We’ve now completed the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, and to say that Biden has disappointed progressive leftists would be an understatement. The lead-up to last year’s election featured a lot of discourse on the left, with centrist Democrats arguing both that Biden was the most left-leaning president in modern history and that he would be able to satisfy progressive leftists with policies he’d enact. But Joe Biden’s presidency is a dangerous indication of modern neoliberalism, and Biden is beginning to set his administration up for failure. When thinking of Biden’s administration, three distinct issues immediately come to mind: the issue of stimulus checks, his bombing of Syria, and the Democratic Senate’s inability to confirm a $15 hourly minimum wage. If the Biden administration doesn’t lose its neoliberal roots and begin to truly work toward a progressive agenda that focuses on helping the working class, the Democratic Party can and will lose 2024.
On the topic of stimulus checks, the Democratic Party has lied to its constituents; under the guise of bipartisanship, they lowered the amount promised for coronavirus relief from $2,000 to $1,400, arguing that the Democratic Party had always meant to give $1,400 checks. This is blatantly false, as a large part of both Biden’s presidential candidacy and the Senate run-offs in Georgia relied on $2,000 checks. Biden himself stated so in a tweet on January 10, stating that “We need $2,000 stimulus checks.” Then-candidate and current Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff similarly tweeted on December 22, 2020, “$2,000 checks now.” It hardly took any time for these politicians’ tone to shift. Although Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted on January 12 that “We need $2,000 stimulus checks,” she promised “getting a total of $2,000” just two days later in a separate tweet.
Put simply, the discourse surrounding $2,000 versus $1,400 stimulus checks only became discourse after the Democrats won both the presidential election and the Georgia run-offs. Prior to winning either, the Democrats utilized the tantalizing promise of a $2,000 check to entice voters; once they secured the necessary votes, the Party changed its narrative. At best, this is misinformation, and at worst, it’s fraud. This discourse only serves to further fracture the left, with progressives and leftists calling out Biden on his wrongful promise while centrist liberals argue that these politicians meant $1,400 checks all along. But the tweets are still there; no matter how it’s spun, these politicians did promise $2,000 checks. Joe Biden began his administration with one hell of a lie, and it is a shame that America is willing to accept it.
The second major fault of Biden’s presidency thus far has been his bombing of Syria. Just 36 days into his presidency, Biden issued the bombing of what the Pentagon stated was an insurgent base in Syria, with reported casualty rates reaching double digits. One of Biden’s staple campaign promises was to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost [the United States] untold blood and treasure”—and yet here he is, engaging in military action weeks into his presidency. Senators such as Bernie Sanders have emphasized their worry about the bombings and what they mean for U.S.-Middle East relations. On their own end, the administration released a statement saying that the strikes were to “protect and defend our personnel”—a laughable take on the imperialist, Democratic-led charge on Syria.
The Biden administration’s third offense lies in the Democratic Senate’s baffling inability to pass a $15 minimum wage. Firstly, let’s not forget the fact that $15 isn’t even a livable wage in most of America. Let’s not forget the fact that out of the 32 million workers in America whose wages would be affected by the minimum-wage increase, a majority live below the poverty line. Let’s also not forget that one of Biden’s cardinal promises from his campaign involved a $15 hourly minimum wage. There has never been an easier time for Biden to pass the raise; the stage has been set, and with the Senate, House, and presidency all blue, the road to a $15 minimum wage seemed to be in the clear. Yet when the Senate advised Democrats that it was against a $15 minimum wage, Vice President Kamala Harris elected not to utilize her constitutional powers to implement the wage bill regardless. This is extremely disappointing on Harris’s end, but to hear that Biden is disappointed but ultimately “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process” is ludicrous. In a Washington where every major step of the way toward a $15 minimum wage is colored blue, it’s sad that Biden refuses to take the initiative and step forward.
Joe Biden’s presidency is a representation of Democratic bashfulness at its worst: he continues to be submissive to the conservative bulwark that is the Republican Party, refusing to take the advantages he can and choosing to uphold the status quo instead. Biden should be scrambling to enact progressive change, working toward raising the national minimum wage, stepping away from the imperialist history of previous presidencies, and enacting more coronavirus relief. But it seems none of this is happening. This isn’t a good start to Biden’s presidency; if Biden continues betraying his progressive voting bloc and those who require changes such as the wage raise, he may lose voters to the next Republican candidate. Just as likely, he’ll face an uproar in 2022 midterm elections, as those who feel consistently disenfranchised by his callous, useless actions may feel that their Senators aren’t doing enough. If this were to happen, a red overtaking of the Senate might occur, making his work that much harder. Yet despite all this, Biden continues to chug forward in the most useless way possible, all while working-class Americans’ lives remain largely unchanged. It’s disappointing, and yet it’s entirely predictable—just like Biden.
By Kenneth Kim
Illustration by Seb Westcott