: It’s always hard to know. Certainly, there’s broad economic dissatisfaction in the country. People see the economy generally—and inflation in particular
—as a problem, and history tells us that the U.S. public holds presidents responsible for its perception of the national economy. Considering that approval of Biden among Democrats is also really diminished since he took office—and his support is down among young Democrats, African-American Democrats, and Democratic-leaning independents—there may be some frustration in the Democratic base that Biden hasn’t delivered more on his legislative agenda.
Biden is a different kind of political figure than some of America’s other recent presidents. He doesn’t have the symbolic or personal connection to his base of supporters that Donald Trump or Barack Obama had. Biden isn’t charismatic the way they were, and he’s never tried to be. Biden’s selling point as a candidate was that he was the guy you could hire to do the job—defeating Trump and achieving a lot in office as a result of knowing how the system worked, including how to work with Congress.
The idea was that, even if you didn’t find him to be the most inspirational figure, you’d like what he did. But Biden has had challenges—both in ending the pandemic and bringing about the return of normal life, and in advancing the Democratic legislative agenda. In some ways, Biden is more like George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter than he is like Obama or Trump. It’s clear Obama had a personal connection with African-Americans and young people in the Democratic Party that Biden doesn’t have.
At the same time, there are potential advantages to Biden’s approach. In 2020, he campaigned as a de-polarizing figure who wouldn’t scare people outside the Democratic Party the way Obama and Hillary Clinton did. It may have been a benefit in the generation election—or even the decisive factor in his win. We live in an age of negative partisanship, where people are often more motivated by what they hate than what they like. A lot of Biden’s support, all along, has been based on him not being Trump. Now that he’s no longer in an electoral campaign against Trump, there isn’t that same glue keeping some of his supporters stuck with him. Biden also hasn’t picked fights with Republicans in order to motivate his base. Trump was very effective at picking fights that rallied his supporters, but that’s not Biden’s style. Now, if there’s a Republican Congress starting next January, that may become a foil for Biden and change the dynamic ahead of the 2024 campaign. He may spend a lot more time in public fights with his opposition.