One of the hallmarks of President Barack Obama’s first few years in office was, unfortunately, a demonstrated hair-trigger sensitivity towards the fake outrage whipped up by the right wing and their able allies, the mainstream media.
On paper, the sensitivity made some sort of sense. Despite Obama’s overwhelming victory against John McCain, he was the fist Black president and his first term came on the heels of a two-term Republican president who still had America in the middle of an unnecessary war. That fact, combined with Obama’s natural caution and small-c conservatism, led to a particularly cringey sensitivity.
From the groan-inducing “beer summit” between a white police officer and Henry Louis Gates Jr., to the ham-fisted firing of Shirley Sherrod because of what conspiracy theorists Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart cooked up, this was a clear area of weakness for Obama.
Just a little over 50 days into his presidency it appears President Joe Biden and those around him know better.
The Dance Begins Again
Despite knowing better after four years of Trump, the right and the press have fallen right back into their comfortable patterns. The right makes up a fake controversy that they pound every hour on Fox News and Twitter, while the media peppers the Democratic administration with questions about the made-up outrage that sound as if they were dreamed up by the RNC’s Ronna McDaniel and her team.
Thus far, Biden is not falling for the bait.
The right and the press whined that the Rescue Plan didn’t have bipartisan support, ignoring polling showing that 70% of America supported it, including millions of Republican voters.
The right and the press complain that Biden hasn’t given enough credit to Trump for the vaccines, ignoring the fact that America’s soul-crushing death toll of over 500,000 dead is largely due to the Trump team’s failure to respond and disinterest in doing so.
The right and the press fume that Biden hasn’t held a formal news conference, ignoring repeated media availabilities and the return of the daily press briefing, which Trump killed for weeks on end.
The right and the press echo hate groups and fume about a “border crisis,” conveniently disappearing Trump’s inhumane border policies designed as an attack on Latinos and the barbaric process of separating migrant families from each other.
To paraphrase FDR, the right and the media have even gone after Biden’s dog, Major (Who is a good boy, no matter what the “fake news” says).
Biden: No, I Don’t Think I Will
Thus far, Biden’s response has largely been indifference to the fake controversy machine. He and Vice President Kamala Harris haven’t spent the early days of the presidency trying to put out phony fires, seeking to appease a conservative/Republican beast whose only goal is the destruction of liberalism.
Biden has kept his head down, setting realistic expectations after years of grandiose promises the press repeatedly fell for but were never delivered upon.
The dissatisfaction from the right and the press is palpable. Biden isn’t jumping when they collectively demand he do so. He is not playing by the approved rules, where the right and the media set the agenda and the Democrats careen from crisis to crisis.
You can’t underestimate the role race plays in this. Obama spent eight years walking a tightrope, attempting to keep his base satisfied while also confronting an avalanche of racism that continues to this day. The question of whether America is truly ready for a Black president, even after electing one twice, is still open.
Biden doesn’t have those restraints. He is a well-known figure and he comes in the packaging Americans have been primed to accept as president: A white man.
But he isn’t playing the game, and polling shows that the public – ultimately the people who truly matter in all this – clearly approve. His approval rating is something between 54-60%, something which Trump never achieved over the entire course of his presidency.
Repeat: He never achieved it.
Other polling shows American optimism on the rise as the end of the pandemic seems like an achievable goal after the Trump-induced disaster, while the economy is on the mend and the economic rescue package passed (without giving in to Republican attempts to sabotage it).
The public has largely been ignoring the media-conservative whining and instead has been looking at Biden’s actions. Biden is ignoring the peanut gallery and skating above the chattering.
Together Biden and the public are leaving the right and the press in the dust, and the country is better off for it. Hopefully it persists.