optics meme

After just over a month, Joe Biden’s administration seems to have broken several key promises that swept him into power and delivered the narrowest majority to the Democrats in the Senate.  

During the Georgia run-off campaign, Georgians and Americans in general listened to liberal pundits as they told us that if Democrats were elected that we would receive $2000 checks. There was no good reason to immediately go back on that promise.

Furthermore, one of Biden’s key promises to the American people was a reversal of the cruel child separation policies of the Trump administration. Last week, the New York Times reported that thousands of migrant children were detained at the border.

Soon after, President Biden ordered an airstrike on an Iranian-backed militia in Syria, killing 22 people, a retaliation for the death of an American contractor and the wounding of an American service member along with other coalition troops.

The optics of the $2000 check affair were absolutely bungled. An accurate physical representation would be a man seeing a rake on the ground, looking to his friend and saying “I can handle this obstacle, no problem” and then promptly stepping on the teeth of a rake and getting smacked in the face with the handle. 

Without needing to, the administration started with a lie so stupid it boggles the mind. If they really didn’t want to, or couldn’t, give out $2000 checks, then the administration could have blamed conservative Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Or better yet, they could blame Mitch McConnell — everyone outside of Kentucky already hates him.

During the campaign, Biden decried his predecessor’s inhumane treatment of children at the border, particularly the child separation policy. When the Washington Post published an article with a title claiming that the first child migrant detention center had been opened under the Biden administration, people were understandably upset. Part of the confusion here can safely be blamed on whoever titled the Washington Post article “First migrant facility for children opens under Biden.” People were understandably upset by this headline. Given the context of the past few years, the obvious assumption a reader would make would be that this new facility was a continuation of the previous administration’s child separation policy. 

This new center is intended to hold unaccompanied migrant children after a recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Now, personally I don’t think we should be detaining any children simply for crossing a line on a map. Obviously, it wouldn’t be safe for these children to simply wander around the United States unaccompanied, but many of them will have family members in the country and the intent seems to be to hold them there until they can be united with their family or placed into a foster family.

The key obstacle to the Biden administration’s immigration aims are Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents themselves, the foot soldiers of fascism. Trump empowered ICE agents and in return they are loyal to him, continuing many of his policies into Biden’s presidency. They are aided by a last-minute union agreement with an outgoing Trump official which would allow them to simply ignore President Biden.

Another key blunder is the recent air strike into Syria. This use of military force so early into Biden’s presidency has allowed the right to peddle the false narrative that Trump was the antiwar candidate and that President Biden is a warmonger. As far as we know, all of the airstrike deaths were active members of this militia, currently participating in the Syrian Civil War. 

While I do not support direct military intervention in Syria, the death of a U.S. contractor and the wounding of an American service member called for some kind of response from the administration. A smarter play would have been for the president to throw some kind of material support behind the Syrian Democratic Forces, one of the Syrian government’s primary foes in the conflict. 

The Biden Administration’s lack of consideration for optics will, if left unaddressed, continue to hamper its ability to achieve any strong public support from the Democratic party’s increasingly progressive base. Progressive change is absolutely necessary if the administration seeks to prevent the election of another Trump-type Republican in 2024.

The Biden administration is in a tricky situation. Their narrow majorities in both houses of Congress make it difficult to pass more progressive policies, but the administration does not appear to want to push for these policies, instead immediately caving to more centrist demands and bungling optics. 

With the first two optical errors mentioned above, the key factor was a failure on the part of the Biden administration to effectively communicate what it was doing, why it was doing it, and who was actually to blame. This failure in communication is a failure of leadership. One of the hallmarks of an effective leader is an ability to clearly and confidently communicate what you or your surrogates want. 

If the Biden administration is to be successful over the next four years, attention needs to be paid to how things are percieved. One of my first bosses told me that perception is reality, and he was right. What ultimately matters is not what you say or do, but how those words and actions are perceived.

Nick Finan is a junior Political Science major. Reach him at nickfinan@dailynebraskan.com.