Dems are probably toast in 22
Covid, Inflation, and an unmasked Biden
How we highly education news obsessed Front row types think about politics is almost entirely divorced from how most people think about politics. Which is rarely. Most people in the Back row treat elections like most Front row people treat the NFL. As something in the background that doesn’t impact them. Sure they might tune into the Super Bowl, because everyone else does, but they don’t have a huge stake in it. Sure they might have a team they root for, but they are just watching, not playing. So why care too much.
National politics rarely touches them, not in a dramatic way at least, beyond screwing them over. Like the roads still being all messed up, factories still closing, drugs still filling their town, and taxes still going up. Doesn’t matter who is in power. Bush, Clinton, Bush again, Obama. Their life keeps going on, mostly as a series of obstacles and dramas to overcome. So both parties are equally corrupt, equally indifferent to them, and largely inter-changeable. Same shit, different asshole. That is why the largest voting block in the country is non-voters.
They do get involved now and then. Can get enthused. When stuff is really going badly, or when some candidate really hits a note that shows they get it and aren’t just some programmed alien mouthing the same ol same ol.
Elections are won and lost by getting this enthusiasm on your side. By getting your people to show up and vote. All of us in the Front row might not get this, since we would never think of not voting, but for most Americans voting isn’t a slam dunk.
There is something I call the Hangover test to think about elections. Will someone still vote if they wake up hungover, the weather is shitty, and their car is low on gas. Are they so motivated by anger, or excitement, that they still make it to the polls. Or do they say, fuck it, busy day, gotta find the umbrella, drop the kids off, fill up the car, get to work, then figure out what is for dinner. I don’t got time to swing by the high school and wait in line. All for nothing. Nope.
Trump had that in 16. His voters were going to vote hell or high water. In spades. Hillary’s didn’t. Just enough of his did, just enough of hers didn’t, and so he won. That almost religious enthusiasm with his base is why his election wasn’t that surprising to those of us who spent time outside of NYC and DC.
That switched in 20, when the enthusiasm went to Dems. Not because of Biden, but because he wasn’t Trump. The “anyone but Trump crowd” had the enthusiasm, they had the excitement, they had the anger.
Now, once again, GOP has the enthusiasm. They have it for three reasons (in order of importance.)
Covid: Policy around Covid touches absolutely everyone. There is no way to escape it. No matter how non political you are, it impacts you. The original closures, flip flopping on masking, then opening again, then closings, then openings again, then closings, then mandates, the masking, then no masking, has been confusing and frustrating as hell.
It also has felt to the Back row, immensely unfair. At almost every level, at almost every decision, the policy seems to have been designed to favor the Front row. The ones with second homes, and laptop jobs. Meanwhile, it has screwed over the Back row. Many who still had to trudge into work, while denying them their local communities, which is their primary source of meaning. As someone quipped, “Keep stuffing those crates at the Amazon warehouse, but don’t you dare BBQ with your friends.”
The Back row knows this, and it has made them angry, even if stuff has gotten better. The whole things hasn’t been the government’s finest hour. At all.
There is a good argument that it was Covid and Trumps original denial then confusion around it, which is why he lost. Government seemed broken, unfair, and he was the leader, so out he went. Simple as that.
Biden ran on returning the country to normal. On ending Covid. Well, it is still here and the country is anything but normal. That isn’t necessarily his fault. So what. I hear it all over the country. There is very deep frustration that stuff is still broken, weird, fucked-up, and unfair. He is the president and the leader of the Democratic party, so people are going to blame him and the Democrats. Especially since they ran on getting stuff back to normal.
Inflation: Higher prices is another issue that touches every citizen, even the least political. Especially gas and food prices. It doesn't necessarily matter if wages are also going up. People view price increases as bad things, no matter what is happening in other parts of their life. Including the wage side.
You go to the pump every few days and now you are paying $40 instead of $20. That is huge. Your grocery bill is also like $40 higher. That also hurts. Sure you got a raise, but you been working hard and have deserved that for a long time, and now man does it ever feel like just when you got your fair share you have to hand it right back. Just treading water, and for what?
Politicians, economist, and the rest of us in the Front row can “well actually” this all we want. Throw stats out saying things are actually better. Blah blah blah. But well actually-ing inflation is a losing strategy. It is denying peoples reality, in a smug and condescending way. But its transitory you say. Perhaps it is transitory (it very well may be!), but a broken arm is also transitory. Doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Biden himself: While the midterm elections won’t be explicitly about Biden, he is the leader of the party, the quarter back of the team. So to most Americans, he is the Democratic party.
In 2020 Biden was elected because he wasn’t Trump. Nobody really cared about him, which worked to his favor. He was a non entity, a boring old man the voters gave a shot. He was a normal dude promising normal stuff. All they asked is he not fuck stuff up.
Now Biden is no longer an empty vessel. He doesn’t have Trump around to not be, and the singular spotlight hasn’t been great. He seems confused, reactive, and often angry. Maybe he is tired. Maybe this is who has been all along and it is finally being exposed without a Trump to compare him to. Maybe the media is being unfair. Regardless, that is the dominant image that has filtered down to the Back row. A somewhat confused and weak guy who at best is unable to bring back the normal he promised. At worst he is kinda fuckin stuff up.
Despite that, Biden is Dems only real hope, short of a medical miracle that ends the weirdness around Covid. He is the best chance the Dems have of not suffering catastrophic losses this midterm, because he is one of the few remaining elite Dems that understands the Back row. Who gets what I am writing about.
That is largely why he won the Democratic primary. He understands retail politics. He was the only candidate (besides Booker) who understood the black working class1, which is a fundamental part of Dems base, and large part of the Back row.
It isn’t clear he however has enough control over his party to fix stuff. It also isn’t clear there is anything much he can do. The spaghetti has been cooked, and Covid, and Inflation, are out there making stuff worse for people. Impacting them.
That is a problem, because there is a big difference between NFL and politics. In politics the fans decide who wins. And right now the fans are really unhappy.
Bernie, the senator from the whitest state in the US, had four years to build a better relationship with the black working class. Four years to go to South Carolina and spend time in Baptist churches, listening, slapping backs, and building relationships. Instead he hired a bunch of PhDs and activists.