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Giving People Free Stuff Is the Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden’s Legacy


Donald Trump was, for lack of a better word, down bad in the spring of 2020, the first pit of one of the most disastrous years in recent American history. His popularity had plummeted as a result of his haphazard handling of a fatal disease that he had downplayed at first, then tried to treat as it ravaged his base. The economy was in complete disarray. There was no one at work. The government then had a brilliant idea: send money to everyone.

If you recall, Donald Trump came up with a bold scheme during the first batch of stimulus checks, with an election coming later in the year, to put his name on the money. Trump insisted in April that the first $2,000 Treasury Department reimbursements bear his name in the memo line, even if it meant long delays in getting them to recipients. While it didn’t save him from loss in the end, it was one of the wisest moves the former president made in preventing his downfall. People remember who pays them, and they enjoy receiving gifts.

The first hint that the Biden administration would do this since the fast dwindling stimulus check program in early 2021 appeared yesterday. While it’s been clear for a while that we shouldn’t expect any new cash payments from the government – corporations are back in the black, and the economy has stabilized to the point where only the poor are suffering again – the government’s free at-home test delivery program and the announcement that the administration will distribute 400 million free N95 masks could be the first steps in a revolutionary strategy to save Biden’s reputation before the midterm elections.

They can’t stop there, that’s the key. Despite its flaws, the US Postal Service’s free test-delivery program was functional enough to provide us a glimpse of what a functioning government can achieve for its citizens yesterday. The fact that the Biden administration had to be humiliated into making this move, as well as Jen Psaki’s condescending dismissal of genuine criticism and questions, isn’t a good indication. As the Democrats’ electoral aspirations for the 2022 midterm elections become increasingly bleak due to congressional deadlock, it’s evident that the party as a whole needs any tangible indicators of success to pitch to voters.

Giving People Free Stuff Is the Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden's Legacy
Giving People Free Stuff Is the Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden’s Legacy


Even after 2022, it’s evident that Biden could use the assistance. Biden’s approval rating has dropped to new lows, according to a Morning Consult poll released Wednesday morning. If the government faces two years of unfriendly legislation following the midterm elections, Biden will need to extract every ounce of political goodwill he can from executive actions, presidential directives, and stimulus programs to directly affect the lives of potential voters before 2024.

The notion is simple: voters, like everyone else, enjoy getting free stuff. For decades, the conservative movement in both parties has purposefully made Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP assistance, and other benefit programs into confusing, bureaucratic messes, while people who benefit from them have been systematically demonized — all because the conservative movement in both parties knows that proper, functioning social welfare programs are universally popular. Consider a system in which obtaining health care or food aid is as simple as registering for Covid testing.

It’s a philosophy that speaks to the government’s underlying premise of being a higher body that cares for its citizens. The Biden administration should deliver goods to folks all around the country if it wants to win big with them. If legislation isn’t an option, it will have to look for other options. A wise administration would increase the number of free Covid tests and masks and keep them coming. Every month, send out freebies. It doesn’t matter what it is on some levels. Even in the face of congressional gridlock, the president retains considerable discretionary spending authority and instruments to improve the lives of Americans. Most Google employees have received a device that allows them to perform a near-instant, self-administered PCR test whenever they choose, in the comfort of their own homes. Why shouldn’t the Biden administration use the Defense Production Act to ensure that every American household has one of these boxes?

Giving People Free Stuff Is the Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden's Legacy
Giving People Free Stuff Is the Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden’s Legacy


Even at the bare minimum, it’s easy to imagine people being far more grateful for a free pack of toilet paper delivered to their home than for another speech about the critical importance of a voting rights bill that has already been doomed by the Democratic party’s political incompetence and the fascists on the other side of the aisle. It’s unclear where the Democrats’ resistance to accepting credit for their accomplishments stems from, but as obnoxious as it may sound, they could learn a thing or two from Donald Trump. If the president wants to give people a mask to keep them safe, a test to save a family member or a cheque to pay next month’s rent, they should be free to brand it with any star-spangled logo they want. That’s what you get for actually performing your job, something Biden doesn’t seem to get.

Critics will equate this technique to bribery, as they did with Trump. So, what’s the point? If it comes from a body with a constitutional and moral obligation to provide for the people it controls, a little “bribery” might be acceptable. It’s outrageous that the American people haven’t gotten more out of the agency created to help them in the third year of a terrible pandemic. Years ago, we should have had universal free masks and tests. Whatever we get now could be too little, too late. The second option, which has been the administration’s default posture until now, is to promise a little and deliver nothing. Biden’s dwindling approval rating demonstrates how effectively that strategy has worked thus far. It’s time to branch out.

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