A Defense of the Biden Administration


Image by Allen Chen for The UCSD Guardian

Ishir Talapatra, Assistant Opinion Editor

It is safe to say that Joe Biden was far from being the top choice of progressive 2020 Democratic primary voters. A full campaign had to be launched to prevent supporters of his more left-wing rivals, primarily Bernie Sanders, from staying home in November and handing Donald Trump a second term. The effort seemed to work — Biden won 81 million votes, seven million more than Trump in an election where a record-breaking 66.8% of eligible voters turned out. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn had already left him with plenty to inherit while the January 6 insurrection only compounded the challenges facing his presidency. A split Senate gave him a unified government, but a party spanning from WV Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va) to New York City Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was destined to have a tough time governing.  


It has been over two years since Biden took office and the 2024 primary campaign is already in full swing, at least for Republicans. As Biden flirts with seeking re-election at 80 years of age, it is worth evaluating the legacy he has left so far — and his accomplishments are noteworthy. With no room for error due to the slim Democratic majority, Biden has presided over the passage of America’s largest-ever climate investment. Named the Inflation Reduction Act to appease Manchin (and because it will genuinely lower the deficit), the act will invest $370 billion into green energy initiatives based in the United States. The act is slated to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, expand electric automobile charging and green energy, and promote union-friendly manufacturing jobs pertaining to clean energy. The act has already reaped tangible benefits — Hyundai has opened a major manufacturing facility for electric vehicles in Georgia, and Toyota is expanding an existing facility in North Carolina to transition into producing fully electric vehicles. Passing the act has also allowed the United States to truly re-claim climate leadership on the global stage after the Trump years. The act is undoubtedly Biden’s signature achievement and will be his main selling point to Democrats if he chooses to seek re-election. 


The Inflation Reduction Act was not the only legislative accomplishment of Biden’s first two years. The American Rescue Plan provided $1.9 trillion to restart the American economy after the pandemic recession. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed much-needed infrastructure reform with $65 billion for broadband internet and $55 billion for clean drinking water. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was the first real piece of gun reform in decades, though limited in scope. The CHIPS Act finally allows America to get serious about the competition for essential tech building blocks with China and promote domestic production. All this helped minimize losses for Democrats in the midterms, making Biden the most successful Democrat at the two-year juncture in 24 years. 


But perhaps Biden’s greatest accomplishment has been his managing of the conflict in Ukraine. Biden has built a strong coalition to counter the Russian invasion, sending money and weapons to Ukraine without devoting any troops. Not known for his public speaking, Biden delivered two strong speeches in Poland regarding the conflict — one after it broke out and one a year later. His visit to Kyiv was inspirational in and of itself, being the closest an American president has been to live combat since the Civil War. Republicans may slow the pace of Ukrainian aid, but Biden has shown genuine commitment to defying Russia and has not wavered in maintaining a strong line. 


None of this is to say that what has been accomplished is enough. While genuine progress requires a more sizable Democratic congressional majority, there is still work to be done on gun safety, police reform, and reducing record inflation. A looming recession might only complicate matters. And there are significant concerns about the administration’s record on other issues, such as approving the Willow Project and the meeting with the Saudi crown prince. Perhaps most concerningly, Biden continues to poll underwater, both approval-wise and in direct races with Republican rivals. 


But on the whole, Biden has proved to be a president as progressive as anyone since FDR. His legislative accomplishments expanded the scope of the federal government dramatically and delivered on numerous left-wing priorities. Though he lacks the oratorical skills of a Barack Obama or the charisma of a Bill Clinton, Biden’s record speaks for itself, putting him on a strong path to re-election, should he announce a bid. He still may not be anyone’s top choice, but voting for Biden would be far from settling.