No sane voter thought Joe Biden would be a policy genius or work economic miracles, but after eight years of Barack Obama and four years of Donald Trump, many hoped that he would begin to heal the wounds of division that had torn America apart.
So all of his shortcomings – the mental gaffes, the tall tales, the influence-peddling, the gropey hands and hair sniffing – were shrugged off. Americans elected a 77-year-old career politician, their oldest president ever, on expectations that he would restore civility to Washington and soften the political polarization that has plagued the country.
Biden promised as much, campaigning to “restore the soul of America” and create a “presidency for all Americans.” When he took office one year ago – Thursday is the anniversary of his inauguration – the theme of his speech was ‘America United’. He pledged in his inaugural address to heal divisions, saying “unity is the path forward” and warning that “without unity, there is no peace.”
One year on, America is even more divided, and Biden is getting much of the blame. Of all the promises that he has broken, betrayal on the unity front is perhaps the most painful.
This failure has become so glaring that even the Democrat partisans in the White House press corps, who are normally apologists for Biden, are admitting that the emperor is naked on this issue. When the president held a major press conference on Wednesday – just the second such event since he took office – several reporters peppered him with questions about his divisive rhetoric.
Biden displayed his divisiveness in trying to deny the charges. He blamed Republicans for his alleged failures, then admitted that he hadn’t even called GOP senators when trying to get key legislation passed. At one point, he appeared to have been on another planet for the past year, saying he had “outperformed what anybody thought would happen,” and he suggested that Trump had intimidated Republicans into blocking the new president from succeeding.
When asked specifically about his most divisive speech – likening anyone who voted against a bill he wanted passed to infamous racists – Biden snapped at the journalist, saying, “That is an interesting reading of English. I assume that you got into journalism because you like to write.”
The speech in question was delivered last week, when Biden demanded to change centuries-old Senate rules to push through legislation that would overturn election reforms enacted in Republican-led states. “I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?” the president said. “At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be on the side of Dr. [Martin Luther] King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
Americans apparently thought they heard what the excoriated reporter inferred: Go against me on this, and you get the scarlet R-letter, racist. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday showed that only 37% of voters believe Biden has been more of a uniter than a divider. A plurality of 47% said he has done more to divide than to unite, while the remaining 16% didn’t know.
In the same poll, 68% of respondents said the nation is on the “wrong track,” and only 16% said they “strongly approve” of Biden’s performance as president. The survey showed, too, that a plurality of Americans expect Biden’s performance to worsen in each of the 12 categories listed. Only 24% believe he will do better at restoring unity over the rest of his term.
Even before ramping up divisiveness in recent weeks, Biden was seen as the most disappointing US president in more than 75 years. A Gallup poll released last October showed that Biden had suffered the biggest decline in presidential approval ratings since Harry Truman was trying to fill the shoes of his deceased predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, in 1945.
And remember when Trump was a villain for saying that elections could be illegitimate? Biden did the same on Wednesday, saying the 2022 midterm elections – in which Democrats are forecast to lose seats in Congress – could “easily be illegitimate” if state voting reforms aren’t torpedoed as he wants.
At one point in Wednesday’s presser, Biden acknowledged that America is “not nearly as unified as it should be.” However, the divider-in-chief blamed his political adversaries for keeping the country polarized. In fact, he warned that unless politicians can reach consensus, “you cannot sustain the democracy.”
In other words, reach consensus on Biden’s agenda or give up on the whole American system of government. It’s much like his controversial rhetoric suggesting that those lawmakers who don’t vote the way he wants are racists, a devastating label that Americans fear greatly.
This sort of bullying manipulation is a political crutch that Democrats have used incessantly to grab and hold power. Do what we say, or you’re evil. Disagree with us, and you should be expelled from polite society.
Such intimidation tactics have sadly been effective, thanks to cowardice. But as Biden’s first year in office has proven, not even the president’s media allies can argue that demonizing half the nation promotes healing.