Biden Misses Chance To Win Over Undecided Voters – OpEd


By Dalia Al-Aqidi

More than 32 million viewers tuned in to catch US President Joe Biden’s third State of the Union address last week. His demeanor was notably intense throughout the speech, as he spoke with vigor and anger.

He appeared to be making a concerted effort to demonstrate his capability to lead the nation for another four years, despite the skepticism on both sides of the political aisle due to his age.

Amid a politically charged atmosphere, the president, in his fiery delivery, tried to underscore his determination to resolve the pressing issues facing his administration and his commitment to addressing the concerns of the American people head-on. It was more of a campaign speech than anything else.

Biden’s supporters cheered him on, seeing his spirited demeanor as a testament to his strong commitment to his duties. Through his loud and raging voice, he aimed to convey confidence in his leadership, reassuring the public of his ability to tackle upcoming challenges. Of course, not everyone was entirely on board. Some observers could not help but wonder if this was his only way to refute allegations that he is becoming unable to lead the country due to his old age.

Instead of delving into a thorough review of his government’s achievements over the past year and the prospects for the future, the president’s speech writers strategically chose to pivot toward frequent criticisms of his predecessor. Consequently, the address focused on Donald Trump, the former president and Biden’s likely rival in November’s election, without mentioning his name. This shift in emphasis deviated from his purported aim of fostering unity among Americans. Rather than embodying the spirit of unity he espoused, the Democrat leader dwelt on critiques of Republican Party policies and its members of the House of Representatives. His approach mirrored that of a teacher admonishing students for failing to complete their assignments.

This rhetorical tactic risked further polarization, rather than bridging the ideological gap he promised to overcome. Therefore, his words reflected his failure to foster national cohesion and bipartisanship.

Biden’s decision to open his speech by focusing on Ukraine and the call for heightened military support was unexpected. Foreign policy typically does not take center stage in State of the Union addresses, particularly without a US military presence in the conflict concerned and while Americans are facing numerous domestic challenges, from economic inflation to a surge in crime rates and unauthorized migration.

It is crucial to assist in addressing the challenges posed by Russia and to support America’s European allies in countering potential threats from Moscow in the event of it winning the war in Ukraine. However, the priorities of American citizens may not fully align with those of the current administration. The president ought to have recognized this disparity instead of seeming disconnected from the realities faced by the population.

Biden’s address took more than 40 minutes to broach the critical issue of the border crisis, along with the accompanying surge in criminal activity and drug addiction. However, his speech failed to offer a radical solution to the pressing challenges of border security and illegal immigration. While many individuals around the globe patiently await the conclusion of official immigration procedures to secure approval from the US for migration or asylum, the ease with which illegal entry through the southern border can be gained has become alarmingly prevalent.

This issue is poised to become a primary focal point in the upcoming elections, as national security concerns loom large. The flood of unvetted individuals from diverse corners of the world underscores the urgent need for robust border control measures. Moreover, last year’s apprehension of more than 100 individuals listed on the US terrorist watch list as they tried to cross the border raises significant concerns regarding the potential threat posed by those entering the country illegally. The uncertainty surrounding the number of individuals who have evaded detection and may be planning terrorist activities underscores the gravity of the situation and the imperative for decisive action.

In addressing economic matters, the Democratic president sought recognition for outcomes for which he may not have been responsible. Specifically, he asserted that, under his administration, the economy has seen the addition of 15 million new jobs — a claim that is factually accurate. However, it is essential to put these job gains in the context of the broader framework of economic recovery following the substantial losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While creating these new jobs is indeed a positive development, it is crucial to acknowledge that they represent just one facet of the broader economic rebound from the pandemic-induced downturn. The resurgence of employment is a natural consequence of the easing of restrictions and the gradual reopening of businesses.

The discussion surrounding what was a purely political and electoral speech spans many topics and requires more space. Nevertheless, it is imperative to explore a key aspect: the distinct subset of voters who remain undecided between lending their support to Biden or Trump — a demographic that notably went unaddressed. The current president made no concerted effort to engage with or persuade this pivotal group, potentially overlooking a significant opportunity to broaden his support base.

Moving forward, the election landscape is poised to witness an intense struggle for the endorsement of former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Her decision to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race, after clinching just two Republican primaries, without aligning herself with Trump has thrust her into the spotlight. Consequently, speculation abounds regarding the votes of her supporters — a sizable contingent that constitutes about a quarter of Republican primary voters. The looming question revolves around which candidate they will throw their support behind come November.

This group of voters has much power to affect how the election turns out. So, both Biden and Trump need to work extra hard to get their support. This means they have to be really smart about how they campaign. It is all about understanding the complex game of politics and using the right tactics to win over these voters.

  • Dalia Al-Aqidi is executive director at the American Center for Counter Extremism. X: @DaliaAlAqidi

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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