When it came to the idea of Joe Biden becoming the third man to become the oldest president in American history, within my lifetime, I greeted it with headlines for essays like, “Tell Your Mee-Maw and Them to Break Up With Joe Biden, I’m Bored.”
I didn’t want an old White guy to be president — or at least not this genre of old White guy. Someone, who, as a Democratic primary candidate, told wealthy donors that, in a Biden administration, “nothing would fundamentally change.” Such thinking was a mistake of the Obama Biden administration, which was transformative in terms of changing symbols of power, but not so much wielding it to fix what remains so fundamentally broken about our unequal system (even if as president, most view Obama’s record favorably than not). That’s why I worried when Biden told debate viewers he understood that most Americans “are looking for results, not a revolution” when, like it or not, the political ascension of Donald Trump suggests otherwise for a significant portion of the electorate.
So when Biden professed to serve “as a bridge, not as anything else,” as 46th president to a new generation of Democratic leaders, I openly questioned whether he should step aside given his stances on issues like student loan debt cancellation, how to tackle police brutality, and the right to smoke weed freely nationwide. Biden’s candidacy felt like an unrealistic throwback to an audience in denial, but there are times where I need to remember what country I live in. Of course, this country needed to return to some form of “normalcy” after the temper tantrum many of them threw over the unconventional optics of the previous White House.
I still don’t know if Biden was truly the only person who could’ve defeated Trump, but as I noted a year ago, much as I disagreed with the assertion, the masses agreed with him and made their choice. He told me. Now, as he approaches 100 days into his presidency this week, I wouldn’t call myself a cheerleader for Biden, but I have a basic appreciation for him not actively engaging in policies designed to kill people during a plague. And a window of what could be with a more functional federal government.
Even before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it was going to take years for many of us to recover from the Trump presidency. Many people who work in cable news and other forms of the political media may have often foamed at the mouth to cover the constant chaos and cruelty that was former President Trump, but to be reminded on a daily basis that the most powerful person in the world hates you and will utilize the powers of the presidency to hurt those near and dear to you as much as humanly possible, was too much for too long. Then, came a contagion in which Trump was at the helm.
His strategy was to lie about the seriousness of a deadly virus and then leave people to die. Most of that had to do with his feelings that pandemics were a personal and political buzzkill. Hating the vibes of that, Trump spent most of 2020 trying to steal an election in order to firmly reestablish the United States of America as a subsidiary of Trump, Inc.
By virtue of basic comparison to that bucket of nightmares, of course Biden gets high marks from much of the nation — yes, even me (and AOC) in select cases.
According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 52% of adults say they approve of the job Biden is doing, compared with 42% who disapprove. At this stage of Trump’s presidency four years ago, Trump’s rating had approval at 42% and disapproval at 53%. That’s on par with a separate new national poll from NBC News, which shows 53% approval for Biden and 39% disapproval, and others from Reuters/Ipsos and Fox News. (I’m sure Minute Maid Mao is mad as hell at the fact that everyone likes Biden now more than they did him at the same point four years ago.)
In sum, most Americans polled approve of how Biden’s handling the pandemic and would like him to continue to spend money to fix America’s problems.
I’m writing this from across the street of one federal vaccination site that President Biden recently visited. In real time, I can see the difference between a President Biden and a President Trump. And in a city like Houston, where a governor shares the lack of regard for human life like Trump, bad policies have given way to needless pain and suffering. It makes a difference to have easier access to life-saving vaccines. It matters that people have been provided some financial relief, even if it’s not nearly enough. I believe far more could be done, but if nothing else, there’s effort.
There’s also some level of compassion when it comes to acknowledging that hundreds of thousands of people have died in a year.
While I didn’t want this old White man as my next president, at least Joe Biden hasn’t been a failure, disappointment, and embarrassment. It’s nice that his speeches aren’t seasoned with slurring and sociopathy.
And when it comes to addressing issues that can directly impact Black people, I can acknowledge the administration’s commitment to, at least, trying to tackle domestic violent extremism and private prisons, siccing intelligence agencies on the former issue and ending the Department of Justice contracts with the latter. (Still, much work remains to be done in dismantling the prison-industrial complex.)
A guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin did not warm my heart the way it did for others, but I understand the significance of an American president saying this after the verdict: “It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to — the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul; the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”
It’s not in me to profess love for a man of Biden’s legacy as a senator, but as president so far, he’s performed the duties better than I assumed he would’ve in years past.
This does not absolve Biden of certain errors.
For the life of me, I will never understand this man’s issue with federal legalization of weed. I also don’t understand how giving police departments more money solves the problem of police brutality. And when it comes to the subject of refugees, the administration could stand to give itself less grief by sticking to its own promises.
But even if Biden isn’t perfect — as no American president truly ever could be — he does appear to recognize that he’s not just some placeholder until a presumed President Kamala Harris takes office.
As someone who turned 37 in April, I was born under President Reagan, a showboating bigot and shill for corporations who not only infamously began his presidential campaign with a nod to segregationists, but also delivered the noted line as president, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
Reagan sold the electorate the lie that government programs intended to benefit the worker and working class were an impediment to progress and filled the void by appeasing their prejudices. Long after that old racist died, though, the philosophy has largely guided the presidents of both parties until a crisis left them no choice. Before Biden was sworn in, there was reason to believe he might mirror those mistakes, but thus far, if nothing else, the Biden administration has worked to remind people that government can be useful if better managed.
I’m not sure Biden will rise to the legacies of FDR and LBJ, but Biden being more invested in government serving more of a pre-Reagan role than post could be especially beneficial to Black folks if the administration is not only sincere but successful in trying to offset long-standing inequity. Hopefully, that includes ultimately removing the filibuster, passing voting rights legislation, passing gun rights legislation, expanding the Supreme Court to spare us the messes they’re about to create, getting the Green New Deal passed, and letting me smoke sativa legally wherever I damn well please. All of this would give Joe Biden the transformative legacy he covets. But considering the history of this president and the Democratic Party that backs him, I won’t hold my breath.
While I didn’t want this old White man as my next president, at least Joe Biden hasn’t been a failure, disappointment, and embarrassment. It’s nice that his speeches aren’t seasoned with slurring and sociopathy. I’m glad he isn’t such an attention-seeking lazy thot like the last guy.
However, I don’t know if being so relieved by that is more of a testament to Biden’s abilities as an executive or whether Trump’s presidential reign of terror has left me feeling that distressed. Yet relieved I am. I just hope the next 100 days continue to be better than the previous four years from which I have yet to fully recover.