WASHINGTON — Just hours after formally kicking off his reelection campaign, President Biden appeared before a crowd of union supporters on Tuesday as he chanted “four more years” to lay out his plea for a second term.
Unsurprisingly, the record sounds pretty good to him: more jobs, more roads and bridges, more clean energy, more opportunities for workers without college degrees. In just two and a half years, he argued, he has helped America recover from a debilitating pandemic and societal collapse. “Our economic plan is working,” he insisted.
But as with any incumbent party renewed by voters, there’s the record he’s running on and the record he’s running from. Speaking to more than 3,000 members of the Building Trades Unions in North America, Mr. Biden made no mention of the promises he has yet to deliver on or the setbacks that have left him with one of the lowest approval ratings in a world today. president have produced. point in their term.
Mr Biden’s record looks different depending on the angle from which it is viewed, all the more so in polarized times as voters and viewers migrate to their own corners of the information world for radically different viewpoints. The president is either the mature leader who fixes the country while resisting the forces of evil, or he is the leader of the forces of evil that are destroying the country.
“Under my predecessor, infrastructure week became a punchline,” Mr. Biden told union members, mocking former President Donald J. Trump’s failure to pass legislation that rebuilt the country’s worn-out public facilities and his successor was able to determine. “Under my watch, infrastructure has become a decade headline — a decade.”
Mr. Trump, now seeking a rematch against Mr. Biden in 2024, failed to give credit to his would-be opponent. “When I get on that debate stage and compare our records,” he said in a statement, “it will be the radical Democrats worst nightmare because there has never been a record as bad as it, and our country has never experienced so much.” .”
Along with the $1 trillion infrastructure package, which passed with a Republican vote, Mr. Biden boasts sweeping legislative victories that seemed unlikely when he took office. Among other measures he pushed through a Congress with tight Democratic majorities were a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package; major investments to combat climate change; lower drug costs for seniors; increased corporate tax; expanded treatment for veterans exposed to toxic fire pits and incentives to boost the semiconductor industry.
However, he has failed to deliver on other key promises, including a ban on assault weapons; an immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for migrants residing illegally in the country; two years of free community college; free universal kindergarten for all three and four year olds; national paid sick leave; better protection of voting rights; and policing changes to curb excessive force. Some of those were never realistic in the first place, but Mr. Biden was the one who highlighted them as priorities.
Its economic track record is equally complicated. More than 12 million jobs have been created since he took office as the economy recovered from the pandemic and unemployment is at or near its lowest level in half a century. But inflation skyrocketed to its highest level in four decades, which some critics attributed to excessive federal spending under Biden, even though cost increases are a global phenomenon. Likewise, gas prices skyrocketed to record levels. While both are starting to fall again — inflation has dropped from 9 percent to 5 percent — Americans remain skittish about the economy, according to polls, and economists are still worried about a potential recession.
After a troubled start, Mr Biden has presided over the easing of the Covid pandemic and associated restrictions, despite resistance to vaccines from many, especially the political right. But he has failed to quell a wave of migration on the southwestern border, where attempted crossings have reached record highs, and Republicans blame him for a crime wave that actually began while Trump was still in office.
Mr Biden has been working to reverse Mr Trump’s influence over the judiciary, getting more Senate judicial nominations in his first two years than his predecessor had, but the pipeline has been slowed in recent months by the absence of an ailing Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, from the Judiciary Committee. Mr Biden kept his promise to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Where he has been unable to exert his will over lawmakers, he has relied on an expansive interpretation of his executive branch to achieve policy goals, most notably his decision to forgive $400 billion in student loans. But such actions are inherently subject to judicial challenges, and analysts expect the Supreme Court to overturn the student loan decision.
In the international arena, Mr. Biden worked to revive international ties that had frayed under Mr. Trump, re-committing to NATO and rejoining the Paris climate accord. But his attempt to revive the Iran nuclear deal abandoned by Mr Trump has come to naught.
Biden’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after 20 years turned into a debacle, leading to a swift and brutal Taliban takeover of the country and a chaotic withdrawal of troops and allies, with fleeing Afghans overrunning US planes and killing a suicide bomber. US troops and 170 civilians.
While Mr. Trump has criticized Mr. Biden for the episode, the president was implementing a withdrawal agreement his predecessor made with the Taliban, a pact that one of Mr. Trump’s own national security advisers called a “surrender agreement.” Some experts argue that the Kabul airport fiasco encouraged Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin to assume that Biden was weak.
But Biden rallied the world when Putin invaded Ukraine last year to isolate Moscow and cut many of its financial ties with the West. With bipartisan support, Mr. Biden has pledged more than $100 billion to arm Ukraine’s military and enable the government and people to survive the Russian onslaught. US aid helped the Ukrainians surprise Russian invaders by preventing the takeover of their capital and most of the country, but the situation remains volatile.
It also remains fleeting at home. Mr Biden made the theme of his inaugural address his desire to unite the country after the divisions of the Trump years. And while he has lowered the temperature in Washington to some degree and has worked with Republicans at times, America remains deeply polarized.
Republicans are accusing Mr. Biden of being divisive, citing his rhetoric in which he slams “MAGA Republicans” and blames him for the investigations of his rival, Mr. Trump, even though there is no evidence of the president’s involvement.
In his campaign launch video and subsequent speech on Tuesday, Mr. Biden that he didn’t achieve everything he wanted. But that, he said, was an argument for his re-election. “We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.