Biden, like Obama, promises unity but doesn’t deliver
President Joe Biden appears to be doubting whether he can keep his campaign promise to unify the nation as he adopts an even more partisan tone in a midterm election year.
If true, the acknowledgment demonstrates Biden’s recognition he has failed to manage expectations as former President Barack Obama did with his “hope and change” mantra before him.
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“He can’t unite America because he doesn’t understand America,” Reagan biographer Craig Shirley said of Biden. “Nor does he understand the bully pulpit or presidential leadership.”
Although Shirley agreed modern campaigns should be aspirational, he countered that far-left rhetoric did not achieve that.
“Obama used words he did not understand,” Shirley said. “He was skilled in the study of himself, which is why he was the nation’s first Facebook president.”
Even Democrats are disappointed with the failure of Biden’s Republican bridge-building as president, according to Aggressive Progressive podcast host Christopher Hahn.
“Biden underestimated the depth of division felt by a very large percentage of Americans,” Hahn told the Washington Examiner. “That, coupled with increasing economic pain being felt by millions of families, due to inflationary forces largely beyond his control, has made it difficult to unite the nation as he hoped he could.”
Brookings Institution Governance Studies Vice President and Director Darrell West echoed Hahn’s concerns, suggesting discord is “too deep to be resolved any time soon.”
“Polarization has built up over the last several decades, and it is going to take more than high hopes and fond wishes to bring the nation together,” he said. “There are too many incentives for extremism and misinformation to make a serious dent in our current divisions.”
After Obama and Biden, Northeastern University political science chairman Costas Panagopoulos conceded no president can “single-handedly” be the healer in chief. Instead, he pointed to the need for bipartisan collaboration.
“At the moment, that seems unlikely,” Panagopoulos said. “But that does not mean Biden, or anyone else, should stop trying to bring Americans together. A united America is just too important to give up on.”
Shirley dismissed Biden’s attempts to unify the country so far. Rather, he argued Biden “will go down in history as one of our worst presidents,” “right up there” with Herbert Hoover.
Biden sought to pass one major domestic initiative on a bipartisan basis, the infrastructure law he signed last year. His nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan was done through reconciliation so it could pass exclusively with Democratic votes. The same was true of the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better plan, which even with changing price tags could not make it through the Senate at all.
After an off-the-record lunch, Biden left New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman with the impression “he’s worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.”
“It’s the reason he decided to run in the first place,” Friedman wrote. “He knows that without some basic unity of purpose and willingness to compromise, nothing else is possible.”
“But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together,” he continued. “I wonder if it’s too late.”
Friedman’s impression of Biden was mocked by Republicans, including party strategist Matt Whitlock and embattled Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
“I, too, worry about not being able to accomplish the things I never tried,” Whitlock tweeted. Johnson added: “Biden will have a hard time reuniting America because virtually everything he and his fellow radical leftists have pushed on society has further divided us.”
Biden will have a hard time reuniting America because virtually everything he and his fellow radical leftists have pushed on society has further divided us.
Time for all who love and want to save America to join the conservative movement. https://t.co/QBi8mI509t
— Ron Johnson (@RonJohnsonWI) May 24, 2022
Obama’s 2008 victory speech was an unsuccessful exercise in expectations-setting before he published a lengthy memoir in 2020 to defend his record. Despite those experiences, Obama closed his remarks at a Biden fundraiser that year by insisting the current president would win and that “we’re going to be able to restore the kind of spirit of hope, and change, and possibility we all believe in.”
Biden’s presidency has been defined by his desire for unity, deploying the word eight times during his inaugural address. On the anniversary, 42% told pollsters they would award the president with a “very poor” rating regarding his efforts to bring the nation together.
Since then Biden has expressed surprise the Republican Party has not undergone a post-Trump “epiphany,” as he predicted.
At the same time, Biden has ditched the “unity agenda” he announced during this year’s State of the Union. It has been replaced with the president’s own “ultra-MAGA” catchphrase less than six months before the midterm elections.
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“We have to take on the MAGA Republicans, ‘Make America Great Again’ Republicans,” Biden told Democratic National Committee donors this month, riffing off of Donald Trump’s 2016 slogan. “I think they’re the most extreme party, and that’s what the Republican Party is now. Not everybody Republican believes that, but the fact of the matter is they run the show, the MAGA Republicans.”