WASHINGTON (TSWT) — Jill Biden stormed the country during her debut year as first lady as if she were on a one-woman mission to help her husband’s government tackle the problem of the moment: getting people vaccinated and boosting against the deadly COVID -19 pandemic.
New headwinds in the second year—President Joe Biden’s low profile with the public and the November election that could put Republicans back in control of Congress—have set her on a new mission: working to elect Democrats who to help her husband.
She makes no secret of her frustration with Washington.
“Joe really believes in working with Congress and getting things done, but it’s clear Republicans are banding together and not flinching. They don’t flinch,” the first lady said during one of the four fundraisers she headlined last month.
“Who would think AR-15s make sense? Who doesn’t believe in the need to deal with climate change?” she said at a July fundraiser in Nantucket, Massachusetts, citing Republican opposition to the president’s call for a ban on assault weapons and increased spending on climate change.
With school for the summer, the teacher first lady was free to travel again in her role as the president’s chief surrogate, highlighting the administration’s achievements and showing a more political side as she tested possible fall campaign messages for a large and small audience.
She gave voice to the urgency she and the president feel about unfinished aspects of his agenda.
After accompanying him to the scene of deadly mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the first lady — a community university professor — urged the public to adopt tougher gun laws. to demand Congress.
“We must now fight for the lives of our children and for the safety of our schools,” she told the PTA National Convention in June, shortly after they visited Robb primary school in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers were murdered. . by a man firing an AR-15.
Congress represents “the will of the people,” she said, “and that’s why we need the people to speak out. Parents and teachers. All of us.”
She later raised the gun issue at the American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston in July, saying that “we believe that AR-15s, the gun that ripped apart 19 kids and two teachers in their class, had no place in our streets.”
And she turned the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion into an argument to send more Democrats to Congress in November. President Biden has promised to sign a bill that enshrines the right to abortion in federal law, but there is not enough support for it in Congress, where Democrats have a slim majority.
“We all have a teacher’s voice for when things go off the rails and now is the time to use it,” she said in Boston.
In Nantucket, the first lady defended her husband of 45, saying “he just got so many things in his way” that were not expected, including the abortion ruling and the Russian war on Ukraine.
“He had so many hopes and plans for things he wanted to do, but every time you turned around, he had to address the issues of the moment,” she told a group of about two dozen donors.
She said she had also become “first lady of the moment,” responding to problems and not imposing her own agenda.
Tammy Vigil, a communications professor at Boston University, said it’s typical for a first lady to defend the president, and that’s why complaints about the Republican opposition come from her better than President Biden. He would risk undermining his authority and appear “nagging” if he sounded more often about GOP roadblocks than he has, she said.
“If it’s going to be said, she’s the better person to say it,” said Vigil, who wrote a book about former first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.
Jill Biden’s summer was busy—and unusually bumpy at times.
She went on a few solo foreign trips in May, to Romania and Slovakia in Eastern Europe to meet Ukrainian refugees. The trip included an unannounced detour to western Ukraine to meet first lady Olena Zelenska. She also traveled through Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.
But in June, she had upset AIDS activists by hosting an event at the White House to unveil a postage stamp honoring First Lady Nancy Reagan. Activists noted the Reagans’ indifference to gays and lesbians at the start of the AIDS crisis, which exploded during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Last month, she had to apologize through a spokesperson for offending Latinos by describing their diversity as “distinctive as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio.”
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists tweeted in response, “We’re not tacos.”
The first lady was also harassed last month on her way to an ice cream parlor in Connecticut. A man on the sidewalk yelled, “Your husband is the worst president we’ve ever had” and “You owe us gas money.” A new TSWT poll registered her favorable rating at a low 34%, although only 29% have an unfavorable opinion of her. Another 28% said they have no opinion about the first lady and 9% said they hadn’t heard enough from her.
The president’s positive COVID-19 tests have forced the couple to stay apart for about two weeks while he is in isolation at the White House and she resides at their home in Wilmington, Delaware.
She had welcomed Zelenska to the White House just before the president’s diagnosis.
Jill Biden, 71, is the first first lady to work outside the White House. She is expected to return to teaching in September, combining those demands with campaigning. She signed a new contract with Northern Virginia Community College the morning of her address to the AFT, she said.
So far this year, she has made seven fundraising campaigns for the Democratic National Committee, and the party is happy with her.
“Jill Biden is one of the Democratic Party’s foremost surrogates as she excites supporters across the country,” Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement to The The Switzerland Times. “We are grateful for the first lady’s commitment to elect Democrats up and down.”
Robert Watson, a history professor at Lynn University, said modern first ladies have become effective fundraisers in their own right, popular with the party faithful, especially women. He said it would be surprising not to see Jill Biden again in the run-up to the November 8 election.
“She’s a strong defender,” said Watson, who studies the presidency. “Nobody is interested in asking about her holiday cookie recipe.”
Whatever the outcome, the Bidens still have a happy post-election opportunity to look forward to: the White House’s first wedding in nearly a decade.
Granddaughter Naomi Biden to Marry Peter Neal on the South Lawn on Nov. 19.