What Gives … ?

The media assessments of President Biden’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday night have been overwhelmingly positive (I refer to actual news media and journalists, leaving out the likes of Fox and NewsMax that I do not consider to be legitimate news venues.)  More than a few have called his address the “best State of the Union ever!”  The speech highlighted Biden’s accomplishments, which contrary to public opinion, have been significant, especially given the opposition from Republicans in Congress.  And yet … despite his accomplishments, Biden’s approval rating remains low.  Robert Reich asks (and partly answers) the question:  What gives?

Why the discrepancy between what Biden has achieved and what Americans think about him?

Robert Reich

8 February 2023

My friends,

As I mentioned last night, I thought Biden’s second State of the Union address was superb. It was one of the best State of the Union speeches I’ve witnessed — and I’ve witnessed many.

Biden’s record so far has also been impressive — even though for the first two years of his presidency, the Democrats held a razor-thin congressional majority, and the Republican Party has become more traitorous and treacherous than at any time in modern American history.

Yet despite Biden’s impressive record, only 42 percent of Americans approve of his presidency. That’s barely above the 41 percent at his last State of the Union address, and a lower approval rating at this point in his presidency than any president in 75 years of polling except for Trump and Reagan (who at this point was hobbled by a deep recession).

Despite Biden’s significant achievements, fully 62 percent think he has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” during his presidency. Majorities believe he has made no progress on his signature initiatives — from improving the country’s infrastructure to making electric vehicles more affordable to creating jobs.

And even though jobs are being created at an almost unprecedented rate, unemployment is at its lowest since 1969, and inflation is dropping, Americans are deeply pessimistic about the economy.

So what gives? Why the discrepancy between what Biden is achieving and what Americans think?

Let me add a few thoughts of my own.

First, let me stress my belief that Joe Biden has been an exceptionally good president. The only reason I bring up his low ratings is to try to understand why, despite his achievements, most of the public doesn’t seem to share my view.

Opinion polls are notoriously inaccurate, as we’ve all witnessed in the last major elections. Yet Biden’s consistently low ratings across almost all polls — and the bizarre fact that he’s polling no better than Trump did at this point in Trump’s presidency — can’t be blamed simply on inadequate polling methods.

Many of you blame the media — both Fox News and its radical right imitators, as well as the mainstream — for minimizing Biden’s achievements and exaggerating his inadequacies.

I largely agree. Fox News and other rightwing outlets continue to poison America. As to the mainstream media, as to anyone who reads this letter knows, I’ve been deeply concerned about its “two-sides” ism and absurd attempts to draw moral equivalence between Republicans and Democrats.

That said, only a small fraction of the public is exposed to Fox News or to the New York Times or the Washington Post. The media alone can’t account for Biden’s low ratings.

I want to suggest to you three other culprits that to my mind are playing a larger role.

First is the legacy of Trump, along with the deeply cynical and angry divide he has spawned in America. Even if George Washington were president right now, some 40 percent of the public would likely despise him.

Second is social media, which has become a cauldron of ever more extremist rage. Under Elon Musk, for example, Twitter has become less of a “public square” than a hell-hole of hate. No national leader is immune to such relentless battering.

Third and perhaps most importantly is the continuing crises that most Americans find themselves in. Some two-thirds of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Almost no one has job security. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage continues to drop. COVID is receding but “long” COVID is taking a devastating toll. Fentanyl and related drug poisonings continue to rise.

Joe Biden and his administration have made important progress. Their legislative victories are important. The American Rescue Act helped millions survive the pandemic. But most Americans are still hurting. Hopefully, by the fall of 2024, the hurt won’t be nearly as bad.

20 thoughts on “What Gives … ?

  1. It’s nothing but blind tribalism and will fill ignorance and apathy.
    Also a little blame to the Dems, who aren’t aggressive enough and don’t have a hold on the media like the big corporations do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is certainly a large part of it, but … has this nation lost its collective conscience? Sigh. Yes, the Democrats need to be more unified and vocal in order to be heard, to get their message across, but it seems they are trying to take the moral high ground here, and … you can’t fault them for that.


  2. Looking from the outside in, we see an old man barely in control of anything, white nationalist with a hatred for all countries outside the USA. A guy who’s slowly steering America and her allies into total collapse.


      • Sorry it’s you, Jill. I can still read the news and watch the videos without any glasses at all. Please don’t tell me you didn’t notice the consumer prices going up up up. Jill, really, the collective West is rapidly sliding into the most devastating recession we’ve see in our lifetimes! Mostly caused by cutting Russia out of the picture and overly optimistic prognoses of the outcome of the sanctions.

        Some uncomfortable facts:
        – USA and EU looking into the abyss
        – your lapdog UK even worse, already in negative growth
        – Russia’s economy going up
        – many countries getting out of the petro dollar scam
        – your royal friends in Saudi Arabia tossing the dollar, applying for BRICS membership as well
        – BRICS getting bigger each day
        – Belt and Road initiative growing rapidly
        – the jealous US terror attack on NordStream 2 is gonna backfire on them and on Germany. HARD!
        – our recent leadership elites will hardly survive their legislature periods. And if they do, they will never get a single vote ever again.
        – KUMBAYA!!! Avanti popolo! Indaba! Ubuntu! And all that jazz is our future!

        Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Tis the same here, my friend. The public seem to be more in love with a circus show than with good, solid governance. And the media play to that … after all, they rely on keeping the public invested for their livelihood. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My opinion is that the general population is concerned with a lot of other things besides politics. I believe in the age of political vitriol such as we are now living in, people get tired of all the wrangling, accusing, back and forth, lies, deceits and treacheries that they are exposed to from the opposing parties each and every day of their lives … I believe Americans are concerned with their issues of instant gratification above all other concerns and so they are either not focused on what the president has accomplished and are unaware or they have listened to the mindless twitter going on at the local bar and over the back fences …I believe they are just out of tune with reality because they are feeling a little insecure in a divided democracy– which I believe is a legitimate feeling …so even if Joe were to suddenly walk on water, it would be represented to the vast majority of people as a camera trick. The horror is that because of all the division and the very large diversification within our population, the act of governing the United States may be entering a stage when it becomes more and more impossible …and the people are drifting further and further away from the hope offered by the constitutional republic in which we live.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You make excellent points, and I would only add that some like the entertainment aspect that the Republicans have brought into what was once thought of as ‘boring’ politics.

      I do understand that people are more interested where they see their own lives being directly and immediately affected, but they need to stop and realize that even that which doesn’t directly affect them today (think climate change) will affect not only them, but their children and grandchildren in the future.


  4. Could it also be that folks in general just got tired of political news? I mean think about it. During the Trump era, he and his actions were “in your face” no matter what news media you favored.

    Or perhaps it’s because the media simply isn’t giving Biden all that much attention — certainly not anywhere near the attention they gave to Trump! Thus, bottom line, the average person simply isn’t aware of his accomplishments.


    Liked by 4 people

    • I think that’s probably a big part of it. Politics has been such an exhausting part of our lives of late that many have zoned out, are inured to the day-to-day fights. But … bottom line is this is the future of our nation and if we turn a blind eye, our children and grandchildren will pay for our perfidy.

      The media isn’t giving him much attention, for he isn’t out there tooting his horn and DEMANDING to be the center of attention as the former guy was. Why? Because he’s busy doing the job we pay him to do. The average person seems to prefer a circus show to good governance. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I also submit there’s some ageism at work – he’s 80! And some stand against same ol’, same ol’, ‘white man rule’. Some don’t view Biden as nearly progressive enough. But i hear from Democrats jokes about Biden’s age, and I’ve read others mocking his stutter, and always joking, oh, gosh, he didn’t stumble and fall! He was awake and coherent. It’s embarrassing that so many still make such judgements and worse, will vote based on these impressions. On the other hand, as it’s been pointed out elsewhere, disapproval ratings don’t necessarily translate to votes for others, esp. in this polarized age. Hugs and cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. Sure, we all have concerns about his age. I am nearing 72 and I know I couldn’t do the job he does, but … that’s me, and he is he. He’s proven himself more than a few times. Being born 75% deaf, I have always had speech problems and I stutter, but it doesn’t mean my brain isn’t functioning. It’s too bad that people want to focus on that, rather than what he stands for, what he has accomplished. I’m especially appalled (and sickened) when I hear someone say that Trump was a better president. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Sigh. Hugs and cheers, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

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