April 30 is Joe Biden’s 100th day as president. He should at least be considered for rivaling Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s standard for his first 100 days achievement if Biden achieves his primary policy goals.
Since Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, the media and the public often focus on a new president’s “First 100 Days.” A new president used to be given a “honeymoon period” to learn his new job. Nowadays, the president and his staff are expected to “hit the ground running.” Biden’s previous service as senator and vice president helped him get off to a quick start.
Beginning with his inauguration, Biden aimed to set a new tone of unity and to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the sluggish economy, systemic racial inequality, our aging infrastructure and climate change. The Inauguration itself went off well in the Capitol under military guard because of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Jan. 20 was also the inauguration of Kamala Harris, the first Black woman vice president .
Despite getting a slow start because of the late presidential election results from Georgia, Biden’s Cabinet was confirmed by the Senate at about typical pace for recent presidents while becoming the most diverse in history. In part because many nominees are Obama Administration veterans, the Cabinet is rather experienced.
Biden’s first large legislative accomplishment was the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that distributed $1,400 stimulus payments to people making under $75,000 per year. The Biden Administration’s biggest achievement, however, might be that 200 million Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccination before his 100th day in office. This is double Biden’s first announced goal of 100 million.
These two achievements suggest that two characteristics of the Biden team are to “go big” and “under-promise and over-perform.” Certainly, Biden’s decision to hold a virtual Global Environment Summit on Thursday, the anniversary of Earth Day, and to announce his goal to get the U.S. back on track with the Paris Climate Agreement and to reduce our carbon emissions by 2030 is part of that plan.
Biden is “going big” again in his $2.3 trillion plan to rebuild and modernize America’s aging and decaying infrastructure that aims to create millions of new jobs and strengthen our competitiveness, particularly with China. Biden showed his ambition by proclaiming: “This is not a plan that tinkers around the edges.” when he announced his plan.
While there is not much evidence of bipartisanship in Congress, so far Biden has public support. According to the Pew Research Center’s April 5-11 survey, 59% approve the way Biden is handling his job as president, while 39% disapprove. Biden’s job approval rating increased slightly from 54% last month. Biden’s job approval is third highest among recent presidents following Ronald Reagan (67%) and Barack Obama (61%) but higher than George H.W. Bush (58%), George W. Bush (55%), Bill Clinton (49%), and Donald Trump (39%).
Interestingly, 48% of white Americans approve of how Biden is handling his job compared with the 51% who disapprove, and women approve of Biden’s performance more positively, at 62%, than men, at 56%. There are, of course, strong partisan differences with 93% of Democrats approving of Biden and 91% of Republicans disapproving.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 72%, say the Biden administration has done an excellent or good job managing the manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans. More say they like the way Biden conducts himself as president (46%) than say they don’t (27%), while another 27% have mixed feelings about his conduct.
Similarly, 44% say he has changed the tone of political debate for the better, while 29% say he has made the tone of debate worse — 27% say he has not changed it much.
With only 100 days completed in a four-year term, an evaluation of Biden’s performance and accomplishments is premature, but he is off to a good start. There are potential problems off in the horizon. So far, Biden has not had to spend much public time addressing China’s action in the South China Sea and threats to Taiwan’s airspace, to Russia’s massing troops on the Ukraine border or its threat to our internet security, or to North Korea’s provocations and threat of nuclear built-up.
Two domestic challenges could slow down Biden’s “going big.” First is immigration policy fueled by the migrant children at our Southern border. Second is the threat of inflation due to an overheated economy caused by big spending. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans, 72%, say illegal immigration is a major problem, up 29 points since last June. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats say immigration is now a major problem compared with 15% nearly a year ago.
The president’s compassionate leadership in the face of recent mass shootings, racial justice protests and the Derek Chauvin conviction helps soothe the pain from racial incidents and racial disparities in police shootings. He may make police reforms a major part of his address to Congress later this week.
If Biden sets a new tone of unity, ropes in the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulates the sluggish economy, reduces systemic racial inequality, rebuilds our infrastructure, and significantly slows climate change, he belongs up there with FDR’s greatest first 100 days. Like Roosevelt, Biden’s legacy may be that he has articulated a restored sense of hope.