Joe Biden is halfway through his term. While those two years and almost a half may not have been quite the rollercoaster of his predecessor’s first two years, it’s been far from a smooth ride.
When Biden was sworn in as the 46th US president on January 20, 2021, he was coming to the White House while America was still facing the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the next 24 months, the current president has managed to exceed some of his critics’ expectations and helped push through several popular relief packages and bills. Nevertheless, people have been expressing concerns about whether Biden should lead the Democrats into the 2024 election.
He has now entered his third year, facing fresh controversy over the emergence of Obama-era classified documents, which were found at the former president’s Delaware house and an office in Washington, D.C., that he used.
While it’s the second half of Trump’s presidency that may be best remembered—which included him being impeached twice, the January 6 attack, his 2020 election loss, and the outbreak of the coronavirus—his first two years in office were also marked by what some political experts describe as “chaos.”
This being said, let’s see how the first years of the presidency looked for both Trump and Biden!
Trump’s First Two Years
In his first several days, the Trump administration attempted to misinform the nation by claiming his swearing-in ceremony drew the largest crowd in US history. There were, of course, photos proving otherwise.
The very beginning of Trump’s presidency also featured the worldwide controversy stirred up by the so-called “Muslim ban”. This executive order prevented people from seven predominantly Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Also, during Trump’s first year at the White House, special counsel Robert Mueller started his inquiry into allegations that the 2016 electoral campaign colluded with Russia. The claims were eventually dismissed, but the investigation did bring forward convictions against some of Trump’s officials, such as campaign manager Paul Manafort and former US national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The first two years of Trump’s presidency were also marked by high levels of executive staff and cabinet turnover, including that of Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted no more than 10 days as White House communications director before the president decided to fire him in July 2017.
Some political experts voiced the fact that in its first two years, the 45th president’s administration was run by a bunch of “political amateurs. In fact, Donald Trump made sure to surround himself with people with little idea of how to run a country, including members of his own family.
So, if we take a look at the first two years of Trump’s presidency, it’s safe to say that it was 24 months of self-generated chaos with little policy input. When the time came for the Biden administration, it was a pretty sharp contrast to how things were during the Trump era. The government would have finally been run by political professionals with vast policy expertise and government experience.
In fact, according to polling, Trump came to office as the most unpopular new leader in modern history. He would eventually record a near-all-time low of 36% in August 2017. The 36% approval rating came after the fatal neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. When talking about the deadly event, Trump stated that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the brutal clashes.
As noted by several poll trackers, we never saw Trump’s approval rating go over 50% during his presidency.
Biden’s First Two Years
Biden, on the other hand, got the ball rolling successfully as soon as he was sworn in. In the first few months of his presidency, he often recorded approval ratings of 50%. One factor that influenced these pretty good ratings was his decision to pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package (he did that in March 2021). It was one of the largest economic contributions in American history.
When Biden came to the White House, less than 1% of the US population had both vaccine shots necessary to stop the coronavirus from spreading. It’s important to note, though, that the rollout was then still in its early stages. However, by March 2012, more than 10% of the US population (about 33 million) had been fully vaccinated.
Biden Loses Support
Nevertheless, Biden’s honeymoon phase ended after he was intensely criticized for the way he handled things with the Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021, when over 180 people, including 13 from the US armed forces, were killed in a deadly bombing at Kabul airport just before the Taliban would have to retake the country.
That’s how, in the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal, Biden’s approval rating went down below 50%, and he hasn’t been above that level since. In fact, Biden’s polling numbers kept on falling, reaching just 38% in July 2022. This happened amid high levels of inflation due to the pandemic and record-breaking gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Analyzing both presidents’ approval ratings, experts pointed out that both Trump’s and Biden’s consistently low numbers in their first two years of presidency despite their different track records may indicate that our country has entered a new stage in US politics, one that’s fueled primarily by public discontent and partisan polarization.
Biden’s low approval ratings generated not only concerns about whether it would be a good idea for him to run for the presidency in 2024 but also predictions that the Democrats would be severely punished in the midterms. It was the GOP that eventually underperformed, only narrowly managing to get a majority in the House and failing to seize control of the Senate again, as had been widely predicted.
Factors that helped Democrats avoid a “red wave” include voters being motivated to protect the right to access abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision overturned Roe v. Wade and others being unconvinced by election-denying or election-questioning candidates endorsed by Trump in races that took place across the country.
Even following the positive midterm result, Biden’s approval rating hasn’t gone over the low 40s until his two-year anniversary as chief of state.
Successful and Failed Policies
When it comes to domestic policies, Trump did manage to put a major piece of legislation into use (we’re talking about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017). During his presidency, Trump also engaged in several international matters, such as pulling our country out of the Paris climate agreement and ending the Iran nuclear deal.
Nonetheless, he failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, while the GOP had the majority in the House and Senate. Trump also failed to move forward with his much-hyped 2016 election promise to build a fortified wall across the US-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.
When it comes to Biden’s domestic record, we can agree that it’s also mixed. The current president was left discontented by his failure to move forward with his $3 trillion Build Back Better Act, largely thanks to moderate Democrats Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
Yet a scaled-down version of the policy was eventually pushed through with Manchin’s approval (we’re talking about the Inflation Reduction Act).
Apart from Afghanistan, when it comes to foreign policy, Biden’s presidency has been marked by the Russia-Ukraine war, especially the matter of sending additional aid to Ukraine.
According to Thomas Gift, founding director and associate professor at University College London’s Center on US Politics, Biden’s first two years of the presidency have been “tumble and rough”. However, Gift noted that he has managed to bring back a sense of normalcy following the tumultuous Trump years, as well as other accomplishments such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the American Rescue Plan.
However, some experts agree that Biden’s presidency hasn’t yet succeeded in uniting the country. The extreme partisan polarization is still afflicting the nation. If anything, the MAGA wing of the GOP has only adopted radical positions during Biden’s presidency, and the Democratic Party also keeps on facing its own internal divisions.
That the current president hasn’t come up with solutions for what afflicts a divided electorate is not surprising. Neither is it his fault.
Sean Freeder, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida, pointed out that a major difference between Biden and Trump’s first two years lay in their “rhetorical” differences.
While Trump spoke in an unfiltered and confrontational manner, using Twitter to bypass other media channels, Biden looks more like a traditional chief of state who relies on not-so-often speeches and mostly less confrontational rhetoric.
Looking ahead, political experts predicted that the current president may be placed in the middle of the pack on the list of great US leaders—in stark contrast to Trump. We have to admit that he had enough significant legislative achievements to be seen as successful, but only time will tell if he’s an overall good president.
We’ll have to wait to see how much credit presidential experts give Biden for his successes in the future and how they will assess his international leadership. This being said, Biden greatly benefits from simply following Trump’s act; in surveys conducted by presidential experts, Trump ranks pretty high among the very worst leaders in US history, and we have to admit there are very slim chances for those rankings to change in the future.
If you want to dive deeper into certain important events in Biden’s life, here’s a book you may want to read!
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