The attacks on the president are relentless, but the political right offers no plausible policy alternatives
Since Joe Biden assumed the presidency 21 months ago, the United States has, by any fair estimate, enjoyed a remarkable recovery in an array of vitally important areas.
During the week in which Biden took office in January 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that 21,554 Americans died from COVID-19. Last week, the number was 2,566.
In January 2021, the U.S. had largely abandoned any national commitment to tackling the existential global environmental crisis brought on by climate change. Today, it is once again taking steps to reassert global leadership.
When Biden took office, the U.S. had retreated from its longstanding position as a champion of democracy and was consorting with, and egging on, murderous dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Its relations with traditional European allies were at a post-war nadir. Today, the U.S. has regained much of its former reputation as a trusted and responsible international citizen.
Meanwhile, despite understandable anxiety about global inflation, most economic news has been very good.
Unemployment has plummeted, childhood poverty has fallen, incomes have risen, business investment and consumer spending are both strong, and the federal budget deficit has been cut in half in just the last year.
Yes, things are a long way from perfect. The inflation caused by the pandemic’s disruption of supply chains and the subsequent spike in demand, Russia’s brutal and illegal war on Ukraine, and the price gouging of irresponsible corporate actors are serious global problems.
Many Americans are rightfully worried and upset about things like high gasoline prices – though it’s worth noting that they have been higher many times in the past under both Democratic and Republican administrations as the ebbs and flows of supply and demand have taken their toll.
Other massive challenges still confront our nation. Racial inequality remains chronic. Gun violence is a frightening national scourge. Affordable housing remains in short supply. Millions lack access to healthcare. Some consumer products remain scarce. The pandemic has taken a big and negative toll on our systems of K-12 and higher education.
And despite the important steps of the past several months, the challenges posed by the climate emergency and COVID-19 remain huge.
But on the whole, the U.S. is exponentially better off than it was during the dark final days of the Trump administration – especially when one considers the unprecedented assault on the foundations of our democracy that Trump and other proponents of his false claim to have won the election perpetrated on Jan. 6, 2021.
All of which serves to render the incessant broadsides fired at Biden from the political right since Day One of his administration consistently absurd – especially given the failure of those critics to articulate any coherent alternative policy vision.
While it’s hardly surprising that the president’s political opponents would look for any and all opportunities to foment discontent amongst voters during a period of high global anxiety (see, for example, the rose-colored lenses many political ads employ these days to conjure up images of pre-pandemic times) it’s almost impossible to divine exactly what it is those opponents would do differently if they assumed political power.
The American political right abandoned all pretense of any genuine commitment to fiscal conservatism under Donald Trump in favor of an unabashed devotion to slashing taxes and regulations on the super-rich and the corporations they control.
And if that’s the plan, no one has offered even a slightly persuasive explanation as to how that will help curb global inflation.
And besides that, what else is on the agenda?
Burning even more fossil fuels? Forcibly deporting millions of young people who know no other country as home? Ending the federal government’s ability to collect taxes in a fair and timely manner? Signing off on Putin’s rape and annexation of vast swaths of Ukraine? Appointing more religious reactionaries as federal judges? Making abortions even more inaccessible? Sending more LGBTQ+ people back into the closet? Exceeding the nation’s already record-breaking rate of mass incarceration? Canceling all student loan forgiveness? Issuing an assault weapon to every citizen big enough to carry one?
The bottom line: It’s predictable and expected that political opponents would gripe during a stressful period of rapid global change. We live, after all, on a planet in which the human population has more than doubled in the last 50 years and in which the pressures arising from environmental degradation are spurring mass migration and dramatic political upheaval in numerous places.
It is, in many ways, a scary time.
But to be taken seriously at such a challenging moment, would-be political leaders and policymakers ought to advance a plausible plan of what they would do differently and, just as importantly, a coherent explanation of how such a plan would help.
And to date, that’s something Americans have yet to hear from the president’s critics.