This national bad mood is above all a disaster in the making for Democrats in November’s midterm elections, but it has been a long time coming.
The first two decades of this century were marked by morale-shattering military defeats, a generational economic crisis, and an era of political turmoil, including sweeping social and demographic changes and an equally intense backlash.
Talking about a new civil war in some media is exaggerated. But the divided blocs of conservatives and liberals seem sincerely to believe that the other is determined to snatch their vision of America. A powerful force on the right is the idea that a country that becomes more racially diverse (in part through immigration), more socially liberal on gender issues, and more secular, is stripped of its white identity by Excellency. Meanwhile, up-and-coming Republicans have seized on public health guidelines and masks to provoke a wave of fury based on the idea that Americans’ individual freedoms are being eroded.
A filibuster-wielding Republican party in the Senate, meanwhile, is thwarting Biden’s power to save the country’s democracy from a wave of new laws in GOP-led states that make it harder to vote and easier to politicize. election results.
Trump has weaponized the nation’s divisions for his own political ends. His lie that the last election was stolen from him has captivated his supporters and made Biden an illegitimate leader in the eyes of millions — an impression the president will find impossible to repair.
American domination under siege
Much of this catalog of woes is impossible to quantify. But everyone sees the strain and the emotional toll on friends and family from a public health crisis that only happens once every 100 years. Even though the average number of new daily cases is currently declining, the pandemic will leave trauma that will take years to heal.
The psychological impact of how America feels will be for the story to describe. But this has real-time political consequences.
A grungy vibe in a nation divided in myriad ways translates into increasingly diminished trust in political leaders and the system itself. It also helps explain why a summer economic surge, lower inflation and more legislative success on Capitol Hill are unlikely to save Biden’s presidency.
“We have to keep going. And I think our best days are ahead of us,” Biden said last month at an event highlighting a push to increase semiconductor supply. But the president’s attempt to lift the national psyche and his own political outlook rang rather hollow.
A terrible poll for Biden
But Biden gets little credit, and CNN’s latest poll is nothing short of brutal on the president.
Only 41% of those polled approve of the way Biden handles his job. His approval rating on the economy has fallen to 37% – down 8 points since the beginning of December alone. Only 45% approve of his handling of the pandemic for which he was elected. When those who disdain Biden’s overall performance were asked to name just one thing he had done that they approved of, 56% had nothing positive to say. “I can’t think of a single thing he did that benefits the country,” one respondent wrote.
It’s true that no modern president has faced the confluence of crises that Biden experienced when he was sworn in nearly 13 months ago. And any commander-in-chief could have struggled. But Biden rarely reached the heights of empathy and rhetoric he displayed in an inaugural address intended to bring the nation together after the pandemonium of the Trump years.
“Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear and demonization have long torn us apart,” Biden said after saying oath.
A year later, the second half of this equation seems to dominate the first, not least because of the pernicious influence of its predecessor, which seems to be preparing a comeback attempt in 2024.
But Biden may also have done too little to rally the nation behind him. He lacks the steady, sunny confidence of President Franklin Roosevelt, who steered his nation through the great crises of the Great Depression and World War II. Some Americans also saw the ambition of Biden’s social spending plan as a betrayal of the moderate image he had cultivated on the campaign trail. The pandemic’s refusal to loosen its grip in the first year of his presidency has hammered his reputation for competence. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which should have been a political victory, was instead a parable of presidential incompetence when it descended into bloody chaos. High inflation has been responsible for the end of countless political careers over the past century, and the White House’s repeated misguided comments downplaying the severity of commodity price hikes haven’t helped.
Biden has restored decency and decorum to the White House. But a president approaching 80 may not have the galvanizing power to inspire much younger Americans. And Biden admitted last month that he had not fully mastered the role of the presidency after decades in the US Senate.
Republicans deepen national malaise
America’s divisions are so entrenched that it’s hard to see how Biden will earn his approval rating of around 10 or 15 points, which history suggests is a safer zone for the party of first-term presidents in the coming years. midterm elections. Even a sudden deliverance from Covid-19 and an economic surge might not alter perceptions of a country in crisis, especially in the absence of a common national reality.
Given the circumstances, the midterm elections should be among the easiest on record for Republicans hoping to win the Senate and House of Representatives. But the party is torn apart, divided between lawmakers fully committed to the Trump personality cult — either out of conviction or political cowardice — and a seemingly smaller, more traditional bloc of conservatives. The row erupted again this week when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized a Republican National Committee no-confidence resolution that called the Jan. 6 insurrection “legitimate political speech.” Trump and his cronies quickly hit back, raising the possibility of infighting with the GOP that could hijack his midterm message and once again alienate suburban voters who helped oust Trump from the presidency after just one term.