The President’s State of the Union address shows he is a symptom of America’s problems, just like his predecessor
Joe Biden conducted his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
A staple trait of Biden’s presidency is that he repeatedly claims that he is making things better for ordinary Americans. In his own words, he is creating jobs, bringing down inflation and “delivering for families”. He frames himself as an FDR style titan who is reinvigorating the US following troubled times, and, in his words, making it “more competitive” than ever.
In reality, his statements could not be further from the truth.The United States is in chaos and the Biden administration faces painfully low approval ratings, crippling levels of inflation, weak 2022 GDP and a looming recession. Whatever the expectations of Joe Biden were, he has proved himself to be the most dangerous and hawkish Democrat leading the US since Harry Truman. As America tears itself apart at home, it is also doing so abroad.
When Joe Biden entered office, many people expected he would be different than Donald Trump. After four years of what the media described as chaos and internal turmoil in America, Biden was heralded as a breath of fresh air who would be normal, sane and moderate. What these arguments actively overlooked was that Donald Trump was not the problem, but rather a symptom of broader American failure and decline. As the world has changed, in particular through the lingering impact of globalized neoliberal capitalism, digitization and shifts in the geopolitical balance of power, the United States has struggled to assert a coherent identity amidst a changing world which has produced deep divisions and large-scale political conflict.
This is the era of “post-truth”, and as a result, Joe Biden is not in fact better than Trump, he is infinitely worse. While Donald Trump was a populist figure who railed against the political establishment, Joe Biden is a long-standing member of the political establishment. As such, he has used his reign in office to reassert its influence and give it “Trumpian characteristics”. That includes the same brand of conceited bragging, populism and political squabbles at home, but with a foreign policy abroad which is dangerously more aggressive than anything Trump ever conceived. America’s increasingly dangerous involvement in the Ukraine conflict is a prime example.
The underlying factor here is the effort by the United States to resuscitate its unconditional hegemony over the rest of the world by force, having sensed that a political shift has taken place. This change is reflected in the anger and resentment of blue collar, white Americans, and a primary driver for Trump’s election. The product of the Trump and Biden administrations has been to project those changes into resentment of China, culminating in events like the recent “Chinese spy balloon” saga that have been hyper-dramatized. China has become the designated enemy, and it appears there is a political consensus in the US around this, irrespective of the consequences.
There are some critical differences between the two administrations in how this is being pursued. While Trump operated US foreign policy on “quid-pro-quo” terms, stressing the “America First” philosophy, the Biden administration sees opportunity not through trade wars or bargaining, but through the escalation of geopolitical conflict. Biden’s team is sacrificing stability on every front for the sake of power. As such, the Biden White House, despite fawning over American jobs and prosperity, has thought nothing about tearing up global supply chains, driving up prices, accelerating geopolitical bloc confrontation, pursuing large scale sanctions and whipping up global uncertainty for hegemonic gain.
While Trump was hyper-dramatic, he cared about markets and growth, and he also knew when to compromise. Surrounded by neoconservatives like Mike Pompeo on China policy, he was more interested in making deals with Beijing in the American interest and could restrain them if he wished to do so. Biden on the other hand, cares for nothing, and has no guardrails. Sure, he might wear a smile, he might not call people nasty names on Twitter, but it is this façade which hides the dangerous policymaking in the White House that has actually left Americans worse off than Trump ever managed to do. It seems unlikely given the circumstances that Trump would have ever allowed the Russia-Ukraine war to happen, and he has made it clear multiple times that if he were President, it wouldn’t have happened.
In some ways, the sheer incompetence of the opposition has, despite dire circumstances, allowed Biden to also be incredibly lucky. For a President who has low approval ratings, overseeing a dire economic situation, he landed on his feet in the November midterm elections, his party even seizing control of the Senate.
The fact that he continues to proclaim victories where there are none is only indicative of how the US is suffering from a leadership deficit. In this sense, Biden and Trump’s methodologies may differ but they are both a product of the same broken system that rewards falsehood and ultimately focuses on domestic political point scoring as opposed to real results. If things have changed at all in America throughout the two years of Biden’s tenure, they have ultimately changed for the worse and pose a threat to the world as a whole. Yet, you would never believe that if you sat and watched his State of the Union address.
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