(Washington) A speech on the march of the world as much as on the “State of the Union”: during his first solemn address to Congress, Joe Biden will strive on Tuesday to reassure an America deeply concerned about the war in Ukraine .
The American president went to the elected officials of the Senate and the House of Representatives in April 2021.
But it was not yet a speech “on the state of the Union”, this major meeting of American political life.
In this declaration, each comma of which is weighed, the president is supposed to report each year to the legislative power on his action.
The ritual is usually dominated by national considerations. Not this time.
According to a CBS poll, Americans most want to hear him talk about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 73%, before the economy or the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president understood this well. He assured Monday that “no”, worried America should not fear a nuclear conflict.
The invasion of Ukraine gives Joe Biden the opportunity to praise his diplomatic action, he who had promised when taking power to form around the United States a grand coalition of democracies against authoritarian regimes.
But it also prevents him from focusing, as he wanted when he arrived at the White House, on the American middle class and on China.
The 79-year-old Democrat will still hammer home to Americans that the country is, with him, in good hands – according to the latest polls, less than 40% are convinced of this.
COVID-19 finally seems to be loosening its grip; wearing a mask will also be optional during Joe Biden’s speech on Capitol Hill.
Growth is strong while unemployment is falling. And the powerful US Supreme Court could soon welcome an African-American woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, for the first time, in accordance with a promise from Joe Biden.
But none of this has so far benefited the president or the Democrats, who fear a debacle in the fall legislative elections.
In just over a year, Joe Biden, who defines himself as an incorrigible optimist, has failed to raise the morale of deeply disillusioned Americans, even before the war in Ukraine.
According to a rather striking poll published at the end of January by the Gallup Institute, 85% of Americans say they are satisfied with their own lives. But only 17% believe their country is moving in the right direction.
Inflation and divisions
On the economic front, households are concerned about galloping inflation.
On major social issues, whether abortion, firearms, the fight against racism or sexual discrimination, partisan divisions are sharper than ever.
To appease the country, Joe Biden first tried to pass major transformative legislation, but the strategy did not pay off.
He certainly succeeded in having historic investments voted in infrastructure, but had to give up, for lack of a large enough parliamentary majority, to boost social spending and to overhaul electoral law.
The White House therefore wants to change direction. On Tuesday, Joe Biden should make targeted, concrete and if possible consensual announcements to Congress, touching on the daily concerns of Americans.
He will, for example, promise better management of mental health problems in the United States, which have worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, at all ages”, alarmed the White House on Tuesday, listing very gloomy statistics.
Including this one: Comparing numbers from early 2021 to early 2019, teenage ER admissions after suicide attempts in the US jumped 51% .