ZAHRAN: The return of Moderate Joe 

President Joe Biden speaks during a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, celebrating Greek Independence Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Do you remember Moderate Joe, the guy who ran for president from his basement in 2020? He’s back, determined to make Americans forget his doppelganger, President Biden, who in two short years has spent trillions of dollars we don’t have for programs we don’t need. 

So, what inspired Moderate Joe to come back to the political arena after he retired on Inauguration Day in 2021? Could it possibly have been the midterm elections in November? The Republicans were supposed to sweep both houses of Congress and enjoy large majorities that would weaken the Biden administration, but that didn’t happen.  

Instead, the Democrats gained seats in the Senate. And while the Republicans did win control of the House, they had a very public battle over the election of Kevin McCarthy as its speaker. McCarthy eventually won the speakership, but his party gave itself a black eye in the process. 

Did these events make Biden decide to run for reelection in 2024? In the days immediately following the midterms, he displayed a confidence he had not shown lately, perhaps because he was afraid of a Republican landslide. When this landslide didn’t materialize, Biden saw this failure as a sign that he should run again. 

There is, however, one obvious problem with Biden’s decision: After two years in office, Biden has shown us what kind of “leader” he is. Because he is beholden to the radical left for helping to put him in the White House, he has shaped his agenda according to their wishes, and Americans are suffering as a result. Biden’s economic policies have created the highest inflation we have seen in the last 40 years; his policies on foreign affairs have weakened our standing on the world stage, especially after our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan; and his immigration policy has resulted in borders that are neither safe nor secure. Could there be a better time to pull Moderate Joe out of the basement?  

One of the first indications that Biden is pivoting to the political center is his recent decision not to veto a measure passed by both houses of Congress to block revisions to the D.C. criminal code, which had been approved by the D.C. Council. These revisions included reducing the maximum penalties for robbery, burglary and carjacking. Congress also blocked a new law proposed by the council that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. While many Democrats are outraged that Biden took this stance, Moderate Joe knows how important it is to convince voters that he does not support the “Defund the Police” wing of his party. 

Moderate Joe also knows his administration’s energy policies, which have suppressed the fossil fuel industry for the past two years, need a makeover for the 2024 presidential campaign. As luck would have it, Biden found a solution to this problem: The Willow Project. Recently, Biden approved this project, allowing ConocoPhillips to drill oil in northwestern Alaska and produce an estimated 180,000 barrels per day. 

This decision infuriated Biden’s progressive base, so he had to placate them. Almost immediately, the Department of the Interior announced that it would block 2.8 million acres from oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, which is located north of Alaska and is part of the Arctic Sea. It also announced that it would propose drilling limitations for 13 million acres within the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, which is a section of land on the Alaska North Slope. 

The problem with attempting to be Moderate Joe after two years of being Progressive Biden is that the president must find a way to appeal to political groups simultaneously who are very different from one another. His Jekyll and Hyde handling of the Willow Project is a perfect example of the kind of pivoting he will need to do if he wants to be reelected. Whether or not he can stay on this political tightrope without falling off is anyone’s guess. After all, look at how hard it is for him to stay on a bicycle. 

Mary Zahran lives in Fayetteville.