If you’re feeling down, don’t read today’s blog. After 35 years in journalism and still longer as an inveterate news junkie, I can barely read or watch the news these days. I delayed posting, hoping for a shred of something positive to cling to, but, aside from the Boston Red Sox, there is precious little.
To be sure, the jobs report released last week was much better than reported. Yes, September’s numbers were lower than the experts expected, but we have still had a sustained recovery, “more rapid than recent recoveries.”
There have been a few bright spots on the Covid front. From Fauci, “If you’re vaccinated, you can get out there.”
Even Gallup’s weekly tracking poll, revealing that more American’s think our country is on the wrong track, is not as troubling as it might be given how deeply divided our country is. You have to go back about 20 years to find a time when half the country thought we were on the right track.
But the drip-drip-drip of inauspicious to frightening news is deeply concerning. Joe Biden’s poll numbers have fallen in all categories, with 44 percent of the American people now approving of him; 49 percent disapprove. Especially steep has been the drop among independent voters. The failure to deliver on transformational legislation is particularly frustrating; support for both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the human/climate infrastructure exceeds the President’s own favorability numbers, despite the negative impact of intra-party fighting. Some of the problems are his own failure (and that of fellow Democrats) to communicate effectively, not keeping the focus on the content of his bills, instead of just on the price tag, which will be paid for and spread out over ten years.
Focus groups also show disappointment in Biden’s handling of the COVID surge. People are sick and tired of the constraints on their lives; they expected to be back to some level of normalcy by now. Contemplating the continued negative impact of the anti vaxxers, Washington Post commentator Eugene Robinson wondered aloud, how dumb can a nation get and still survive? This unanswerable has my stomach churning.
A focus group of Pennsylvania Democrats all thought Biden was doing a bad job, thought life in America is “crappy” now, disliked Joe Biden and regarded him as just another lying politician. And, get this, none blamed the Republicans for any of the troubles in Washington today. These were Democrats, for heaven’s sake! This spells deep trouble for the mid-term elections, just 56 weeks away.
To be sure, the President’s problems aren’t all his own doing, but they are happening on his watch. He needs some wins now. The Democrats must take nothing for granted in the upcoming election. They can’t assume that Biden’s diverse 2020 coalition will hold in 2022 or that many will feel invested enough to vote (especially without Trump himself on the ballot). Increasingly, it looks as if incumbent retirements and state legislative gerrymandering could provide a glide path to GOP control of the House even before the first ballot is cast. Democrats mustn’t forget that much of the country is more centrist than the Bernie Sanders/AOC clusters in the Senate and House. The disaffection of independents reinforces that. There is only a narrow window to get something significant done. This potentially transformational moment may not present itself for another generation.
So, it behooves us to watch the news and stay engaged even though it’s a little like castor oil these days. But we must do it even though we think we don’t have the stomach for it. Win or lose, the escapist joy of the Red Sox will be over by November 3rd.