The Biden Boom Begins
A look at his first address to a joint session.
Happy Monday my beautiful babies. There were a few big happenings this week, but I think the major highlight was President Biden’s first big speech on Wednesday. Annoyingly, everyone calls it an “Address to the Joint Session” because a President in his first year has really nothing to report, so we’re not allowed to call it a State of the Union. But it’s basically a State of the Union.
Biden’s speech highlighted his Administration’s accomplishments in its first 100 days, which includes a highly successful vaccine rollout (although we’ve definitely hit a snag following the Johnson & Johnson pause), the most jobs created in the first 100 days of any Administration (true, but we are coming out of a pretty deep hole), and the big headline news: GDP growth of 6.4% (annualized) in the first quarter of the year. His Administration and Congress have passed eleven individual pieces of legislation. He’s done 42 executive orders, which is a lot even if a huge chunk of them just undid the entirety of the Trump Administration. And word is that there will soon be a cat in the White House. Things are definitely humming along.
All in all, Biden had a lot to brag about in his speech. The general reaction was positive amongst those who watched it, though that wasn’t very many people. That sort of feeds into the most remarkable part of Biden’s success: His ability to make a very progressive agenda seem very boring. Some of that, I think, is due to the fact that Americans as a whole were exhausted by Trump and now are happy to tune out politics for a little bit while an adult is back in the room. But some of it is related to Biden’s own boringness. He is not getting into major political battles or scuffles and generally stays away from wading into controversies. His approval rating is at a steady 54%. To put it simply, he doesn’t tweet. That is an advantage for him and a disadvantage for Republicans, who have conceded that they just have no way of defining Biden. Think of it this way:
Hillary Clinton: Evil, baby-eating woman who has worked in politics for a million years and is evil.
Barack Obama: Radical socialist from Chicago, while also saying, “Oh and he’s black” very, very quietly.
Biden: Uh, old white guy from Delaware who likes to ride trains?
Biden has basically been around forever, everyone knows him, and no one can generate strong feelings about him. The GOP’s struggles are probably best captured by this (real, I swear) chyron:
Biden also touched on his major infrastructure bill that will fundamentally transform the American economy. It fits in pretty snugly here, because even though it could possibly get through the Senate with a few GOP votes, the Democrats can pass the bill without a single Republican climbing on board.
Some of the reasoning behind this big progressive push is related to Mitch McConnell. People can say what they want about him, but he is not shy about advocating aggressively for Republican legislation. His general view has been to take full and complete advantage of the majority when you have it and worry about the pendulum swing later. You do not have to reach out to the other side, you do not have to try and make your bills “bipartisan,” you simply get into power, wield it, and then count on the general public forgetting about how poisonous the politics were by the next election cycle.
The Democrats have learned from Uncle Mitch. They are pushing for major legislative changes based on the assumption that they will lose the House and Senate in 2022. A lot of Democrats also think that President Obama’s attempts to play ball with Republicans hurt him in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, since a lot of the legislation he passed was aimed at getting Republican votes that never came (See: The 2009 Stimulus, any piece of gun control legislation, Obamacare, and the debt ceiling negotiations). Because Obama and the Democrats “wasted” their huge, 10-seat Senate majority in 2009, a lot of liberal strategists think progressives stayed home in the midterms.
While Biden is smart to have learned all of this from McConnell, I still think Democrats will likely lose the House and Senate in 2022 anyway. The reasoning:
Most of progressivism is performative, so even though the Biden Administration is passing very progressive legislation, the extremely online Lefties will never be satisfied, especially if Donald Trump isn’t around.
The structural advantages the minority Party has in midterms are really hard to overcome.
Overall, we were able to get a small sense of what the Biden agenda will be outside of ending COVID-19. And, spoiler, a Party that has moved pretty far to the Left in the past 5-10 years produced a Party Leader who has a governing agenda that is pretty far to the Left.
I’m just gonna say it: Rudy Freaking Giuliani. Getting the crazy headline news out of the way, it is very likely that Giuliani is going to be indicted in relatively short order. For one, whenever the Department of Justice performs a search and seizure of an attorney’s private residence, it is always a big ask. It’s something that is done only if there is already evidence of wrongdoing. DOJ knows that private attorneys are able to have a lot of privileged conversations with their clients that law enforcement cannot touch unless they have really, really good reasons.
So, take this rare scenario where an attorney has his apartment raided and his personal devices seized and factor in that the attorney in question represents the former President of the United States. The risk factor for DOJ increases by about ten thousand. Think back to Michael Cohen, who was also Donald Trump’s attorney and had his home raided by the FBI in April of 2018. By August of 2018, Cohen was pleading guilty. Rudy is likely in the same position.
Long story short, the reason this raid was done is because DOJ has significant evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Rudy Giuliani and they are preparing to indict him. Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti has a good piece on why this could be bad for Trump.
For some should-reads, I wanted to square the circle back to the Biden Boom. Obviously, with an economy growing like gangbusters, inflation is a real, legitimate worry. Ben Winck at Business Insider produced a great piece on how the Biden Administration basically did inflation “war games” and did not see any pop up in their scenarios. Nevertheless, some people in the Administration are still concerned, which is a good sign that they are taking it seriously!
I was slightly comforted by that, but I was even more comforted by Janet Yellen’s comments that we do not have to worry about inflation right now. However, I’m still going to link to Larry Summers’s comments from a week ago. I speak to enough Really Smart People™ to know when there is genuine uncertainty, and this feels like one of those times. Even the Biden Administration has acknowledged that some inflation may happen, but that it will be “transitory.”
However, one thing to look out for and dismiss: People citing to things like gas prices and using indicators from about April/May of 2020. COVID-19 basically brought the worldwide economy to a screeching halt, which resulted in a lot of commodities falling into a black hole, from which they are only now just climbing out (do you climb out of a black hole?). And then you have things like lumber, which is mostly related to supply and demand (more people working from home = demand for more homes), although it does produce some funny memes.
That’s it for me my habibis. Have a great week and enjoy a few final pics from our hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.