I do not think I am exaggerating that one of the main objectives of the “State of the Union” speech was to rescue the presidency of Joe Biden. The Democratic president’s approval ratings this week are at a historic level – almost catastrophic – of only 41.1% approval, according to the portal www.fivethirtyeight.com. Only Donald Trump had a lower level, by tenths, a year into his presidency.
And it is that Biden, and his party, have little time left to ensure that they do not lose both chambers in the midterm elections in November. Historically, the party of the incumbent president loses a significant number of seats, simply and simply due to the normal wear and tear of governing. But right now, the majority of Democrats in the Senate is by one vote (with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tiebreaker vote). In the chamber there are 222 Democrats against 211 Republicans. The difference is minimal, particularly at a time when US politics remains divided, in part promoted by former President Donald Trump, who is actively seeking to run for president in 2024.
Whether Joe Biden’s speech this week will rescue his presidency and, as he underlined in his speech, “American democracy” remains to be seen. And although, at the beginning of the speech, I forcefully and passionately presented the reasons why Vladimir Putin had to be confronted, leading a coalition of NATO member countries, other European, Asian and other countries, it remains to be seen if he convinced the electorate US to “endure” the pain that economic sanctions against the evil Vladimir Putin would produce in their pockets. In fact, during the speech, he announced that they would ban any Russian aircraft from entering US airspace, adding to the sanctions Vladimir Putin, Russian banks and oligarchs presented by the United States and a significant number of Western countries.
The support for Ukraine, raised by President Biden, was probably the moment where the most bipartisan consensus was reflected in many years. How to forget Donald Trump’s last speech, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the copy of the speech given to her by the president into small pieces. Democratic and Republican lawmakers applauded together at proposals for how the United States and the world would seek to stop Vladimir Putin’s armed incursions not with soldiers, but with sanctions and resources. But also with the promise of protecting the NATO countries, in the face of a possible attack by Russia against the allies. In these first 10 minutes of his speech, Biden was able to tear down and dramatically change what had been one of the foundations of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, which was to weaken NATO and promote a political and security rapprochement with Vladimir Putin.
And although external enemies generally unify the population around the commander-in-chief, it remains to be seen what impact the president of the United States will have in the medium and long term on American perceptions of the strength of Joe Biden.
But the other goal of the speech was to draw attention and seek to unify Democratic lawmakers who remain divided between moderates and the more progressive left. A clear message from the president to his party was that despite the “successes” in handling the pandemic and in the economy (6.5 million jobs were created in one year) there is much to do, including raising the minimum wage and seeking that companies and taxpayers with more income pay more taxes. In addition, he called for legislation on gun control and protecting women’s right to access legal abortion, now threatened by decisions by conservative Supreme Court justices. But for these progressive agenda items to be addressed by the Biden administration, Democratic lawmakers need a unified front. And they have little time left, considering the possible catastrophic results of the elections in November.
It was a good speech, expressed with passion and conviction. But it remains to be seen whether the electorate and Democrats listened to Biden and it was enough to rescue the presidency from him.