This is something of a mea culpa.
In January 2020, I wrote a column for this newspaper about why Joe Biden should drop out of the Democratic primary. “We need a candidate who doesn’t provide easy fodder for Republican attacks and can withstand the barrage of fire coming her or his way,” I wrote at the time. “That candidate isn’t Joe Biden.”
That is nothing compared to what I said about two months later on my blog, calling him a “walking gaffe” and a “disaster waiting to happen.”
I was wrong. In his first 100 days, Joe Biden has shown he intends to be a consequential president, one who puts the needs of the working class first and who leaves this country much better than how he found it. Still early in his first term, I do not mind telling you that I’m not only am I proud to have voted for Joe Biden, but that I’m pretty sure he is shaping up to be the best president in my lifetime.
In fairness, that bar is set pretty low. Ronald Reagan was president when I was born, and his neoliberal “trickle-down economics” has been embraced in part or in whole by every president since. Reagan, the first entertainer-cum-president, was followed by an out-of-touch patrician (Bush the Elder), a randy cad (Clinton), a dimwitted cowboy (Bush the Younger), an aloof professor (Obama), and the love child of Glenn Quagmire and Bellatrix Lestrange (Trump).
Some did more things I liked than the others — I have health insurance, so thanks Obama — but on the whole, each left me more disappointed than the last, and the last left me with an ulcer. Since the 1990s, we have been fighting culture wars left and right. If Republicans weren’t legislating hateful gay marriage bans into state constitutions, Democrats were calling half the county “deplorables” and complaining they “get bitter” and cling to “guns or religion.” Then along came He-Who-Must-Surely-Be-Spray-Tanned and, well, you know the rest.
I started to warm to Joe Biden during the convention. Part of this was because I would have literally anyone other than Trump by the end — Cindy McCain, Mr Peanut, the ghost of Adlai Stevenson, whoever. But I was also heartened by Biden’s display of unity and embrace of our diversity, as well as his commitment to plain talking and kitchen table issues.
Still, I was far from a convert. The Democrats had my vote because I wanted Trump out the White House. But I did not expect much out of the Biden administration.
During the transition, I complained about some of his Cabinet picks and urged him on towards others. I was excited to have a Democratic administration — especially after the events of January 6th — but my expectations remained low. Joe Biden is a moderate, I regularly grumbled, someone who thinks he can compromise with Republicans. Someone who is more interested in decorum and procedure than substantive change.
At times, it has felt like that is true. “Most people don’t give a fig about the Senate rules,” I raged several weeks ago when the Senate parliamentarian refused to allow a minimum wage increase through budget reconciliation. Biden accepted her ruling, much to my frustration.
But then I think about what we did get, or stand to get, thanks to Joe Biden. The American Rescue Plan put $1400 into the bank accounts of millions who needed it and will cut child poverty in half. Read that again. Cut child poverty in half. I don’t have the words to describe how big that is.
Then there’s his education plan, which will help bring struggling rural schools up to par. An infrastructure plan that will revolutionize poor communities like mine. Biden is bringing home our troops from Afghanistan, finally ending the longest war in our history.
He’s looking at possibly expanding the Supreme Court, at admitting Washington DC as a state, and enacting important and landmark voting rights legislation. Not to mention that he has completely turned around our pandemic response, making us a global leader in vaccine rollouts. I got my second shot last week! I thought it would be another six months, at least, until I was able to be vaccinated. But after a year in lockdown, I am looking at finally being able to go outside without fearing that I will contract a deadly virus.
All of this, right now, in his first 100 days.
This is more than I ever could have hoped for, more than I ever expected. Far from “Sleepy Joe,” we are seeing the power of the presidency in action. He has learned from the mistakes of his predecessors and is wielding the power of his office to effect substantive change in ways I never anticipated. Unlike Trump, who sucked all the oxygen out of the country, Biden is unassuming. He hunkered down and got to work the moment he sat behind the Resolute Desk. And he learned the lessons of Barack Obama, wasting no time in spending political capital to pass landmark legislation.
Biden is not getting lost in the endless culture wars that plagued Clinton and Obama (and that were the calling cards of both Bush the Younger and Trump), instead opting to focus on the material needs of the country: Covid relief, a jobs package, rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in education. The things that make a difference in Americans’ lives.
No excuses, no delays. We are seeing what can happen when we elect a decent man with a good heart and the political know-how to translate that into law.
So, this is my apology to Joe Biden for getting him so wrong, my thanks for what he has accomplished, and my encouragement for him to keep going. Because I have never felt more optimistic about my future, and the future of my country, than I feel right now.
Biden means to make his mark on this country, and thank God for that. We will all be better off for it.