What should have been an act to celebrate “the historic achievement” of the approval of a timid legislation on gun control in the United States, became another proof that Joe Biden is, more than ever, a president in trouble. Manuel Oliver, father of a 17-year-old boy who lost his life in the 2018 mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, institute, interrupted the speech that Biden was giving this Monday on the South Lawn of the White House, before an audience that it included congressmen from both parties and family members and survivors of other famous tragedies, from Columbine to Colorado, and from Virginia Tech to Buffalo or, most recently, the massacre at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
“[Este acto] it means a lot. It is proof that, despite the detractors, we are capable of making progress on gun violence,” Biden was saying when Oliver, dressed in a t-shirt in memory of his son, Joaquín, which read “We demand justice ”, he has shouted: “We have to do more than that!”. Then a visibly angry Biden asked the guy to shut up and let him finish, which was followed by a confusing exchange in which Oliver basically expressed his weariness and desperation that four and a half years later of his intimate tragedy “little or nothing has changed” and has demanded, to the applause of the attendees, the creation of “an office in the White House” to manage the epidemic of violence. Later, they have escorted him to the exit. Afterwards, Biden has followed suit, reading his text: “Make no mistake about it: this legislation is real progress, but more must be done. It’s going to save lives. And it is proof that it is possible to join both parties for important things, even on an issue as difficult as weapons.
The episode has seemed like the perfect staging of the moment in which the president finds himself, harassed by criticism, his own and others, for a lack of determined leadership from the White House on some of the most urgent issues on the progressive agenda, such as the protection of the minority vote, the fight against climate change, gun control (where, despite everything, the Democrats have uprooted the unthinkable: the vote of 13 Republicans) or abortion. The latter is one of the most disconcerting cases: he has caught his Administration off the hook, despite the fact that it was known for months that the Supreme Court ruling that has repealed his constitutional protection was yet to come and what its content would be. The timid reaction came on Friday with a decree to protect women’s reproductive health that was clearly insufficient to solve a crisis that has further divided the country.
“Our hearts go out to Manuel Oliver, who has suffered a very, very deep loss,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily news conference in the afternoon. Jean-Pierre revealed that Oliver had met with Biden this year, adding: “We agree with him. We need to do more.”
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This Monday a joint survey of New York Times and Siena College that says that 64% of Democratic voters do not want Biden to be the candidate for the 2024 presidential elections (compared to 26% who do, and 10% who do not know or do not answer), even though he is determined to ensure that his plans remain intact (and those of his vice president to accompany him on the ballot, too, as he clarified in an interview broadcast over the weekend). “Widespread concerns about the economy and inflation have helped darken the national mood, both about Biden and the direction the country is headed,” explains the Times in the analysis accompanying the survey. “More than three-quarters of registered voters see America as headed in the wrong direction, a pervasive sense of pessimism that runs through every corner of the country, every age range and racial group, through the cities, the suburbs and in rural areas.
The poll data is especially worrying for the president among voters under 30: 94% would prefer the party to present another, younger candidate by 2024. It would be easy: at 79, Biden was the oldest president to take office in American history. On the list, he is followed by Donald Trump, at the moment, his most likely opponent in the next race for the White House. There is another figure in which the two opponents share the podium: both reached the first year and a half of their mandate with the worst approval ratings since there is a record. In the case of the current president, they are stuck at around 40% since last fall. Age is the reason most cited by respondents (33%) for wanting a replacement (followed by job performance, with 32%).
The first consequence of all this is expected in the mid-term legislative elections, called in November, in which control of the Senate and a third of the seats in the House of Representatives are at stake. The Democrats are preparing for a notorious bump that would imply that the Biden era, without control of his party over the legislative power, will be little less than amortized.
The survey of New York Times it was done over the past week, a time when the progressive media seem to have put aside in unison their reservations about speaking openly about Biden’s problems in holding office and being re-elected. It has long been a sport for the conservative press to ridicule the president’s lapses in public. Stumbles like the one he suffered last week, when he seemed to read from the screen on which the speeches are projected an indication to repeat a phrase, which was not written to be read.
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