The president can take pride in real achievements. Can he convince Americans to give him credit?
Few politicians manage, in Winston Churchill’s phrase, to make the weather. Joe Biden was particularly poorly placed to do so when he took office, inheriting a pandemic that was raging unchecked, a struggling economy and a crisis of democracy itself. War in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis soon followed; relations with Beijing continue to deteriorate, as last week’s row over the Chinese balloon demonstrated.
The president’s achievements, laid out in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, are striking, despite disappointments along the way. He passed an enormous stimulus package within weeks of taking office; showed real leadership with his climate change deal; and pushed through bipartisan legislation on infrastructure. Unemployment is at a five-decade low. But while he may be reshaping the economic paradigm, he has not yet shifted the mood. Beaten down by rising prices, more than six in 10 Americans think he has achieved “not very much” or “little or nothing”. It may be, as the administration hopes, that measures such as capping insulin prices make themselves more fully felt in months to come. But hours before Mr Biden spoke, the boss of the Federal Reserve indicated it may have to keep raising interest rates to tackle inflation.