Talking Points

Is Biden's rough 1st year all his fault?

President Biden will hold an oh-so-rare press conference on Wednesday afternoon. (Hopefully he doesn't accidentally create an international incident this time.) Given his ultra-low approval numbers at the one-year mark of his presidency, a lot of the questions will be of the "how did it go so wrong?" variety. 

Politico has rounded up some of the likely queries ahead of time. One reporter wants to ask Biden about why so many Americans think the country is on the "wrong track." Another wants him to explain to Black voters why both voting rights and police reform efforts have so far failed.  And there might be a question about how working families will fare now that child tax credit payments have dried up, with little near-term hope of their revival. 

"His disapproval [rating] is because many promises have not come through," said April Ryan, who reports for The Grio.

For Biden — and for the Democratic Party — it doesn't look to be a fun afternoon.

Ryan might not be entirely correct that Biden's troubled presidency is the result of a failure to keep promises. Sometimes he has been the victim of circumstances: A year ago, it was possible to hope that the pandemic would be more or less over in America by now. It's not. And Biden has been judged for his failures of execution: His poll numbers started dropping right around the time of the messy, deadly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The president has low numbers right now partly because he hasn't always done his job well. 

But it's true that that much of Biden's agenda is currently dead in the water — and that's not entirely his fault. The president wants to see action on police reform. It's Congress that can't work out a deal. He clearly wants to see a voting rights bill passed; senators from his own party won't take the necessary actions to get the job done. The same goes for the child tax credit. You can argue that Biden should've used his bully pulpit to push harder or louder or faster for any of these items. But in the case of these major legislative proposals, the buck doesn't really stop with him. It's up to the legislative branch to get the job done, and it hasn't. 

Years ago, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the insight that Republicans in Congress could inflict damage on Democratic presidents through a strategy of obstruction. During the current administration, McConnell hasn't had to do that much work lately — his opponents have spent much of the last year bickering with each other. Democrats McConnelled themselves. Biden, who will stand alone in front of the cameras on Wednesday afternoon, is paying the price.