Editorial: Stormy year
It is not the anniversary the president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, would have hoped for. As he completes a year in office later this month, Mr Biden’s disapproval ratings are touching new highs. A new poll released this week shows that 56 per cent of Americans are unhappy with his performance, with a stop-start economy and a record surge in Covid-19 cases being the key factors behind their angst. Yet, even as Republicans sharpen their knives to target him, Mr Biden will be most worried about deepening fissures within his Democratic Party where he faces intense pressure from the left, even as old-school moderates block some of his most ambitious plans. His reliance on some immigration policies from the era of his predecessor, Donald Trump, has stoked stern criticism from human rights groups and many Democrats. Mr Biden’s failure to push through federal laws to nullify Republican efforts to restrict voting rights has frustrated many supporters, even as America marked on January 6 a year of the storming of the US Capitol by Mr Trump’s supporters looking to overturn the 2020 election results. The US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan sparked opposition not only from Republicans but from many Democrats who felt the nation was reneging on its promises to ordinary Afghans. Mr Biden is facing demands from young progressives like the New York Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to use his executive powers to accomplish some of the aims of the president’s $2.2 billion Build Back Better bill, which is stuck in the Congress.
All this, even though Mr Biden’s agenda is arguably the most left-leaning of any US administration since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency eight decades ago. The Build Back Better legislation seeks to radically expand the social security net for vulnerable Americans while investing heavily to tackle climate change and cutting student loans. These are pivotal issues for young voters who disproportionately voted for Mr Biden in 2020. They are a key base that Democrats are counting on to counter an expected Republican surge in the 2022 midterms, so the coat of pink varnish on the party’s policies is likely to become thicker. The implications will be felt globally. The vice-president, Kamala Harris — widely seen as a potential successor to Mr Biden in 2024 — had criticized New Delhi’s crackdown in Kashmir in 2019. The political compulsions to send such tough messages to friends with problematic human rights records will only increase for Mr Biden and his government.