Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s Politics Chat. The transcript below has been edited slightly.
Sarah (Sarah Frostenson, Politics Editor): We are nearing the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency (Wednesday marks day 92). So it is time for us to take a step back – along with the rest of the political media – to evaluate what we have learned so far.
Yes, the 100 day mark for a presidency is arbitrary and does not necessarily indicate how a presidency is remembered. At the same time, however, it can also offer a window into it Priorities and government strategy of a president or underline possible problems. And for Biden, the circumstances were especially important given the unprecedented problems of COVID-19.
This has resulted in much of its first 100 days being focused on easing the burden on Americans and trying to add an extra boost to the economy through a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package increased vaccination efforts. But Biden has also shown that he is ready for it push for big, ambitious proposals that shows how far the Democratic Party has moved to the left during Donald Trump’s presidency.
At the same time, there are real questions about what Biden can achieve, given the small majority of Democrats in Congress – how big a roadblock will be for someone like Senator Joe Manchin Be? – and whether his strategy of passing laws without trying to win the support of Republican lawmakers will backfire. And of course our country remains very divided Biden’s election promise of unity one difficult to achieve.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from Biden’s first 100 days so far?
julia_azari (Julia Azari, Professor of Political Science at Marquette University and FiveThirtyEight staff): I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is Trump’s legacy, which I’ve thought about quite a bit.
Sarah: But what did Biden help you understand Trump better, Julia?
julia_azari: It’s less about Trump and more about the nature of the presidency.
I was a bit surprised (although, in retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have) how much the pendulum swung back and forth how uneventful and unhaot this presidency was previously. According to the Washington Post that has been Pursuit of political appointments in this administrationBiden is the first president in decades to not have a single failed candidate, despite the split in the Senate. Yes, the White House withdrew his appointment from Neera Tanden As director of the Office of Management and Budget based on her previous comments on Twitter, yet this wasn’t an ubiquitous battle in the way nominations were during Trump’s presidency.
Perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): One thing I took away from those first 100 days is the following Biden did not believe or was not indebted to his rhetoric about how the Republicans would work with him.
He’s aggressively pursuing his goals and not desperately chasing Republican votes that are unlikely to come anyway.
geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, election analyst): For me, I’ve got a better sense of what the potential upper limit of a president’s approval rating could be if a president isn’t constantly soliciting controversy.
Trump quickly fell into his mid to low 40s in his early days, and while Biden’s approval rating isn’t that low – he mostly hangs out in his mid to low 50s – it seems like the Honeymoon Effect or Die Zeit at the beginning of a president’s term of office, during which he has an above-average approval rating, pales in view of the polarization of our politics.
Any president who returned to Jimmy Carter had an approval rating of around 58 percent or more on day 100 before Trump, which was 42 percent on FiveThirtyEight’s approval tracker, while Biden is heading for 53 percent.
Sarah: There has certainly been a lot of discussion about whether we can actually do that “Back to normal” after Trump, as Julia emphasized. And I think there is still a real question about how the Capitol insurrection will play out in the long term if our policies turn out to be this partisan. Trump may be out of the White House, but Trumpism is still with us.
However, I agree with Perry that impressed me how the administration has decided to shape bipartisanism – Pass popular laws without really trying to bring Republican lawmakers to justice. I was also surprised how much more liberal and populist the Democratic Party stands under Biden, the epitome of the Median Democrat.
What do you think is the biggest thing the Biden government has done so far?
geoffrey.skelley: Without question, the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill will pass. It’s massive, more than twice as large as the stimulus calculation passed in the early days of Barack Obama amid the great 2009 recession.
Perry: The federal government’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in such a case accelerated pace and movement to expand the eligibility as soon as it is probably the most important thing a president has done since then The actions of George W. Bush after September 11th. It’s just hugely important because of the scale of COVID-19in terms of the number of people who died or were sick from the virus.
The $ 1.9 trillion stimulus bill is also big and important, though I wouldn’t rate it as high as Obamacare or the Trump tax bill just yet because so many provisions are temporary and may not renew.
julia_azari: I would say the auxiliary bill, while Perry and I disagree, even marginally, on something important, obviously the most important thing the Biden administration has done.
But I say the discharge bill because, in addition to what it actually does, it has had some important symbolic implications. For example, there has been a lot of discussion about the idea that the government can do constructive things and move away from the Reagan paradigm that “Government is the problem. “If this turns out to be the case and politicians outside the left wing of the Democratic Party are more likely to accept the possibility that the government can do good things, then that is a big change. Even Democrats, at the the presidential levelI’ve hesitated to speak like that for the past 40 years. There was also the fact that Biden’s proposal for the size of the bill was reflected in the final legislation. This is pure new town (a classic theory of the presidency) – Showing people that you can get what you want creates a lasting advantage in negotiations. Again, I’m not sure how true this will be given the state of both parties. But I thought of that.
Sarah: Agree that it is difficult not to think about how Biden dealt with the pandemic. His grades are just so much higher than Trump’s: on average, 62 percent support Biden’s leadership on this issue, while Trump never quite cracked 50 percent.
And as you all say, the stimulus package was also very popular.
One question that I tangentially linked to the COVID-19 Aid Act is: How many other laws were incorporated into the law by Biden in the first 100 days? We know that the number of key bills passed in the first 100 days has fallen sharply since the 1950s, considering how Congress works. But do we have a sense of whether Biden is keeping up with his recent predecessors?
geoffrey.skelley: So far only Seven laws were passed, according to GovTrack, which historically would certainly be on the smaller end of things. Many presidents signed 10 or more laws in the first 100 days.
The complication here, of course, is this The laws got bigger and bigger over timeSo a mere count doesn’t tell the whole story.
Sarah: What are some of the setbacks the von Biden government has faced so far, or possible roadblocks to the future?
julia_azari: The government experienced one of its biggest setbacks on November 3, when the Democrats failed to take some of their hoped-for Senate (North Carolina, Maine) seats. They would never get a filibuster-safe majority of 60 seats, but the small majority they have now is not an advantage.
I also think the controversy surrounding Biden’s original decision too Keep Trump’s low ceiling of 15,000 refugees (although Biden later retracted amid the backlash) and the new timetable for the brain drain from Afghanistan underlines that Democrats do not really have clear guidelines or principles to guide them when it comes to foreign policy and immigration. The party has become more liberal, but what does “more liberal” mean for Afghanistan? Biden is also clearly caught between the pragmatic rhetoric of the 1980s and 1990s that Democrats had about immigration and the more human rights-based ideas that have led the party more recently.
Perry: The Democrats’ inability or unwillingness to change the filibuster rules in conjunction with the GOP’s opposition to Biden’s goals means that Biden is unlikely to do anything about gun policy and voting rights, and maybe not even about climate change, health care and the like permanent economic policy. Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema basically decide the Democrats’ agenda because they have the 49th and 50th votes, and that’s a huge obstacle to some of the things Biden wants to do. It is truly remarkable, for example, that at the state level, Republicans have gone through a wave of electoral restrictions while the Democratic leader (Biden) has nothing to do but complain.
Finally, Biden’s inconsistent immigration policy suggests that his administration is torn between a break with the harsh policies of the Trump administration and a not-too-liberal immigration consciousness (on the border and with refugees) and is therefore shutting down swing voters .
julia_azari: At the risk of getting too much weed, I want to expand on what Perry and I said for a second. Biden leads a more liberal party, as we have noted. But the policies that Biden and the Democrats have committed to are, in many cases, policies that have policies in place or that are ongoing (like the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan) or that involve well-developed interest-group communities (like the NRA and gun control).
You will see a lot of Biden-FDR comparisons, and in some ways the crisis situation is comparable. I would like to point out, however, that the FDR has built some things from the ground up and tried new programs, while Biden’s ambitions require dealing with pre-existing institutions, interests and entanglements.
Sarah: I’m curious what you all think of the broader FDR-LBJ comparisons because Julia is right – we’ll see many of them. In essence, it seems like both the size and scope of Biden’s agenda got him a number of points Compare with FDR and LBJ – a comparison Biden doesn’t seem to mind – although not everyone is convinced of it Comparisons are justified at this point.
So is it a fair comparison? Or is that, as Julia points out, not really a good comparison?
julia_azari: I think there are two answers to this question. Politically speaking, it is the party dynamics and the weight of existing politics that make it It is much more difficult for Biden to fundamentally change the system. Politically, however, I think that in some corners (especially from journalists and historians) Biden will get a lot of credit for not being Trump. For example, during the pandemic, Biden showed empathy, something It is well known that Trump was absent. Biden has also selected knowledgeable, skilled employees for his cabinet and top advisory positions. He doesn’t tweet insults etc, but whether this deserves a comparison to FDR is a good question.
Perry: Biden passed a major bill of temporary provisions. He has a tiny majority in both houses and some of his own members shy away from his agenda. I would be surprised if Biden does as much as Obama (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the 2009 incentive, the appointment of the first Supreme Court in Latina), whether LBJ or FDR. And that’s in terms of raw materials policy.
In terms of rhetoric and messaging, Biden is now pushing Democrats further to the left on race (like Johnson) and economics (like FDR). If he got 62 seats in the Senate (so Manchin and Sinema could vote no on things) then he could be these presidents.
But these FDR and LBJ comparisons seem insane right now. In reality, Biden rules more to the left than I expected. But his real accomplishment is to be a competent president – to get the presidency back to normal, as he promised to do during the campaign. I think this is what people are really looking for.
geoffrey.skelley: Nate Cohn of the New York Times made it clear earlier this week that when Liberals debate whether Biden is related to FDR and Conservatives claim Biden is, it is pretty good indication that Biden has struck a successful political balance actually not that different from Trump.
In other words, Liberals are happy with him, and Conservatives are making a case that might make Biden … look moderate.
Sarah: We kind of brought this up when we were discussing the biggest thing the Biden administration has done to date, but evaluating its first 100 days, I thought we were going back to a memo that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, distributed before Biden’s inauguration set four priorities for administration: “The COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis and a racist justice crisis.”
How has Biden fared on these four priorities so far? And is this a fair way of assessing its administration?
julia_azari: In these four crises, this is actually one area where the FDR framework is helpful: start with the immediate emergencies, then move on to structural issues and then procedural / democracy reforms. But as Perry pointed out that this may not make much sense in the legal context of a split senate and current norms on filibuster use.
However, I am not sure how to judge the presidential administrations fairly.
Perry: Voters, Democrats who don’t work for Biden, Republicans, and the media should set their own criteria by which to judge Biden. But I think it’s useful to measure Biden on its own metrics.
On COVID-19, they implemented a vaccination program, opened schools, and done a lot of real work to calm the country down. Feels like an A there. The economy – lots of good data there, also. People spent the stimulus checks and liked her. Another A.
You just haven’t done much on climate policy – so incomplete or a C. Racial problems are difficult. I owe the administration for doing a real job on it Improving vaccine access and trust among blacks. But the GOP passed electoral laws will likely make it harder Especially for people of color to vote, and Biden and the Democrats are basically doing nothing. The racial climate looks terrible when it comes to the police force – Minnesota, a blue state, looks like a given war zone how militarized their police were in response to the Derek Chauvin Trial and protests against Daunte Wright’s death. Do black people feel better? about the problem of police ill-treatment? I doubt it. C on Race Equity.
geoffrey.skelley: I think you need to give an incomplete mark on all of these, although the treatment of COVID-19 is the most obvious place where the administration has made progress towards its goals.
For example, the US has re-acceded to the Paris Agreement and Biden has issued implementing regulations to help tackle the climate crisis. However, part of the Biden government’s success in this regard depends on whether they can adopt a massive infrastructure package that will invests in green industry and technology. And even then, it matters what it means to the economy and whether it is popular.
Sarah: What do Americans think of Biden so far? Republican? Democrats?
Perry: His approval is basically the reverse of Trumps – Biden is mid-50s for approval, high 30s / low 40s for disapproval.
So I can’t tell if the voters like what Biden does, or basically the people who hated Trump’s governance style like Bidens, and the people who liked Trump’s governance style hate Bidens (and the pro-Biden / anti-Trump Group is bigger).
geoffrey.skelley: In this point Public opinion about Biden seems to be even more polarized when early opinion was, according to Gallup, about Trump. There are strong divisions through education, but the most obvious divide is through party identification: Democratic approval is in the mid-1990s while Republican approval is at or below 10 percent.
On the one hand, it’s not that surprising. Presidents get more support from those in their party. Take Trump, who found very high levels of Republican support – and still does. The fact that Biden’s approval rating among Democrats is so high shows how polarized things are: it’s actually a little higher than Obama was in the early days of his presidency despite the fact that Obama’s general approval was higher than Biden’s. Hence, Biden draws more of his general support from his party base while also having a lower cap on potential Republican support.
I would argue that 54/40 is pretty good in this very polarized era. You can imagine President Hillary Clinton starting 2017 at 47/47 and then going back.
julia_azari: The question that interests me is whether Biden’s approval rating is as unresponsive to events as Obama’s and Trump’s.
geoffrey.skelley: Ha, I wouldn’t say it “completely” didn’t respond, just responded significantly less. We have seen Trump’s approval slide more than ever in response to the Capitol uprising.
But it’s true that Trump appeared to have a much tighter approval range than previous presidents, suggesting that there isn’t that much room for presidents to change their approval ratings.
Sarah: OK, as I said at the beginning, the 100-day mark is arbitrary and therefore a tough barometer to really measure the success (or lack of) a president. What do you keep track of for the remainder of Biden’s tenure?
julia_azari: I think government is in positions that really change the status quo in an important way, potentially disrupt business and corporate interests, and address systemic problems. Also, whether Biden can solve the problem that Democrats have a coherent position on immigration that is not just “Not Trump”.
geoffrey.skelley: I’m excited to see how Biden and his administration are pushing proxy issues with a 50:50 Senate and needing 60 votes for Cloture. Will there be some kind of new voting law? Which parts of H.R. 1 might actually have a chance to survive in the Senate?
I don’t know how they’re going to play it, especially considering Manchin and Sinema said they won’t weaken the filibuster.
Perry: I’m really curious what Biden will say in his Union-like state joint session of the congress speech on April 28th. How does Biden himself describe the successes, challenges and aspirations of his administration?
How is he going to explain his immigration policy, the one question I would argue that he wasn’t particularly clear about his broader vision?
How does he talk about these issues of race and the police? His views and comments must go beyond “The police should not choke black people to death”.