The Biden government has been in place for almost nine months. And it is clear that the political alternation has an air of the status quo.
Indeed, the fault lines remain practically intact and the mistakes of the American presidency – from foreign policy to border policy – are not offset by major advances in domestic policy. Clearly, the Biden government will not be as “transformational” as it had suggested.
It is evident that the paralysis which has plagued Congress for several decades is now reaching its peak, as the moderate elements of both parties are eclipsed in favor of more polarized and ideological fringes. Proof of this is that threatening to bring the country to the brink of financial collapse has become a routine maneuver.
It is also clear that the presidential institution has a lead in the wing. The president’s “power to persuade” (to use Richard Neustadt’s words) is practically non-existent, both because of the succession of disastrous decisions since the beginning of the millennium and the blows inflicted on him by the undemocratic delirium of ‘an apprentice autocrat. The fact that the army (with the chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley) has seen itself and set up as a democratic parapet is a manifestation of this institutional crumbling.
The judiciary has long served as a safeguard by staying out of the fray, as it has demonstrated through the Bush, Obama, and Trump years on critical issues like torture or minority rights. But this rampart is also falling apart.
The Supreme Court has long been viewed as “the least dangerous of all branches” (in the words of Alexander Bickel in 1962), because its decisions were seen as reflecting developments in civil society. Now, it is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy with an approval rate, according to Gallup, at the lowest since 2000, while several of its recent decisions represent in fact (and after a few legal twists) real reversals of jurisprudence.
Indeed, on the prevalence of religious practice at the expense of health standards, on trade union rights in the agricultural sector, on the rights of same-sex host families, on the limitation of Voting Rights Act, the high court is against the tide of what a majority of Americans want. Starting with its recent decision on the issue of abortion in Texas, which has undermined its legitimacy, while the majority of Americans want to preserve the fragile gains of Roe c. Wade. However, this resolutely conservative court has in its portfolio this year polarizing and crucial subjects: abortion (again), weapons, the separation of Church and State, discrimination in health matters, fight against terrorism, civil liberties, electoral financing.
Paralyzed, this presidency, which was intended to be transformational, turns out in reality to be transitional.
A transition to a post-pandemic world whose full nature is still unknown, but which we already know is marked by growing tension, in a context where 20 years of “war on terrorism” have numbed public opinion. In a context where the collective space has become globalized, globalized, as evidenced by the breaks in supply chains, but where the individual space has become narrower, more supervised, more controlled. In a context where traditional safeguards have eroded. A post-pandemic world defined by the absence of humanity. By the lack of consideration for basic needs and for human dignity. By the prevalence of ideologies over societal aspirations.
But this presidency is also transitional because of the decisions made by the occupant of the Oval Office. If the unplanned withdrawal from Afghanistan was the preamble, perhaps the biggest manifestation of this political spiral is the images of the border… of border patrols on horseback pushing migrants back on foot. Gone are the days when a little boy lying on a beach had restored a moment of humanity to the world. Since then, in speeches, migrants have become anonymous caravans, despair is seen as an invasion, and violence on the periphery is forgotten in less time than it takes to saw the lifeline on which There were 14,000 people standing there.
The Biden presidency could therefore only be transitional… because in order to be able to transform, one must govern. Because, one year away from the next midterm elections, many subjects are nitroglycerin. Perhaps also because Donald Trump prances, with a handful of matches in hand, at the top of the polls of
Iowa for 2024.