Democrats can only blame themselves

Joe Biden's campaign pollster, John Anzalone, tells Politico, “It’s the worst political environment that I’ve lived through in 30 years of being a political consultant. . . . There’s a big difference between losing seven and ten seats in the House and getting your ass kicked and losing 35, 40. . . . I think we really have the ability to keep the Senate.”

Well, yes to that first sentence. And while every president faces factors beyond his control and midterms traditionally go badly for the president’s party, President Biden and his congressional allies have no one to blame but themselves.

I’m sure you can find voters here and there who bought into the hype and really did want Joe Biden to try to be the next Franklin Roosevelt, and to dramatically expand the role of government in their lives and move the country dramatically to the left. (Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says yes, she did vote for Biden with that desire and expectation.) But those folks are few and far between, and most Americans who picked Biden over Trump in November 2020 did so with a clear message: Just get our lives back to normal.

And Biden repeatedly insisted he could do that. “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m not going to shut down the country, I’m going to shut down the virus!”

For the past 15 months, Biden has seen one severe problem — the Covid-19 pandemic — gradually go away, albeit in fits and starts. If the U.S. is now perceived to be Covid-free — lately, about 30,000 to 40,000 new cases per day, about 500 deaths per day — then what finally put it behind us was a combination of the vaccines and boosters, and the Omicron wave that peaked at more than 800,000 new cases per day in January. On Thanksgiving Day 2021, the U.S. had 49.4 million Covid-19 cases reported since the start of the pandemic. By Saint Patrick’s Day this year, that number was more than 81 million — and all of these figures are likely undercounts, because not everyone who got sick went to a doctor or reported their case to local health authorities.

(Note that on Worldometers, the U.S. has now surpassed more than a million deaths from Covid-19. On January 20, 2021, the first day of the Biden presidency, that figure was about 435,000.)

In other words, once the vaccines were available, all our other pandemic mitigation measures — masking, social distancing, limiting capacity in buildings and businesses, delaying the opening of schools, etc. — made very little difference, particularly when Omicron arrived. You can’t run a tight-enough quarantine to stop something that is as contagious as the common cold, as the Chinese government is learning — or perhaps it is more accurate to say, as the Chinese government refuses to learn.

One of the reasons the Biden administration doesn’t get a lot of credit for the amelioration of the Covid-19 pandemic is that the president spent his first year getting into a lot of heated fights over vaccine mandates and masking mandates, while the CDC and FDA guidance kept changing. People rightly thought that the arrival of the vaccines meant their lives would get back to normal, but it was a long, slow, sluggish process, dragged out by risk-averse public-health officials and neurotic media voices. The Biden administration wimped out when it came to confronting teachers’ unions about reopening public schools as quickly as possible. Biden made bold promises about ensuring that testing would be easy, quick, and widespread, and then failed to keep his promises — something that quickly turned into a consistent pattern in this administration, across almost every public-policy issue. Biden kept reverting to simplistic slogans like “follow the science,” while “the science” in the form of public-health experts, virologists, and immunologists kept disagreeing with each other.

Even today, Biden and his team enact policies that make no sense. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is keeping mask mandates on planes and public transit, while simultaneously the administration is terminating Title 42, a policy that kept certain migrants trying to get into the U.S. at the southern border in Mexico, because the reduced threat of Covid-19 supposedly doesn’t justify it anymore. Covid-19 is gone when the administration wants to repeal a policy but lingers just enough when the administration wants to keep another policy in place. “The science” just happens to align with whatever Biden and his team want at any given moment.

What is really killing Biden’s job approval numbers is that just as the Covid-19 disruption to our lives started to fade, runaway inflation’s disruption to our lives grew overwhelming. And it just keeps going on, month after month. As I noted earlier this week, I don’t think the administration grasps how bad it is when you go to the grocery store or gas station, are shocked at how much you’re paying, get frustrated . . . and then two weeks or a month later, you’re shocked again because it is even higher.

America’s inflation isn’t entirely due to Biden’s first major legislative act, which threw roughly another $2 trillion in Covid relief spending into an economy that already had a labor shortage. But it is a big factor — just as a set of policies hostile to the oil industry, pipeline construction, and additional drilling isn’t the only reason for high gas prices but is a significant contributing factor. Did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbate high gas prices? Sure, but Biden was promising to bring down high gas prices back in November, long before Russian troops crossed the border.

By the time Omicron arrived and as runaway inflation had become the most pressing problem facing the country, Americans had heard a lot of assurances from President Biden that the problems on Americans’ minds weren’t as bad as they looked, or would be short lived, or that he and his team had everything under control.

“It happens every single, solitary year: There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.”

“There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist. That’s totally different.”

“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.”

“The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan.”

It wasn’t just that Biden’ pledges and promises were contradicted by subsequent events; it’s that the contradiction came quickly, indisputably, vividly, and memorably. It is as if the weatherman assured you that it wouldn’t rain, and then you survived a hurricane.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the world coming to a stop in March 2020, and then only gradually and ploddingly reopening, would create problems in the global supply chain. Unless it relates to their jobs, most Americans pay little or no attention to the supply chain, almost as little attention as they pay to the secretary of transportation. But suddenly in late 2021, people noticed that certain goods weren’t on store shelves — and then learned that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had been out of the office for two months on paternity leave. Fairly or not, the anecdote heightened the sense that the Biden administration was asleep at the switch.

Under Biden, long-simmering problems like the border, or crime, suddenly take a turn for the much worse, while the seemingly oblivious president tells his favorite not-quite-true story of riding a million miles on Amtrak for the 30th time. In the past year, Biden has claimed he used to drive a tractor-trailer; that he was arrested during the civil-rights movement; that “for four years, I was a full professor at the University of Pennsylvania” (he never taught a class and was paid nearly $1 million to be a guest lecturer); that, “during the Six-Day War,” former Israeli prime minster Golda Meir wanted him to be her “liaison between she and the Egyptians about the Suez”; and that he nearly hit a home run in the congressional softball game (he grounded out and struck out).

Is Biden senile? The problem in attempting to answer this question is that it’s hard to separate a near-octogenarian’s failing memory with Biden’s long history of exaggerations, half-truths, and lies. As David Harsanyi tracked, in previous years Biden claimed to have been shot at, participated in sit-ins, represented the Black Panthers in court, and attended law school on a full academic scholarship, and he also claimed that everyone on Capitol Hill calls him “Middle Class Joe” as a derisive nickname — claims that either have no corroborating evidence or have been proven false.

And all this leads to one more serious liability for this administration: On any given day, Biden can say something that his staff later emphatically insists is not his administration’s policy or position. Just recently we have been informed that Biden’s shouting “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power!” does not mean that the Biden administration believes Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power, and that Biden’s repeated declaration that Putin is committing genocide does not mean that the Biden administration is accusing Vladimir Putin of committing genocide. We are stuck with a president who does not speak on behalf of his own administration.

With a president like this, is it any wonder that Democrats say they are facing the worst political environment in 30 years?

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