President Joe Biden’s approval rating has been tanking among young people for the past year, and some journalists and Beltway types are scratching their heads about it. I, personally, am scratching my head as to why other people are scratching theirs.
If I may weigh into this discourse for a moment, from my hourly-wage job at a small-town library: Imagine being mystified by 18-to-34 year olds’ progressive disappointment in the Joe Biden presidency. Imagine finding it shocking that he’s down by 19 points with that age group—30 points among Black folks in that age group. Imagine feeling shock at anything other than the fact that the drop isn’t more drastic.
What, after all, is this age group meant to be pleased with? This age group overwhelmingly wanted Bernie Sanders’ much more ambitious, much more radical platform, and has instead been forced to watch Biden renege on even his very mildest campaign promises, like canceling student loan debt and decriminalizing low-level marijuana offenses, in favor of a “return to normal” that is really just a “return to a status quo that served me and my wealthy elite old people cohort and the assets we’d like to keep, thanks so much.”
We are still living through a pandemic, still struggling with a disease that could take us out of work for, minimum, a few days, but for some months at a time, and many of us are hourly wage workers. We can’t sleep through our salaried jobs like Joe’s colleagues in Congress do. And yet, there are no payments to help pay bills through this ongoing crisis—not for individuals, though of course corporations remain a priority for lobbyists and the Congressmembers who serve them.
I’m mentioning Congress, and you’re thinking okay, but we’re talking about the president—and yes, exactly. This dysfunctional body is constantly disappointing us, and the Biden administration remains wrapped up in playing by antiquated non-rules and doing diplomacy with lunatics who want to destroy the bodies and minds and literal lives of trans kids, and trying to win elections by having their CDC declare over a pandemic that is very much still raging.
Biden promised student debt relief and has reluctantly and only at the last minute offered delays. He promised evidence-based COVID policy, and instead, the overhyped test-to-treat program—which is the justification for all the unmasking, a.k.a. letting the worst and least caring among us infect the most vulnerable among us with a deadly virus despite the fact that there is still no vaccine for kids under five and we do not know the long-term effect contracting this illness has on that or any age group—is only accessible to people who already have access to healthcare, which in this bought-and-sold country is, of course, failing. Democrats are not going to get our applause and thanks for things like America’s toxic, inaccessible, overpriced healthcare system, which they refuse to dismantle and replace because it works for the moneyed lobbyists who bankroll their campaigns.
Here is what we had before Biden’s numbers started tanking: a Child Tax Credit, promises of student debt relief—permanent, not delayed—and relatively stable prices (though, of course and always, a looming housing crisis). Here is what we have now: none of that, plus inflation being abused by corporations with no oversight by Congress or, yes, the president. Prices rise and they don’t fall, they never adjust back down, and wages don’t go up either. And yet there’s no one in Washington fighting for workers or for consumers, even though we were promised there would be. Climate change also remains a terrifying, future-limiting prospect, and yet unsurprisingly, our status-quo-loving president isn’t interested in any sort of drastic action there either.
Here is what we asked for: police reform; abortion access; universal healthcare; student debt relief; decriminalizing drugs white people do with no consequences for which mostly Black people are currently serving psychotic levels of jail time; treating migrants and other refugees like human beings worthy of basic decency; climate policy that suggests people in power want 18- to 34-year-olds to survive into the future, to have families they can support, to maybe even thrive. Joe Biden is instead adding $32 billion in funding to the same old policing and doing pretty much nothing else.
What, exactly, is mystifying here, other than the constant scolding from our own party that we are not allowed to ask for more? If the president wants our support, he should try earning it.