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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: We’ve pushed Biden on the issues — he just won’t budge


In the White House Rose Garden on May 20, President Joe Biden, speaking in recognition of Jewish Heritage Month, reiterated his staunch support for Israel. He condemned the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s assertion that Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were guilty of war crimes.  

“What’s happening is not a genocide,” Biden said. “We reject that.” 

Six days later, Israel launched an airstrike in the Palestinian city Rafah, which killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 45 civilians, most of whom were women and children, and injured many dozens more. According to first responders and journalists on the ground, the people of Rafah, taking shelter in a tent camp, were literally burned alive by the bombs. Israel, predictably, denied striking the tent camp. Earlier in the month, Biden claimed that an invasion of Rafah would be crossing his “red line,” and, were such an invasion to occur, the U.S. would be ready to stop supplying Israel with weapons. Despite this, he has since made it clear that the airstrike has done nothing to falter the U.S.’s moral and financial support. 

You’ll surely remember that one of the main selling points liberals used to convince progressives to vote for Biden in November 2020, besides the fact that former President Donald Trump was a whole lot worse, was that we could “hold [his] feet to the fire.” Not only were they touting Biden as a progressive candidate in his own right — even one of the most progressive in history — they argued that, if Bernie Sanders supporters really wanted to, they could push him even further to the left. And it worked: Biden was elected, due in large part to younger people who, voting for maybe the second or even first time in their life, decided to hold their tongue and choose the so-called “lesser of two evils.” 

Four years later, as we’re in the midst of another election cycle, and the second one featuring nominees Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it’s going to be a lot harder for young progressives and leftists to justify voting for any candidate who is any amount of evil. 

Make no mistake, President Biden is a liberal, and perhaps the most nefarious type of all liberals. He’s the sort that positions himself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an old-school Rooseveltian Democrat who, with his working-class background and experience in Washington, is the only one qualified to truly deliver on a progressive platform. He supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, forgiving public student loan debt, making college tuition-free for lower-income families, guaranteeing paid sick leave, codifying Roe v. Wade and many other policies that would benefit the lower class and marginalized communities. 

But he has nothing to show for any of it. All these plans have been stalled, broken and forgotten. Biden, despite having had two years of Democratic majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate, failed to deliver on any of his most progressive policy stances. He has failed to pressure his own party or the Republican Party, has failed to pressure the Supreme Court and has failed to pressure hostile foreign actors like Israel. Liberals would have you believe he’s been inducted among the pantheon of progressive presidents, but he’s hardly done anything to position himself in the history books. But we shouldn’t have expected anything else — the Democratic Party is nothing more than an opposition party. It doesn’t know how to govern, and it has no interest in doing so. 

But this wasn’t always the case. There’s a famous photo of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Russell, wherein the president towers over the senator, violating his personal space, that has come to represent what was termed the “Johnson treatment.” Washington Star columnist Mary McGrory described it as “an incredible, potent mixture of persuasion, badgering, flattery, threats, reminders of past favors and future advantages.” Johnson oversaw one of the most legislatively active presidencies in history, and he was, in large part, responsible for the passing of such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Public Broadcasting Act, and Medicare and Medicaid. He knew how to pressure exactly the right people in exactly the right ways, despite the separation of powers that denied him total control. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt was similarly successful. In the 1930s, as the Supreme Court kept striking down pertinent New Deal legislation, Roosevelt announced a plan to pack the court with justices that would rule in his favor. The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, otherwise known as the “court-packing plan,” was constitutional, but it was met with instant opposition across the political aisle. Ultimately, despite never having been implemented, it convinced enough justices on the court to become much more friendly toward Roosevelt’s measures: the threat of radical action alone was the point. FDR played dirty and got exactly what he wanted. 

Where is this political arm-wringing from Biden and the modern Democratic Party? Why, in the face of internal opposition to an increase to the minimum wage, legislation that is long overdue and would dramatically increase the quality of life for millions of Americans, did Biden simply relent, toss the proposal aside and act as though his hands were tied and there was nothing he could do? Why, when the Supreme Court was set to strike down Biden’s momentous plan to forgive billions of dollars in student loans, did he not coerce the body the same way FDR or LBJ would have? Why does this so-called “progressive” president refuse to act in his role as party leader and chief representative of the people? 

And why should we accept this sort of behavior from an elected official simply because the alternative is even worse? Nobody, and especially not the president, is entitled to your vote if they have done nothing to earn it or campaign for it. We’ve done our part, we’ve attempted to push Biden to the left: despite widespread student protests condemning Israel’s violent actions in Gaza and despite a spike in labor strikes across the country calling for better working conditions and higher pay, the president refuses to make concessions to a growing coalition of voters that are, whether the Democratic establishment wishes to admit it or not, proving to be a major component of his quest for continued power. 

It’s here that Biden and Johnson might have something in common. By the end of LBJ’s presidency in 1968, the Democratic Party was split in two on the issue of the Vietnam War. A large coalition of young voters, those who comprised the “New Left,” were united in their opposition to that war and energized by the president’s seeming lack of empathy regarding it; further, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which set off riots across the country, further aided a Republican Party that was seeking to benefit from a split in their opposition’s voting base.  

I’m certainly not an expert, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume that something similar might happen in November — if and when Trump pulls a Grover Cleveland and succeeds in achieving a second term of office, it will be disastrous for our country. That would absolutely be the worst possible scenario. But, God forbid this should be the case, it will have been entirely Biden and his party’s fault. 

Joey Sills (he/him) is a senior majoring in English and minoring in political science. 

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