President Joe Biden will celebrate America’s victory over Covid-19 with a July 4th barbecue this Sunday, but the smoke from the fireworks will barely clear before the Democrat faces potentially even more difficult challenges.
Around 1,000 guests, including emergency service and essential workers, military members and their families, are expected to flood the White House grounds for a party that would have been unthinkable a year ago, when the country was on lockdown.
The South Lawn celebration, followed by a thunderous fireworks display on the National Mall, will allow Biden to declare “independence from this virus.” Biden’s To Do list includes a dizzying array of crises and headaches, ranging from climate change to dealing with a deeply divided Congress and a vengeful Donald Trump.
But, for one humid Washington evening, the 78-year-old Biden will be able to relax and enjoy himself.
After leading the world in Covid deaths (over 600,000), the United States has emerged as a model for bringing the novel coronavirus under control and reviving the economy.
Much of this is due to Biden’s focused campaign to encourage mask use and vaccinations, which reversed Trump’s chaotic response. He also persuaded Congress to approve a historic $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which will accelerate economic recovery while protecting the most vulnerable.
Biden’s widely publicized goal of having 70% of US adults receive at least one dose of vaccine by July 4th will be narrowly missed.
Furthermore, celebratory White House statements tend to avoid emerging threats from the highly contagious Delta variant.
When asked about the wisdom of staging a South Lawn party, press secretary Jen Psaki responded, “If you’ve been vaccinated, the message we’re conveying is you’re safe.” But the global pandemic wasn’t Biden’s only unprecedented test on January 20, when he became the oldest president in US history.
“He had an economic crisis on his hands, and he had a still-raging pandemic on his hands — you’ve never had that kind of combination,” Biden said.
That’s before you factor in an ex-president contesting the election outcome, a razor-thin congressional majority, an explosive racial divide, a perilous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and international tensions ranging from China to Russia.
Covid and economic recovery were “probably the least daunting of the tasks,” according to Lichtman. Despite this, Biden’s genteel demeanor and pleas for unity stand out in a town rife with partisanship, impeachments, and startling breaches of presidential decorum during the Trump era.
The veteran politician in aviator sunglasses personifies the “happy warrior” Washington archetype.
But he’ll have his work cut out for him from now on if he wants to keep smiling.
Storm clouds are gathering as Republicans prepare to take control of Congress in the November 2022 midterm elections, and opponents such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – not to mention Trump – consider presidential bids in 2024. On a massive infrastructure spending package, Biden’s immediate battle is with both Republicans and the left of his Democratic party.
If Biden wins there this summer, he may gain political capital for even more initiatives, such as voting rights protection, police reform, and other key pillars of his platform.
However, if infrastructure fails, the Biden balloon may deflate. While the improving economy is a huge plus, inflation is becoming a major political concern.
A cute White House press release about the “Hot Dog” economy on Thursday — with graphics showing price drops for July 4th lemonade, hamburger meat, and ice cream — is unlikely to persuade many. The government’s “core personal consumption” price index increased 3.4 percent in May compared to the previous year, the most since 1992.
The White House, at least on the surface, appears to be filled with optimism.
Despite a drop in support for Biden in June polls, he maintains approval ratings of well over 50%, something Trump has never achieved. He’s breaking new ground as well. According to a June Yahoo News/YouGov poll, six out of ten Republicans support a $1.2 trillion version of the infrastructure spending proposals.
Numbers like these appear to be fueling Biden’s ultimate bet: that Americans want big solutions that are as big as the mountainous problems confronting their country. Writing about that infrastructure plan on Yahoo! this week, Biden said the real issue was about so much more than roads and bridges.