When a suburban Wisconsin woman was asked about the state of the country under newly elected President Joe Biden, she responded with: “I’m still exhaling,” a reference to the Trump presidency she said was “exhausting.”
Perhaps it’s not a great compliment for the new president, but it may bode well for his success. It’s a sign the country is ready for more unity than division.
Biden’s poll numbers suggest more and more people are agreeing with each other if not completely with Biden proposals. Some 73% in a recent poll approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, including about half of Republicans. Another 62% approve of how he’s handling health care, and 60% approve of his handling of the economy.
Biden’s overall approval rating stands at a robust 61% three months into his presidency, according to the AP-NORC poll. President Donald Trump never rose above a 50% approval rating during his presidency.
Biden seems to have a knack for creating an underlying tone of unity even when talking about seemingly partisan policies, as in his 100-days-in-office speech last week to a joint session of Congress.
He proposed a big infrastructure plan of $2 trillion. Republicans called for lower investments and spending limits. He says he’s willing to negotiate. When he proposed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief, Republicans proposed about a third of that. He still had a cordial meeting with them and followed through on his promise to listen but pass a plan with only Democratic votes if there was going to be a lot of delaying by Republicans.
And Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris make the case their proposals are bipartisan— not with Republican elected officials, but with Republican voters. The polls say they’re right.
Biden has staked out, brilliantly, a plan to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. How can Republicans be against that? Biden makes it hard for Republicans to oppose raising taxes on the wealthiest 3 in 1,000 people and corporations who got a 40% tax cut four years ago.
There is silence from the people on these tax increases as well.
Biden’s speech last week was filled with unifying themes. The word “jobs” was mentioned over 40 times, and it meshed with jobs in green energy and the line about manufacturing wind turbines in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.
He makes it hard for Republicans to oppose the $1,400 COVID relief checks to individuals because their standard bearer, Trump, proposed the same thing before leaving office.
And Biden also talked about the unity that comes with supporting families in his American Families Plan that will offer two years of free early childhood education and two years of free post-secondary education. It’s hard to be against that. One can argue about the threat to deficits, but even there Biden has a more unifying message: He’ll pay for it without raising deficits.
Republicans will and should continue to offer their alternatives. That’s how America works. Biden will continue to listen and negotiate. That’s how America works when it has a leader who believes in democracy instead of autocrats.
Biden’s themes of unity will serve us well and may draw allegiance from the people — Democrats, Republicans and independents — who can now feel they’re in a country where they can breathe easier and one that can be “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”