There was a day my Pentagon-area neighborhood was filled with the sounds of drums and bells and shouts of joy. It was a little more than ten days after the November 3, 2020 election—the day Mr. Biden’s win was confirmed. The cheers I heard were people celebrating his transformation from mere candidate to president-elect. Since then, 15 months have passed. President Biden’s approval rating has fallen from 53% at the start of his administration to 41% in mid-February of this year (2022). This column explores the background of this decline through the lens of the Biden administration’s policies and their effects.
Looking back on the first year of the Biden administration, it is apparent that there are some policies that the president himself spearheaded and pursued to bring about fundamental change, and other policies that he left to government departments to implement and then tried to work on over time.
First, let’s examine Biden-led policies. These were domestic policies, starting with COVID-19 measures. The previous administration reversed much of the previous foreign and trade policy, which damaged trust and confidence in America overseas. To reclaim its leadership abroad, the United States needed to regenerate a sense of sustained stability that would remain unchanged through the election. To do so, the U.S. first had to focus on its domestic policy. President Biden surely had this in mind as he formulated the two policies that formed the axis of his domestic policy: reducing income inequality and improving the standing of minorities in society. First, as a measure to address income inequality, the U.S. provided on-the-ground income compensation and childcare subsidies for households hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, Biden presented measures for the mid- to long-term, such as returning the manufacturing industry (jobs and products) to the domestic market, creating jobs through infrastructure investment, and empowering labor unions. Policies to help minority groups included police reforms that aimed to address police violence toward African Americans and moves to improve protections for LGBTQ people. Under these policies, the Biden administration’s high-level positions were filled with a group diverse in gender and race.
Next are the policies the president left to government departments. These policies include foreign and trade policy, starting with China, as well as immigration policy. Many of these policies were inherited from the previous administration: Tariffs against China remained in place, and sanctions against Venezuela were never revisited. Though some immigration policies, such as the construction of a border wall and entry restrictions, were abolished, other measures were continued.