The worst sort of ageism has been stalking Joe Biden. The biggest count against him is that if he runs he’ll be 86 at the end of his term in 2024, and polls show his negatives are mostly about his age. As someone who has eight years on him (he is 80, I’m 88), I rise to his defense.
Getting to this age involves some familiar tradeoffs with your body. I’ve been lucky on that score, and for the most part Joe has too. I’ve seen so many recent hip fractures and replacements among friends, digestive disorders, deaths, disablements and debilitations. One survives by having good genes, following (mostly) the dictates of good health, and being lucky.
Biden’s brain seems to be working pretty well. He sometimes has a short fuse when responding to dumb questions. And yes, he can ramble on. People are quick to focus on his stumbles boarding a plane, his flubs on delivering a speech, the stuttering, his gait when walking, and so on. Only a few recognize the severe disabilities that Presidents FDR and JFK had to overcome—and their success in doing so. Biden’s problems pale in comparison.
I still don’t quite understand why his approval numbers are so bad. Some 62% say he hasn’t accomplished much, despite a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, $369 billion in climate initiatives, and tremendous growth in job numbers. His policy positions should appeal broadly but don’t, though they reflect large-scale approval of their aims. “A third of registered voters have heard ‘nothing at all’ about the climate law, while another 24 percent heard ‘a little’ and 29 percent heard ‘some.’” So says Politico.
Despite a shaky start, his State of the Union speech was strong. It demonstrated that he could quickly and effectively respond to provocations from the Other Side. Who could ask “for a better foil than Marjorie Taylor Greene”? His performance showed that he could effectively think on his feet. The expected catalog of Biden accomplishments was presented so as to be understandable (if not appealing) to everyone. Few presidents have been able to do this as well.
The major problem for Biden seems to be (1) that his administration hasn’t put his achievements in terms to appeal to a mass audience, and (2) made sufficient efforts to get that message out. Young people in particular aren’t tuning in, and “Americans broadly distrust Biden, McCarthy and both parties in Congress.” Some 60% see no progress in job creation even though “Biden has overseen the fastest pace of job growth in U.S. history, with unemployment reaching lows not seen in decades.”
Hurrah, but perhaps the problem is more than messaging. People need to see action and results, some kind of evidence that the Biden policies and legislation are working. The administration has less than two years to show us more tangible progress. Shooting down spy balloons gets a lot of press; opening new chip plants does not.
Joe’s folks need to rebuild their communications efforts. Show us the benefits in real time and tell us stories with real people that we can believe in.