America is swarming with encouraging news. Unemployment has fallen, wages are up, consumer confidence has picked up, and consumers are spending-retail sales jumped 1.7% in October, the third monthly uptick. Covid looks to be on the decline, at least among vaccinated Americans.
And two significant components of Biden’s legislative agenda have been adopted – last spring’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Package and his recent $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan.
What’s with Joe Biden that Americans despise? What is there not to like? Plenty, it appears. Biden’s job approval rating has fallen 12 points since he assumed office, to just 41%-about where Trump’s approval rating was for the bulk of his presidency.
The majority of registered American voters indicate they would vote for the Republican candidate were midterm elections held today. In hypothetical matchups, Trump even trumps Biden. Over 60% of Americans believe the Democratic Party is out of sync with the mainstream Americans’ issues.
And Republican congressional candidates now have their greatest lead in vote preferences for midterm elections in 40 years.
Biden loses ground with Americans
Are all Americans just this cantankerous? How is it that the economic and pandemic news is so encouraging, and so much of Biden’s agenda has already been installed – and yet America is so antagonistic about Biden and the Democrats?
Others lay blame at Biden and the Democratic Party for their ineffective messaging. Indeed, it is deplorable. Even now, the majority of Americans are unaware of the existence of the “Build Back Better” package. Although it sounds like infrastructure, that bill has already been approved. Most people have no idea what “human infrastructure” is.
This cannot, however, be the principal explanation for the anomaly, as the Democrats’ communications failure dates back at least a half-century. It dates back to 1968, following Nixon’s victory over Humphrey when it became clear that the Democrats’ problem is that they evangelize policy but America seeks values – the same charge we hear today.
Others lay blame at the media — not just at the vile Fox News, but also at the business regime. However, the issue predates the current conundrum in this case as well. Rush Limbaugh infected untold minds long before Fox News. And the mainstream media has devoted at least four decades to conflict, controversy, and scandal. The good news does not pique interest.
Democrats, some argue, represent the college-educated suburban middle class that is unlikely to favor a significant social change in the first place. This, however, is not novel. Clinton and Obama betrayed the working class by embracing trade, undermining unionization, funding Wall Street and big corporations, and lobbying for deregulation and privatization.
What, therefore, explains the growing disparity between how well the country is doing economically and how poorly Biden and the Democrats are doing politically?
In a nutshell, shattered hopes. After four years of Trump and a year and a half of deadly pandemic, the majority of the country was eager to put the horror behind them — to start over, clean the slate, bind the scars, and reinvent America. Biden turned up to be the ideal candidate in his calm style. And when Democrats seized control of the Senate, Democratic and independent expectations skyrocketed.
Structural problems conspire to dash American hopes.
However, those hopes could not be met while all of the underlying structural problems festered – a deeply divided nation, Trump supporters endangering democracy, racism unbridled, corporate currency driving much of politics, inequality deepening, inflation eroding wage gains, and the Delta variant of Covid continuing to claim lives.
Americans get enraged by shattered hopes. Mass dissatisfaction is a deadly political weed. Social professionals have long observed that losing something valuable results in greater suffering than getting it did.
This affords consolation for Biden and Democrats. Hopefully, a year from now, the fruits of Biden’s efforts will start to feel, Covid will be history, the inefficiencies causing current inflation will be fixed, and the horrors of the Trump years will become more visible as a result of congressional investigations and Trump supporters’ midterm campaigns.
Most significantly, America’s misguided demands for immediate resolution of all America’s fundamental problems will have given way to a more realistic appreciation that repairing them would need a tremendous amount of work from all of the Americans
Then, hopefully, the Americans will have a greater understanding of how far the country has come in just two years.