In September 2020, IU sophomore and first-time voter Dasani Cleveland headed to the polls to cast a vote for President Joe Biden. Like many Americans, Cleveland was optimistic about the possibility of a new leader in office.
A year and a half later, the Biden administration has many voters questioning whether or not the current president is sticking to selling points he made during his campaign.
“The majority of the major points that Biden ran on, it’s like ‘Where’s the action behind them?’” Cleveland said.
Biden’s COVID-19 regulations have six steps. They include vaccinating everyone, further protecting the vaccinated, keeping schools open, increasing testing and requiring masks, protecting economic recovery and improving care for those who have COVID.
“He is trying to run on a different platform than Trump did, but ultimately I feel like they’re kind of doing the same thing,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland is not alone. Kayla Brooks, sophomore member of College Democrats at IU, said she thinks Biden was too confident about reducing COVID cases during his campaign.
“Biden’s ideas and proposals to COVID are 10 times better than Trump’s, but it is still the bare minimum,” Brooks said. “Biden had a lot of over-promising, and he has been too confident, only to see this extensive spread of omicron on his watch.”
A Pew Research Center study found Biden’s approval rating among Black Americans fell from 85% to 67% — a total of 18 points — in two months. His ratings also fell 16 points among Hispanic Americans and 14 points among Asian Americans in two months.
The Washington Post suggests this drop in approval ratings may be due to Biden’s lack of progress regarding police reform. Cleveland agrees, adding Biden likely gained many minority votes solely based on his vice presidential choice.
Biden selected Kamala as his VP nominee, which made Black Americans think their struggles would be more heard.
“Now we’re hearing stories of teenagers being lynched and police brutality still going on,” Cleveland said.
Vice President Harris excited people while giving marginalized communities hope. Unfortunately, with the alarming lack of change today Brooks said she thinks Biden may have used her as his own performative activism.
“I think he definitely used Kamala Harris as a token, and that does not sit right with me,” Brooks said. “It fuels the idea that Black women are solely pawns to get further ahead.”
Many Americans felt the country was in a constant state of chaos from 2016 to 2020, so Biden’s drop in approval ratings could be indicative that his grace period is over, Cleveland said.
“I voted for Biden because I just couldn’t do Trump,” Cleveland said. “It’s like we’re in a desperate time, and we know we don’t want our current president that we had, but we only had two selections [Trump and Biden] to choose someone else.”
Brooks agreed that with only two options for president, Biden was the lesser of the two evils.
“In my household, Trump was just always a ‘no’,” Brooks said. “Biden was the no-brainer. I felt like literally anything would have been better than Trump.”
Brooks described the hope she and her family had for Biden’s presidency. He made promises that would benefit many Americans, she said.
“I wanted the Biden presidency to be more transformative,” Brooks said. “I feel like he has stopped making people of color a priority, which is really disappointing.”
Despite broken promises, Cleveland said she still feels that Biden’s America is much safer for many people than Trump’s America was.
“While Biden has failed in keeping many promises, his administration has implemented changes to better our country and make it safer than it was under the Trump administration,” Cleveland said.
On the surface, it seems like Trump and Biden are two sides of the same coin to Americans who might not read too far into politics. While America struggles through the pandemic and simultaneously fights a modern-day race war, we have to ask ourselves if we have seen real change.
When we as the oppressed seem to “win” in American politics, do we still lose to the oppressors in charge?