On his 100th day as US President, Joe Biden spontaneously lowered his black mask, leaned into the microphone and yelled, “Come on Georgia, we need you!”
It was an appropriate moment in a state that has more right than most to be ground zero for a potentially transformative presidency.
Biden had just marked the 100-day milestone with a drive-in in Duluth, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, to advance his $ 4 billion plans to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and vastly expand the government’s social safety net.
Worried by a cough and briefly interrupted by protesters demanding an end to private prisons, the president delivered an abbreviated version of his speech at a joint session of Congress the night before.
But he paid special attention, and thanks, to an audience that has played an enormous role in the conduct of his administration.
Toward the end of his campaign, he visited Warm Springs, the Georgia town that helped Franklin Roosevelt cope with polio. On Election Day, Biden became, by a narrow margin, the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.
Then, on January 5, the unexpected victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia gave Democrats the balance of power in the Senate. If the Republicans had remained in control, Biden’s first hundred days would have been very different.
Jonathan Alter, author of The Turning Point: One Hundred Days of FDR and the Triumph of Hope, said Thursday: “Without Georgia’s runoff, you wouldn’t have that transformative presidency. It would be a completely different story. If January 6 is an important date in American history, it is also January 5 due to runoff from Georgia and nothing that is happening would be possible without January 5. “
Ossoff and Warnock joined Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, on stage at Thursday night’s rally. The four of them joined hands and held them up as the song (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher boomed from the speakers.
Georgia has become a benchmark in a national battle for voting rights. More than 100 corporations, as well as civil rights organizers and sports leagues, spoke out against the restrictions passed by Georgia’s Republican state legislature. Biden condemned the sidewalks as “just plain wrong” and asked Congress to pass protections at the national level.
Last month, Atlanta was the scene of a mass shooting that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, helping propel Biden to take executive action for gun safety and report hate crimes.
Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold, is now a changing state that will diversify and have Senate and Governor elections next year closely watched. It will almost certainly be one of the most competitive states during the 2024 presidential campaign.
With an American national flag behind him, Biden told supporters gathered around the vehicles: “Thanks to you, we passed one of the most important rescue bills in American history … You changed states. United. You started changing America and you are helping us show that America can still deliver benefits to the people. “
That meant, he said, a hundred days that included the creation of 1.3 million jobs, more than any other president in history during the same period. It meant food and rent assistance, small business loans, and an expansion of health care. And, he said, the United States is on track to cut child poverty in half this year.
The president continued to promote the largest job plan since World War II, building infrastructure, replacing lead pipes to ensure safe drinking water, and expanding broadband Internet to rural areas.
Addressing the climate crisis, Biden added, “will create millions of well-paying jobs,” and then repeats a line from his speech to Congress: “There is simply no reason why wind turbine blades cannot be built in Pittsburgh in your place. of Beijing. “
Biden also kickstarted his new $ 1.8 billion family plan that includes free universal preschool, free community college and childcare support. “I was a single father for five years,” he said, recalling the death of his first wife in a car accident and how he had to rely on family members because he couldn’t afford outside help.
Republicans have questioned how Biden plans to pay for his bold plans. He insisted: “It is very simple. It is time for the very rich and corporations to start paying their fair share … No one making less than $ 400,000 a year will pay a single extra penny in taxes. “
In an emotional finale, Biden told the crowd, “Folks, it’s only been a hundred days, but I have to tell you, I’ve never been more optimistic about the future in America.” America is on the move again. We choose hope over fear, truth over lies, light over darkness.
Biden, who has more campaign-style stops planned in Pennsylvania and Virginia in the coming days, is enjoying popular support in opinion polls. A survey of Browser research found positive approval among 86% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and even 59% of Republicans. Two-thirds of the public believe that Biden’s policies related to the pandemic have had a positive impact.
Navigator also conducted three online focus groups with low-income Republicans and Democrats from across the ideological spectrum in Florida, Nevada and Texas. Comments included a Florida man saying, “I don’t feel like I have to waste my time, scroll through my feed to see what’s next,” and a Nevada man commented, “Almost immediately, as soon as you took office. , everything just kind of calm and everyone says, ‘Okay, we have a normal person there.’
But Republicans in Congress have condemned Biden’s spending spree, suggesting that he is exploiting the pandemic to smuggle liberal imperatives and that his promise of bipartisanship rings hollow.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, told Fox News: “We are friendly. We have made deals together in the past. However, the reason we’re not talking now is because you’re not trying to do anything even remotely close to moderate.
Think of it as Biden’s bait and switch. He ran as a moderate, but everything he recommended so far has been difficult. Bernie Sanders is really happy. He may have lost a nomination, but he won the discussion about what the Democratic party is today: more taxes, more spending, more loans. “
Early Thursday, the Bidens visited former President Jimmy Carter, 96, and his 93-year-old wife, Rosalynn, at their home in Plains, Georgia. It was at least the third time this month that Biden has spoken with one of his predecessors, following talks with George W. Bush and Barack Obama about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Biden was the first senator to endorse Carter for the presidency in 1976. Carter’s defeat to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 ushered in an era in which calls for smaller government and lower taxes for big business and the rich were adopted as the key to economic growth.
Alter, also the author of the Carter biography His Very Best, said: “Biden wants to have a foreign policy based on human rights and that goes back to Jimmy Carter.
“He doesn’t want to have an Iranian hostage crisis, but in terms of aspirations for American leadership in the world and upholding American values in the world, that really dates back to Jimmy Carter, who is no longer smelly in the world. America, particularly in the Democratic Party, where in the past, Democratic nominees weren’t really thrilled to be associated with Carter because he lost in a landslide.
But that was more than 40 years ago. The sting of the Reagan landslide has faded and part of what Reagan is selling is a partial return to the pre-Reagan political universe. “