U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden celebrated July Fourth on Monday, offering a message of optimism and unity at a time when polls suggest most Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and political polarization is a top concern.
“America is always becoming, always on the move, always a work in progress,” Biden said alongside the first lady in remarks during an Independence Day BBQ celebration with military families at the White House. “Progress. Forward motion. The creation of possibilities, the fulfillment of promises,” he added.
Biden suggested that better days lay ahead even as he acknowledged the struggles Americans are going through under the country’s high inflation.
“Our economy is growing but not without pain,” he said.
Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the economy. In an AP-NORC poll released Wednesday, 79% described the economy as poor, including 90% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats.
Overall, the poll showed 85% of American adults say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, including 92% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats — the highest number among Democrats since Biden took office.
“After doing the hard work of laying the foundation for a better future, the worst of our past has reached out and pulled us back on occasion,” Biden said, alluding to the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal constitutional right for women to have abortions.
“That freedom has been reduced, that rights we assumed we’re protected are no longer,” he said, calling it a reminder of the “ongoing battle for the soul of America.”
While the ruling does away with nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent, conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the long-standing principle of adherence to precedent is “not a straitjacket” and that Roe was “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.”
“I know it can be exhausting and unsettling,” Biden said. “But tonight, I want you to know that we’re going to get through all of this.”
A poll by Reuters/Ipsos released Wednesday showed that Americans from Biden’s own party, Democrats, are increasingly dissatisfied following the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, with 62% of Democrats saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 49% the week before. The level of Republican dissatisfaction went down to 86%, down slightly from 94% a week earlier.
As polarization ranked third across a list of 20 issues that are of top concerns of Americans, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, Biden sought to rally Americans to unite.
“We’ve been tested before, just as we’re being tested today,” he said. “But we’ve never failed because we have never walked away from the core beliefs and promises that define this nation.”
The first couple later watched fireworks displays from their residence balcony, while below them hundreds of military family members and administration staff enjoyed the show from blankets and picnic tables on the White House lawn.
Another mass shooting
Independence Day celebrations in the United States were marred by a shooting Monday at a parade in the Midwestern city of Highland Park in the state of Illinois that left at least six people dead.
Biden did not directly address the shooting in his remarks.
“Y’all heard what happened today,” he said. “But each day we’re reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy. Nothing guaranteed about our way of life. We have to fight for it.”
Later in the evening, the president led a brief moment of silence in honor of the victims.
Authorities said a 22-year-old man named as a person of interest in the shooting was taken into police custody Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt.
Gunfire broke out just 10 minutes after the parade began about 10 a.m. Monday in the city of 30,000, about 40 kilometers north of Chicago. Police said 30 other people were hospitalized after the shooting.