Biden 100 Days Congress

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., stand and applaud Wednesday as President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Joe Biden's first 100 days as president went in the books Friday, and one thing is clear: Boring is a superpower.

But first, let's start by noting that the whole "first 100 days" thing is a pseudo-event that's only a big deal because politicians and journalists agreed to make it one, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt. But it's become a de facto deadline for the same crowd to talk about whether the president is off to a good start.

Not coincidentally, pollsters for NBC News asked that very question. Sixteen percent say Biden has had a "great start," 28 percent call it a "good start," 21 percent say it's only been "fair," and 34 percent say "poor."

Critics want to add the "fair start" to the "poor start" to claim that he's not doing well. Boosters want to add the "fair" respondents to the "great" and "good" columns to claim he's knocking it out of the park. Unfortunately for both, that "fair start" crowd is probably split between those who wanted him to do more and those who wanted him to do less. That would explain why his approval rating in both the NBC poll and the Real Clear Politics average is 53 percent.

That's good compared with Donald Trump at 42 percent and Gerald Ford at 48 percent, but historically it's near the bottom. It's unclear whether history is a useful yardstick. The rise in polarization and partisanship has no analogue in the modern era of polling, so it shouldn't shock us if Biden can't compete with historic benchmarks.

Far more important, the polling is irrelevant to how historians will gauge Biden's first 100 days. Historians measure the quantity of things done (though some historians will argue that quality is their lodestar). On that score, Biden is off to a great start.

I say that even though I disagree with much of what he has done and is trying to do. But if you just count up the amount of money spent, programs launched and executive orders issued (or rescinded), there's been an extraordinary amount of "energy in the executive," to borrow a phrase from Alexander Hamilton.

Which is ironic for such a "low-energy" president, as Donald Trump might say. That brings us to Biden's superpower. He's boring.

This is a remarkable transformation given that for most of his career, Biden has been one of the most attention-hungry politicians in American life — a "gaffe machine," as he has described himself. Several factors probably explain this. He's mellowed in his old age. Having gotten the job he sought for decades, perhaps he no longer sees the point in setting his hair on fire to get attention and respect. Or he recognizes that after four years of an unpopular president alienating a majority of voters, staying above the fray of polarizing issues is the best way to cobble together a majority coalition.

But, as Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine notes, being personally boring doesn't necessarily translate into a boring agenda. Biden is on a path to enlarge government's role in American life — borrowing trillions to do it — in ways not seen since Lyndon B. Johnson or FDR.

It turns out that the modern liberal formula for political success, which, in Chait's words, saw "popular mobilization as the highest form of political organization," was a mistake. Transformative policy agendas are harder to sell when you admit that's what you're doing because they invite a backlash from a coalition of the opposite party and the center.

Biden has figured out, or stumbled into, a better formula: Push a fairly radical agenda while acting like grandpa. The base will be placated with the tangible results while the more moderate middle, which tends to focus on tone and personality, won't get too worked up.

The question is whether this formula can last. Biden had Trump fatigue, desperation for COVID-19 relief and the vaccine rollout in his favor. Those issues may be receding in the rearview mirror.

Meanwhile, issues that divide Americans — and Biden's base — in ways that create headaches for him are rising to the fore. Biden's approval ratings on China (35 percent), guns (34 percent) and border security and immigration (33 percent) are signs that the road ahead will get rockier. When you're vaccinating Americans, sending them cash and building infrastructure — particularly when Republicans are MIA or talking about Dr. Seuss — it's easy to be inoffensive.

The Biden administration's messaging has been successful at keeping divisive issues on the presidential back burner. Eventually, they will come to a sufficient boil and his grandpa demeanor won't be enough. How he responds will be a better measure of his presidency than his first 100 days.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and the host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch.

(16) comments


***Democracy can’t work if the GOP is devoted to restricting voters and rejecting their decisions*** the Right to Vote is the foundation of Democracy. Republicans have rejected Democracy, they need a Dictator to tell them what they want and need. And it won’t be a gun.


Fido, it's interesting to note that California doesn't require a photo ID to vote, but now they are trying to verify the signatures on the petition to recall Governor Nuisance. Suddenly voter verification is important.

Can you explain why a photo ID to vote prevents any American citizen from voting? Who in the US does not have some sort of photo ID to prove who they are?


first all Jonah, the stuff rolling out is coming from the obama gang hbiden has surrounded himself with, lets start with canceling new drilling on Federal ( the peoples ) land and terminating the Keystone pipeline has cost thousands of good paying jobs and will keep the oil coming this way via trucks, ships and trains further polluting the air we breathe rather than a clean pipeline transmission and raising the price of the fuels we need to survive; next we have OPEN borders to the south allowing thousands of illegals including convicted felons who were previously deported, to return every day with estimates that we will have more that 3 Million new illegal aliens added to what was 22 Million previously and based on cmvid testing more than 10% of them are bringing the sickness with them while the taxpayers will pick up the bills for transportation, food, clothing and health care, then comes the $6 Trillion in new debt for our children and grandchildren to grapple with as we go down the path of socialism and bankruptcy, and $2 Trillion of that we are told is cmvid relief but when we open the books we see that less than 10% of it is actually for that purpose, the rest will be passed around like so many sollyndra projects to line the pockets of the favored and finally we have higher taxes FOR ALL and don't be fooled by the lies being told...every tax increase of the companies that supply our needs and wants will raise the prices of those goods to pay for the higher taxes they will YES what a great start fo this administration as they steamroll all this ugliness with little or no obstruction and we all will pay in many ways for this stupidity and ugliness


Another nonsense and alarmist post gthuro... Find a new new's source.


Gt-hero, why would you invest in combustible fuels, long term, when your biggest consumers, your biggest industries are movingly to environmental friendly power? GM announced they are are going to “all electric cars” within 10 years! Take a look,checkout their-10k forms, where are oil companies moving their assets?


The ending of the Keystone pipeline hasn’t cost thousands of jobs. seeing it hasn’t created any. And it’s ‘old world thinking’. I’m more in-line with Biden’s infrastructure plan that’s more environmental friendly and will create millions of future jobs and new industries. You can’t be competitive in the world if you’re still depending on the horse and carriage.


The Dimocrats would've run a house plant as "anybody but Trump". Unfortunately, they got somebody with the backbone and mental acuity of a house plant.


I love the headline, so true. And “a ‘gaffe machine,’ as he (Biden) has described himself...” is why there is just a general yawn after repeatedly posting how Obama commented similarly. And secondarily. He who laughs last.


Jonah Goldberg is a jerk.


Jonah Goldberg, Cal Thomas and Andrew Napolitano are each nationally syndicated columnists. And you, sir, are what you have chosen to call yourself.


I see that you are a member of the trump marauders club V. Imminently qualified to be a member of the fraternal order of jerks...


Actually Veri and OF are the opposites of what they call themselves.


👍a great observation three, so true.


Goldberg can be rational at times, Thomas and Napolitano are WHACK Jobs.


V - so are Robet Reich, Jesse Jackson, Bob Woodward, Maureen Dowd and about 50 others. So WHAT exactly is the point of your silly post.


olefool - exactly....

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