A polarized America still showing little sign of unity

25 Nov 2021 12:51 PM

EXPERT COMMENT

Despite policy wins, Joe Biden’s hopes of healing a divided nation remain a distant promise with an electorate entrenched in its partisan views.

As Joe Biden approaches the end of his first year in office, his policy record is impressive on paper and in line with his campaign promises. History may one day define him as a leader who transformed Americans’ expectations of government, created structures for reducing persistent, high levels of inequality, and redefined the US role in the world.

But today, the story looks very different and Biden’s approval ratings are hovering at around 40 per cent. The president’s popularity appears impervious to his successes in passing legislation, even for measures with high levels of public support for a long period of time.

Congress has passed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal to rebuild roads, bridges, ports, internet and public health systems and, in 2020, the Chicago Council found 66 per cent of Americans supported expanding the budget for infrastructure investment.

The difficult truth of US democracy today is that, regardless of whether Biden’s legislation delivers to ordinary Americans, it may have little impact on how these same Americans evaluate his leadership. Partisan narratives have become increasingly locked in and the US is more polarized than at any point in its recent history.

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