Joe Biden’s pursuit of the presidency relied heavily on a carefully cultivated image that emphasized his moderate credentials. It won him the White House but, a new poll says, a majority of voters may be suffering from buyer’s remorse.
According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, 54 percent of U.S. voters surveyed said Mr. Biden was governing like “a puppet of the left” and not the “moderate ‘nice guy’” he portrayed himself as being during much of the campaign.
If that were not bad enough for a White House whose legislative agenda anticipates a prolonged progressive shift in U.S. politics, 49 percent of likely voters (including 24 percent of Democrats) participating in the same survey said they believed the left-wing of the Democratic Party “had too much influence” on Mr. Biden.
The condemnation of the president’s apparent lack of independence and leftward drift was shared widely among cross-sections of the electorate. Majorities of male and female voters, as well as voters in every age category, agreed he was operating as a “puppet.” Black voters, Rasmussen reports said, were “less likely” than voters in any other category to agree.
“Remarkably, many who say the left-wing has too much influence” on the president “also believe big business has too much influence” on him. The survey revealed 49 percent likely voters including 66 percent of GOP voters, 29 percent of Democrats, and 52 percent of unaffiliated voters were wary of the level of sway corporations had on the new president.
Voters who “strongly approve” of Mr. Biden’s presidential job performance were most likely to applaud the left’s influence on the administration’s agenda while those who strongly disapproved were almost unanimous in their opinion he was not governing as he’d promised.
During the initial days of his administration, Mr. Biden’s White House advanced several proposals that prioritized the interests of the green movement over those of the blue-collar union members who formed the core of the Democratic electorate at the time the president first entered the United States Senate. Among them was the decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline – which even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a close ally of Mr. Biden’s seemed to admit was a job-killing move – and a ban on new fracking on federal lands which, experts say, will ravage the budgets of states dependent on energy exploration issues to pay for education and other critical programs.
The shift has observers who are admittedly not fans of Mr. Biden wondering if he is in charge at the White House of if Vice President Kamala Harris, who campaigned briefly for president on a much more progressive agenda, is calling many of the important shots. Either way, the voters are showing early on they’re not happy about having been sold a bill of goods, apparently expecting a vote against the Trump presidency was not specifically as a vote against Trump policies that drove energy prices to record lows, sparked a prolonged stock market rally, and prior to the onset of the pandemic-driven lockdowns, brought unemployment to its lowest level in decades.
All that may abate if Mr. Biden changes direction again after he’s been in office for one hundred days. The idea of front-loading a legislative agenda with the heaviest political and ideological lifts that allow an incoming president to maximize accomplishments during the “Honeymoon Phase” of his presidency is not new. It’s been done before precisely because it gives controversial legislation its best chance to get through Congress and gives those who support it including the president the most time possible to recover lost political capital before the next election.
Whether Mr. Biden can do that will depend on his ability to get progressives like Bernie Sanders and AOC as well as house Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to agree that, once reconciliation passes, he’s given them enough — for now.
Peter Roff is a former U.S. News & World Report contributing editor now affiliated with several Washington, D.C. public policy organizations. He appears regularly as a commentator on the One America News network. Reach him by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.