In fact, he barely notes. His CNN town hall last week fizzled out, averaging just 1.5 million viewers. Fox News easily beat him with its regular programming, and MSNBC also had more viewers, placing the President of the United States in third place in the race for cable ratings.
It is also underperformed in other more formal contexts. Biden drew $ 27 million for his first address at a joint session of Congress, while Donald Trump drew $ 48 million.
The contrast with the hour-to-hour cocktail of provocation and political melodrama, impossible to ignore, naturally makes Biden’s approach even more striking.
There is Olympic badminton competition after a WWE game; he makes elevator music after a heavy metal concert; he is the sparkler after a fireworks display.
Biden’s presidency is, in this sense, practically pre-modern, almost reminiscent of the days of mass media when presidents were neither seen nor heard.
Of course, this is in part a deliberate strategic choice by the White House, playing on the contrast with Trump and limiting Biden’s exposure to the media to avoid distractions (and blunders). Being a particularly low-voltage political figure worked for Biden in his primary comeback campaign and in the 2020 general election, so why not as president?
As a result, Biden oddly doesn’t feel like the main event of the Biden years.
Assuming it happens, the mid-term backlash in 2022 won’t directly affect Biden; instead, he’ll be driven by Biden’s adjacent issues of the border, crime, critical race theory, and – if they reappear in force – mask warrants and school closures.
Biden is the main driver of only one of these problems, the border crisis that could easily have been avoided by keeping in place the policies the Trump administration had implemented to control the flow of migrants.
Otherwise, they’re hot buttons where other than Biden are the key players, be they governors, mayors, school boards, or education bureaucrats.
In other words, the culture war itself is likely to be the biggest issue in 2022, rather than the president.
This would be a marked departure from the mid-term bombings Bill Clinton and Barack Obama received in 1994 and 2010, which were deeply personal rejections of the two men (Clinton was seen as an unworthy rebel and Obama as a crypto-socialist hostile to American exceptionalism).
If no one on the right is in love with Biden or his agenda, very little energy is invested in opposing him as such.
Indeed, the idea that tends to generate the most interest and passion isn’t that the president works diligently to destroy the American way of life as long as Biden – whose verbal meanders can be truly bizarre – does. is not at all responsible.
Considering the alternatives, it probably works in Biden’s favor. He is pushing a truly radical spending program which, if championed by a more direct progressive president rather than someone who feels like a gatekeeper, would surely meet much fiercer resistance.
But there are also risks for Biden. If his spending program falters, the rest is unclear. Even if the White House decides to try to “unleash” Biden, he’s obviously not well suited to rally the country or drive an agenda. He has always been a conversationalist, but never an orator.
His low-intensity presidency may, as his advisers hope, help create a sense of a return to normalcy in Washington, but that could easily be compatible with a worrying sense of drift. Usually the dynamic of the presidency is if you don’t seem to be in control of events, they control you.
The test for Biden will be whether, ultimately, he is to be the dominant public figure in his own presidency.