Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: First, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control, such as the worldwide price of oil and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic geegaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.
Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.
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Everybody cites Biden’s “plunging” or “nose-diving” poll numbers, although they’ve held steady at roughly 43% pretty much since the news media’s collective freak-out over Afghanistan. Definitely not good, but still better than, well, Donald Trump’s, whose numbers hovered permanently around 40%. And that was before he raised a mob to sack the U.S. Capitol.
Chait mainly blames congressional Democrats, specifically the preening and posturing of the Democratic left, along with the stone-walling of “centrists unable to conceive of their job in any terms save as valets for the business elite.” In short, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. He notes that when Manchin goes home to consult his West Virginia constituents, he meets the Chamber of Commerce at the Greenbrier golf resort.
When in Washington, Sen. Manchin lives aboard “Almost Heaven,” his 60-foot yacht — some distance from the coal mines. Sinema has shifted from campaigning as a trendy leftist to expressing tender concerns for the well-being of, yes, Arizona’s Chamber of Commerce. Between them, the two Democratic senators have the capacity to cripple or kill President Biden’s Build Back Better plans to make life better for working Americans.
And if they do, Biden will get blamed. It comes with the territory.
By any rational measure, meanwhile, the U.S. economy is booming. In late November, for example, new unemployment claims fell to the lowest level in 52 years. If you’re like most Americans — Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike — that’s probably news to you. You may not even believe it.
“Given the U.S.’s steady job growth,” Chait comments, “nobody can ascertain exactly why the public has turned so sour so fast. Biden is like a patient wasting away from some undiagnosable disease.”
Actually, I think the all-too-diagnosable psychological miasma of COVID lingers even among the fully vaccinated, for whom normal life has pretty much returned. But more about that later.
Losing slogan, Republican crazies
Expressing similar concerns from further left on the ideological spectrum is Ryan Grim of The Intercept. “It’s Not Just White People,” Grim’s analysis is headlined; “Democrats Are Losing Normal Voters Of All Races.” Basically, he too blames left-wing culture warriors speaking the otherworldly cant of academia. They’d do far better, he argues, with “candidates who focus on ... economic issues but don’t talk like juniors at Oberlin.”
No kidding. Maybe the dumbest political slogan in recent American history, as I’ve written before, is “Defund the Police.” Without exception, and nationwide, every Democratic candidate espousing the idea not only lost last November, but lost big. Buffalo, Seattle, Austin, Philadelphia, from sea to shining sea. Even in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered.
And why? Well, imagine yourself a Black parent in an inner-city neighborhood. Bullying, condescending cops can be aggravating and worse. But well-armed street gangs shooting up whole neighborhoods are an existential crisis — one we rarely hear about unless the victim is a small child.
Defund the police? What planet do you live on?
Planet Woke, in all too many cases. Or, as Grim puts it, “Democratic elites are creating conflict within the working class while protecting their own class and cultural interests.” Left-wing imagineers, fantasizing about a revolution that’s never coming. President Biden could do worse than to pick a fight with these Froot Loops — low-hanging Froot Loops at that.
Then there are the Republicans, a party rapidly morphing into a Jonestown-like death cult. Not figuratively, mind you. Literally.
COVID vaccine mandates — public health requirements that citizens accept what’s essentially a miracle cure to protect themselves and their neighbors from a deadly, transmissible disease — are deemed “tyranny” and “communism” by Republican politicians.
As a direct result, their constituents are dying. While fully vaccinated Fox News celebrities — the jab is a condition of their employment — broadcast denialist propaganda, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that unvaccinated individuals are currently five times more likely to test positive with the virus and 13 times more likely to die.
The Omicron variant appears unlikely to make things better.
In a saner political time, you’d think a party doing everything to resist the president’s efforts to control a deadly disease outbreak would be ill-advised to expect COVID survivors’ support.
But that’s not the world we live in.
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Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”