Alan Zendell, August 30, 2022
For a year-and-a-half, many Democrats criticized President Biden for being too passive in the face of unrelenting attacks from the right and the extremes within his own party. They asked, “Why doesn’t he fight back?” “Why isn’t he out there loudly trumpeting his accomplishments?” “Why can’t he control his own party?”
Fair questions, but our news-bite attention spans and reliance on social media, combined with people who can’t or won’t bother to check facts wasn’t well equipped to answer them. We’re good at collecting data, if not always assuring its accuracy; we’re good at building websites and generating reports, if cavalier about vetting sources; and we’re good at drawing conclusions, though not, as a nation, at applying reason and rational thought to assure that they’re correct.
We have also lost the art of subtlety, of ignoring the noise and seeking less visible and audible underlying changes. In other words, most of us have lost the ability to exercise patience, which is the best answer to those questions. Biden may not be as spry or mentally sharp as he was thirty years ago, but more than fifty years as a politician and high-ranking elected official have honed his governance skills. He ranks with the best, those, like Mitch McConnell, who understand that everything in politics is constantly in flux and what was true yesterday may look entirely different from what’s true tomorrow.
Biden doesn’t brag or bluster. He isn’t derailed by bumps in the road, and his ego isn’t bruised by every setback. Unlike his narcissistic predecessor, he knows when he’s behind and instead of changing the narrative with lies and conspiracies, he waves off the cameras and gets to work.
Dealing with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin must have been among the most frustrating experiences of his long career, but Biden respects Manchin. He knows Manchin has a responsibility to his poverty-stricken constituency which is still mired in the old fossil fuel economy. He had faith that in the end, Manchin would do his best for his party and the interests of the country, and he was right. He understood, too, that delegating the negotiation with Manchin to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could achieve months of apparently leak-proof progress and work better than appearing to strongarm his holdout Senator or resort to bullying and name calling.
As Democrats appeared to lose battle after battle, Biden understood that allowing right wing extremists a few easy victories that were clearly not the will of the majority of Americans would eventually haunt them, if not break their necks with a nasty whiplash. That’s what age, experience, and patience do for you. Biden let McConnell have his victory over gun control activists. He let critics scream that runaway inflation was his fault. He looked at a seriously divided European Union and it’s military counterpart, NATO, and ignored critics who said he could never undo the damage Trump did to our alliances. He knew Vladimir Putin saw a closing window of opportunity to reconstruct the Soviet Union, and that our unified response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would define our standing in the world for the next generation.
He didn’t threaten anyone. He didn’t launch ICBMs or stage military parades, and he didn’t warn that he would obliterate our enemies. He quietly went to work rebuilding our alliances. He regained the confidence of European leaders and convinced them that anything less than unanimity in assisting Ukraine was unacceptable. Today, against all odds, Ukrainian forces have stopped Russian advances. Russia is bogged down and unable to move and supply its troops, while Ukraine, using NATO intelligence, has made optimum use of the weapons we gave them, making Russia’s aggression far more costly than Putin imagined.
Inflation has peaked, energy prices are declining as fast as they rose, the job market is strong, and the equities markets are holding up despite claims that our economy is in recession. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in fifty years, we’re tackling corrupt drug prices, and finally taking serious strides to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming. And as Trump’s Supreme Court justices appeared to hand MAGA victory after victory, Biden knew patience would win the day, that a small minority can gerrymander voting districts and temporarily force its will on the majority, but when sixty to eighty percent of Americans believe their will has been stifled, they remember what America is all about.
Ten weeks before the midterm elections, Biden’s approval rating is steadily rising, the generic national ballot has swung to a plurality of voters preferring Democrats over Republicans, and master politician, Mitch McConnell is preparing his minions for the likely bad news that the Democrats will strengthen their Senate majority in November. And while Nancy Pelosi continues to impressively hold her caucus together, her Republican counterpart, Kevin McCarthy is in trouble. Unwilling to identify as either a Trumper or a traditional conservative Republican, he is rapidly losing favor in both camps.
Pay attention – the trends are shifting from red to purple to blue with seventy days to go.