Franke: So much for ‘Biden the Unifier’

January 26, 2022

by Mark Franke

What a disappointment. I hardly expected Joe Biden suddenly to become a classical liberal dedicated to recognizing natural rights and advancing individual liberty. I did hope, Pollyanna like, that he actually meant what he said in his inaugural address:

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation.”

He differentiated himself during the primaries as a more reasonable version of liberalism or progressivism. That seemed to work well for him then and in the general election, especially as he was cheered along by a slavering media.

That may appear harsh but remember what the New York Times wrote about Kamala Harris when she was selected as Biden’s running mate. “A practical moderate,” they wrote. Seriously? She scored a perfect 100 on the American for Democratic Action liberal/progressive scale and as the number one liberal/progressive on Voteview’s non-partisan scale. But then this “newspaper of record” also believes America’s true founding occurred in 1619.

I don’t know who is in charge at the White House, but his key advisors are not doing Biden any favors. And who writes his speeches? Compare this quote from his Atlanta voting rights bill speech with the one above:

“Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

It doesn’t take an IQ above room temperature to know that Biden was referring to congressional Republicans despite the fact his roll call of bad guys were all Democrats. Does that sound like the language of a unifier? Of a self-proclaimed “President for all Americans”? Of a Senate veteran with the reputation of reaching across the aisle to form coalitions in support of moderate legislation?

The Republican Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, said he “did not recognize the man at the podium.” And this about someone McConnell said he has “known, liked and respected . . . for many years.”

Is this just a Washington Beltway phenomenon? Do the political, governmental and media elites there have a carefully choreographed dance that only they understand? Or can they truly be that hateful of each other? Is it all political theater? Or is it the worst part of human nature manifesting itself in juvenile behavior?

Regardless, shouldn’t the President of the United States rise above the partisan bickering? Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden ain’t.

Even presidents who weren’t stellar examples of statesmanship understood the political implications of their public pronouncements and their Oval Office bargaining. Think of Bill Clinton, who actually accomplished more once the Republicans took control of Congress. Biden might want to study both Reagan and Clinton as case studies for working with an opposition majority such as he will surely face after the 2022 elections.

It isn’t just the independents and moderates whom Biden is disappointing. It is no surprise that a conservative think tank like the Heritage Foundation would grade his first year as an abject failure. But when CNN gives him the same grade, that spells political trouble with a capital T.

Harry Enten of CNN concluded an analytical column with these words: “Unlike a lot of political figures recently, he ran on bringing people together. He has so far failed in that endeavor.” And this from a network which acted like it was an arm of the Biden campaign’s public relations department in 2020.

Biden’s political lieutenants surely can read the latest polling data. He is setting modern polling records for losing support of voters. One glance at the Real Clear Politics webpage should give pause to Biden’s campaign team. Especially worrying should be his drop among independents. Even more so should be the disturbing datapoint that he has suffered the greatest decline within the voter cohort age 30 and under. Even the Millennials are deserting him.

And the news just keeps getting worse. A recent Gallup poll found Biden to have the highest approval gap between the two parties’ voters of any president since World War II. So much for unifying us all.

To be fair, this has been an observable trend for the last 70 years, surely a reflection on the increasing polarization of our nation. So is it our fault for electing polarizing leaders? Or are we merely sleep-walking along behind the Bidens and Trumps? Night of the Living Dead, anyone?

No doubt I am becoming as cynical as the Washington crowd. But I can’t top these words from Biden’s inaugural speech for cynicism:

“And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another.”

Uh-huh. Unless, of course, you are among the 74 million “Jefferson Davises” who voted against him.

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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