Analysts predict that Joe Biden will struggle to steer the US agenda in 2022

Analysts predict that Biden will struggle to steer the US agenda in 2022
President Joe Biden took office in January with the United States in crisis [File: Susan Walsh/AP Ph...

President Joe Biden’s first year in office was a rollercoaster, with legislative victories and major political setbacks – and with midterm elections scheduled for November, next year promises to be even more difficult.

The US Capitol was cordoned off by troops, the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and the US economy was in shambles when Biden was inaugurated this past January. Outgoing President Donald Trump’s supporters were still angling to overturn election results, the US Capitol was cordoned off by troops, the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and the US economy was in shambles.

As Republicans appear set to retake control of Congress, Biden’s approval ratings are low, and his signature policy proposals are bogged down.

“Under the circumstances, Biden has done phenomenally well, getting what he did get done,” James Thurber, a government professor at American University in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera. Thurber is working on a book about Biden’s first year in office.

In March, Democrats in Congress passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus package. In November, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan and a $777 billion defense budget.

However, Democratic infighting and Republican opposition have stymied Biden’s flagship welfare and climate legislation, the $1.75 trillion, 10-year “Build Back Better” plan. Infections have increased due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and food and fuel prices have risen.

“People will continue to be disappointed, and he’ll have a difficult time in 2022 because it’s election year,” Thurber predicted. “It’ll be an ugly year of partisanship, gridlock, and confrontation.”

High Stake

The importance of the coming year for Biden’s presidency cannot be overstated. The Democratic Party’s control of Congress, which will define the political landscape for the remaining two years of Biden’s term, is at risk in the November 2022 elections.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats have a narrow 221 to 213 majority and a controlling tie vote in the Senate, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. When all 435 House seats and a third of the 100-seat Senate are up for election in November, Democratic control of Congress could easily be lost.

In the past, the party in power in the United States has lost seats in Congress in subsequent elections as the out-of-power party mobilizes its voters.

A nurse treating COVID-19 patients in an ICU hospital ward in Mission Viejo, California. The continuing pandemic has claimed more than 800,000 lives in the US [File: Jae C Hong/AP Photo]
Biden’s ambitious policy proposals, which include addressing climate change, investing in childcare, reforming the immigration system, and protecting millions of women’s reproductive rights, are all in jeopardy.

“The Republicans have huge structural advantages going into this cycle,” James Henson, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project, told Al Jazeera.

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Poll results are dwindling.

In his first six months in office, Biden had something of a honeymoon with the American public, with his approval rating hovering around 53% and disapproval hovering around 43%. However, by August, the trends had shifted.

Today, Biden has a disapproval rating of 52% and an approval rating of 43%, putting him on par with Trump’s historically low approval ratings and below every other modern president at this point in their presidency.

“The public is beginning to view Biden in a negative light. Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Al Jazeera that his approval rating is “underwater,” and that “strong disapproval is significantly higher than strong approval.”

The importance that Trump places on Democrats was demonstrated in the Virginia governor’s race this past November, when Republican Glenn Youngkin, a businessman endorsed by Trump, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who was backed by Biden.

Police in riot gear patrolled near the US Capitol in September during a rally by allies of former President Donald Trump to call for the release of ‘political prisoners’ from the January 6 riot [File: Brynn Anderson/AP Photo]
Kabul’s Fall

While Biden’s approval ratings were gradually declining in the middle of the year, Afghanistan was a “catalysing event,” according to Kondik.

The Taliban’s sudden and unexpected takeover of Kabul, which the US had been fighting for two decades, raised voter doubts about the Biden administration’s competence. Biden’s woes were exacerbated by a resurgent migration crisis on the US-Mexico border, supply chain disruptions, and inflation.

Migrants walk on a dirt road along the Rio Grande River in Mission, Texas, after crossing the US-Mexico border [File: Julio Cortez/AP Photo]
Meanwhile, Biden’s failure to persuade dissenting Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to back his Build Back Better plan fueled voters’ skepticism. “Presidents have a hard time dealing with major schisms within their own parties,” Thurber said. “This is going to be a tumultuous year.”

A number of potential events in 2022 could alter Biden’s political landscape. Biden, who is 79 years old and has served in public office for nearly half a century, is well-versed in the US Senate’s workings and has strong working relationships with key decision-makers.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, holds the keys to a lot of what Biden wants to do, and Biden has maintained a positive relationship with him. Even if confronted with a Republican-controlled Congress, Biden could still succeed by pivoting to the center of American politics.

Meanwhile, Biden has shrugged off Manchin’s public rejection of his Build Back Better plan and vowed to press on, expressing optimism for a breakthrough in the New Year.

Manisha Sinha, a historian at the University of Connecticut, told Al Jazeera, “A lot of us have underestimated Joe Biden.” “However, he clearly grasped the situation and responded in a way that I did not anticipate.” A year is an insufficient time to assess a president.”


The US president faces a tough midterm election battle, with poll numbers down and domestic priorities stalled.

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