A year later, the verdict on Biden’s Divided States of America

Washington (AFP) – When Joe Biden became president, he inherited an America divided in almost every way imaginable, promising to be a force for unity and reconciliation.

A year after his inauguration, the country takes stock of its successes and failures.

– “Great moment of hope” –

“I think Biden took office and it was a great moment of hope,” recalls Raphy Jacobson, an 18-year-old New Yorker who has run several campaigns for left-leaning candidates.

Elected in a country bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic, shaken by a historic protest movement against racism, Biden pledged on January 20, 2021 to put “all my soul” into the reunification of the United States.

Raphy Jacobson disappointed Democrats ‘didn’t really pass anything they ran on’ Bryan R. SmithAFP

But a year after the Democrat’s nomination, Jacobson says he “never felt more discouraged and disillusioned with the state of electoral politics.”

From the giant stalled welfare and climate package meant to fix America to the catastrophic push for historic voting rights protections, “the Democrats haven’t really passed anything they ran on. “, he laments.

– Bitter taste –

Months after his inauguration, Biden traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Anxious to mend the cracks that are bursting a society on edge, he became the first president to commemorate the 1921 race massacre in the city.

A pedestrian walks past a mural commemorating the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in June 2021
A pedestrian walks past a mural commemorating the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in June 2021 ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS AFP/File

“At the time, a lot of us were thrilled that he was coming,” said Kode Ransom, a 33-year-old African-American.

But the visit left a sour taste in his mouth.

It was “a political decision,” the tour guide says, lamenting Biden’s lack of concrete action.

Broken immigration promises

“We were hoping for a lot more,” says Adriana Jasso, an activist with a religious organization that helps migrants in San Diego, California.

In front of the imposing border wall separating the United States and Mexico, the 47-year-old woman recounts her disappointment that Biden’s promises on immigration, such as the lifting of the curbs adopted under his predecessor Donald Trump deemed draconian, did not materialize. not materialized.

Immigration activist Adriana Jasso criticizes President Joe Biden's record on immigration reforms
Immigration activist Adriana Jasso criticizes President Joe Biden’s record on immigration reforms Patrick T. FALLONAFP

But Jasso, who came to America without papers as a teenager, acknowledges that after four years as the Republican billionaire’s presidency, “we have lived this last year as a kind of rest, a healing”.

“Demolish the economy”

Many Americans remain nostalgic for the Trump era, convinced that Biden has destroyed the achievements of his predecessor, especially on the economic level.

“Instead of fixing, he destroyed and demolished the economy of the nation,” complains Ubaldo Miranda, a 57-year-old doctor from Miami.

Customers gather at Miami's Cafe Versailles, a Cuban restaurant, in 2016
Customers gather at Miami’s Cafe Versailles, a Cuban restaurant, in 2016 Diego URDANETA AFP/File

“I believe that our country is in the worst situation in its history,” he told AFP in front of a Cuban restaurant, an emblematic gathering place for Republican activists in Florida.

The party accuses Biden of fueling unprecedented inflation – a problem that strikes at the heart of the American household. Under Biden, Miranda says, the United States is “more divided than ever.”

Not their president

According to opinion polls, more than half of conservative voters still do not consider Biden, 79, as their president, believing – wrongly – that the 2020 election was marred by significant fraud.

“I believe the election was stolen,” Boston resident Jenn Goode says, offering nothing to back up her claims.

The continued popularity of Trump products, like these presidential socks on sale in Florence, Arizona on January 15, 2022, is a testament to his enduring appeal to parts of America.
The continued popularity of Trump products, like these presidential socks on sale in Florence, Arizona on January 15, 2022, is a testament to his enduring appeal to parts of America. Robyn BeckAFP

The Democrats took advantage of the pandemic to manipulate the election, insists the 59-year-old man, still without evidence.

Not vaccinated against Covid-19, she says she does not believe the media, relying only on mainstream journalism “for the weather or sport”.

Biden’s response to Covid, she argues, “separates people…divides people.”

“Like when he says the unvaccinated are the problem, that’s not true at all,” she fumes. “It divides people.”

– Local friction –

“I think it would have been worse had Trump been re-elected,” says Melarie Wheat, a 37-year-old Mormon Church member.

“So I don’t think Joe Biden necessarily made us more united but I think he prevented it from getting worse.”

The historic Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah is an auspicious gathering place for American Mormons
The historic Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah is an auspicious gathering place for American Mormons GEORGE FREY GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

Over the past year, school boards across the country have seen violent clashes over teaching racism and Covid precautions such as mask mandates.

Wheat, a housewife from Utah, thinks the divisions nationwide “have rippled through even our local communities.”

Even in his church, with his conservative approach that puts family values ​​first, Wheat sees “a lot of problems now that you kind of have to tiptoe around.”

‘Counter attack’

Twelve months after Biden took office, some Americans think now may be a good time to push back rather than reconcile.

Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, which champions the “majority of Catholics who believe in reproductive freedom,” notes that since the inauguration, Republican states have increased restrictive abortion laws.

Jamie Manson has expressed the frustrations she shares with pro-choice activists like this activist pictured outside the Supreme Court in Washington on October 4, 2021
Jamie Manson has expressed the frustrations she shares with pro-choice activists like this activist pictured outside the Supreme Court in Washington on October 4, 2021 Kevin Dietsch GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

They were also allowed to restrict the rights of transgender youth and minority voting access, Manson says, without a strong response from Biden.

“There is, right now, a general frustration with Biden among people on the left,” she says, “because he keeps using rhetoric about how democracy is in jeopardy… And I think we’re waiting for that bold move, and we haven’t seen it yet.”

The 44-year-old activist expresses his frustration that the Democrats “have been too delicate and too afraid to disturb people and to walk on eggshells”.

“Being moderate and being milquetoast doesn’t give them the energy they need from the base,” she said. “And so I think it’s time to take some risks.”

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