tweeted California Governor Gavin Newsom last week. “Going to be there calling out Republican lies.” The Atlantic published a story by Ronald Brownstein about Newsom filling the Democratic vacuum on social issues. “Newsom told me he was surprised at how ‘resonant’ a response he received from Democrats around the country to viral video clips” of him saying, “Where’s the Democratic Party? Why aren’t we standing up more firmly?”
Newsom insists he won't run for president in 2024. But with both Biden and Harris deeply unpopular, it is hardly out of the question. He has long coveted the position. He has proven able to raise large sums of money. And it’s not inconceivable that Newsom could win over progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointedly declined to endorse Biden when asked about him two weeks ago. “If the president has a vision,” she said, cooly, “that’s something we’re all willing to entertain and examine when the time comes.”
What, exactly, is going on? How did Biden go from being elected with more votes than any president in American history to being on the verge of losing control of his presidency in just 18 months?