Popular presidents in the past would always have a mediagenic threat or challenge that was easy to capture in slogans. For example, Reagan branded the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and labeled the government itself as an opponent (“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”). Legendary Democratic strategist James Carville recently told The Atlantic: “As of now the White House does not have good storytellers. Good stories need villains.”
In his campaign, Biden had the perfect antagonist in Trump: rude, impulsive, ill-mannered, devoid of any form of self-reflection, with an ego bigger than the Pentagon and a misaligned moral compass. Democrats were able to present a more amiable, polite, respected and highly experienced candidate. Following his election win, however, Biden spent too much time portraying himself as the antithesis of Trump. For a long time, the message essentially remained ‘Look what calm, stability and decency you have now,’ thereby looking in the rearview mirror instead of ahead.