A week in America | 12 November 2021

It's been a successful week for President Biden. A starring role at COP26 was equalled by accomplishments from his team back in the U.S.A.

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Joe Biden is back on Air Force One, taxiing across the apron at Edinburgh Airport.

As he settles in for a snooze in the plush Commander-in-Chief seat at the front of the most exclusive flight in the world, he will be dreaming of a brighter future.

He will be imagining a post coal, fossil fuel-free economy, with clean air, potable water and an agricultural system which puts food on the world’s plates without scorching the dirt and polluting the oceans and rivers of the planet.

New environmental targets, emissions goals and global agreements will be swirling through his mind.

Despite the photo-op mistake of his 80-vehicle gas guzzling cortege whisking him and the 200+ strong U.S. COP26 delegation into the secure zone in Glasgow, he will have been delighted with the week’s work.

With a Papal blessing in his pocket, a bridge-building meeting with tetchy French President Macron complete and the UK media ripping his sworn enemy Boris Johnson into sleaze -soaked strips, Joe will recline into his lie-flat bed with a smile on his face.

And with the Russian, Chinese and Indian leaders opting to stay away, Joe will recall how his A-team of John Kerry, Al Gore and his former boss Barack Obama gratefully accepted the opportunity. They sent barbs and snipes at the big polluters who weren’t at the Summit and took the opportunity to position America back at the front and leading the way to save the planet.

Joe will also have been pleased with the progress his loyal deputies had made back home in his absence.

When Biden was packing his bags for the ‘Glasgow Trip’, there were dark clouds gathering. Biden’s headline domestic policy initiative was struggling to get over the line as members of the Democratic Party’s awkward squad held out for changes and amendments.

But while Biden was gone, his henchmen and women in the Capital got about their work of cajoling, gently persuading and threatening members.

Using the dark arts of the whips office, offering ‘incentives’ and ‘appeasements’, they have secured the necessary votes to support the multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better plan and the associated trillion-dollar investment in the Infrastructure Bill to rebuild bridges, railways, power supply systems and highways.

But it came at a political cost.

The first week of November saw a set of elections which suggested the voters weren’t happy with the state-of-affairs.

The Republicans won the Gubernatorial race in normally rock-solid Democrat Virginia and pushed the incumbent Democrat Governor in New Jersey to a close call.

While psephologists and newsroom pundits tried to extrapolate whether the votes suggested a potential return to the fray for President Trump was on the cards, senior Democrats recognised a more simplistic problem had been the cause of their own downfall – Retail politics.

Voters were frustrated by the lack of action by the Democrats since taking control of the White House and the Senate in 2020. Leading Democrats will have confronted those in their ranks whose ‘dillying and dallying’ meant the party went into its first big electoral test without the ammunition it needed to win.

If the Democrats had fallen into line in early October – as planned – and brought the contentious Build Back Better plan and the universally approved Infrastructure Bill to the President’s desk for signature they could have taken its benefits to the doorstep.

The plan will provide universal Pre-K education, extend healthcare coverage, offer social care for seniors and job creation and training to get Americans back to work post COVID-19. These are the practical and popular political actions which voters, universally, support.

Armed with good news for hard working families, solid proposals to tackle the healthcare and social care crisis all ageing western economies are struggling with, Democrats would have been confident going into these elections.

And with a tax plan which would hit the Musk, Gates, Zuckerburg and Bezos fortunes to pay for it, the Democrats would have given their long-standing supporters something to get behind as well.

With the hallmark initiative passed, Democrats would have expected a positive return at the polls putting them in a strong position ahead of next November’s crucial midterm elections when control of the Capital, and the chance of passing any headline initiatives, is up for grabs again.

But sleep well Joe. Because when the eight-hour flight from Scotland touches down at the military base on the outskirts of Washington DC, and the tray tables must be stowed and seats returned to their upright position, the business of running the most powerful country of earth is back on again.

Martin Liptrot is a writer and commentator on public affairs and politics based in Florida.

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