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Biden’s brand is weakness at home and abroad
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Biden’s brand is weakness at home and abroad

November is shaping up to be a repeat of the 1980 election and Joe Biden looks a lot like Jimmy Carter.

Around the country, protests on college campuses this spring spiraled out of control, disrupting commencements and exposing the rot within higher education. How the encampments arose may not be Joe Biden’s fault. They are in keeping with life under his administration, however. The Biden presidential brand is life beyond his control, and that does not bode well for his re-election prospects.

Throughout history, people have preferred their leaders to be strong. Winston Churchill was strong-willed during World War II. It was said that the virile Alexander the Great never lost a battle on the way to establishing one of the world’s largest empires by age 30.

Just a few months before the 2024 election, events appear to be out of control for Biden.

In American history, George Washington was a model of ethics and strong resolve who took on Great Britain, the world’s superpower at the time. Abraham Lincoln’s determination and strength saved the union, while Americans elected Franklin Roosevelt four times believing he could best guide the country through the Great Depression and then World War II.

Strength and resolve were their brands.

Weakness, on the other hand, does not play well with American voters.

In the 1980 presidential election, the voters had a choice between the incumbent Jimmy Carter and the challenger Ronald Reagan. At the time, voters did not view Carter as a strong leader.

Americans had been held hostage by Iran for a year by the time of the 1980 election. According to the State Department’s official history, “The crisis dominated the headlines and news broadcasts and made the Administration look weak and ineffectual.”

Carter’s economic record was no better. The Federal Reserve reports that by the summer of 1980, inflation approached 14.5% and unemployment topped 7.5%. Meanwhile, 30-year fixed mortgage rates hit 12.9%.

As a result, voters turned to Reagan for a new direction. In time, the results of Reagan’s programs and the fact that he stared down the Soviet Union made a strong contrast to the weakness of President Carter.

All of which brings us to Biden. Just a few months before the 2024 election, events appear to be out of control for this president.

Inflation continues to bedevil the American people. Prices are as much as 20% higher than when Biden took office. There was much hopeful talk of cuts in interest rates, but the persistence of inflation has dashed those hopes.

In American cities, crime has made the streets unsafe and filled the airways. Homelessness has added to a sense that life in American cities is not only unsafe but utterly lacking a sense of order.

Of course, America’s borders are out of control as well. Rather visibly to Americans on their TVs and phones each night, millions of people have crossed the border almost unabated, including hundreds designated as terrorists. Meanwhile, the related fentanyl deaths are a scourge — a crisis also looking for leadership to end it.

Abroad, Americans once again are held hostage in the Middle East. Two wars endanger the world without a sense that either of them can be resolved any time soon.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Biden’s watch, and there is no evidence that American influence will decide the issue as it did in World War I and World War II. In the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, Houthi rebels — who hardly constitute a superpower — regularly attack U.S. and allied ships and freighters, also without an end in sight.

Those problems have beset the Biden administration practically from the beginning. In poll after poll, Americans see Biden as a weak leader. His age-related problems add significantly to that perception.

Then along came the college protests earlier this spring. Many are asking how they could be happening in America. Most want them brought under control as the summer holds the promise of a repeat of the 2020 riots.

Those protests started in an atmosphere of a crime wave under which people are not being held accountable. The longer the protests continue, the more they convince the American public that they are part of a larger problem in America — a society spiraling out of control.

For Biden, it is a dynamic consistent with the perception that he is a president not in control of events. He is subject to events without a plan to resolve them. The college protests reinforce the Biden brand of weak leadership.

We’ll know soon enough whether Biden, because of that brand, will be subject to the same fate as Jimmy Carter. Brands like that, however, are rarely undone in short order — especially when all the events that are defining his brand continue without a plan to end them.

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Thomas Del Beccaro

Thomas Del Beccaro

Thomas Del Beccaro is the author of “The Lessons of the American Civilization” and “The Divided Era.”