Democrats seemed confused as to who currently controls Congress

With the midterm elections now less than a week away, we’re seeing some odd final arguments from Democrats and their allies. Biden is pledging that “Democratic election wins will bring a ‘fundamental shift’ on economy,” which is an odd argument from a president whose party has controlled Congress for the past two years.

One of the problems facing the Democratic Party in the 2022 midterm cycle is that it is the incumbent party, but it acts and sounds as if it doesn’t want to believe that it is the incumbent party.

Today in the Washington Post, the headline is, “Biden says Democratic election wins will bring ‘fundamental shift’ on economy.” But the Democrats already are in the White House and enjoy majorities in the House of Representatives and a de facto majority the Senate. You could argue that the reason they’re in so much trouble as the midterm elections approach is because they’ve already brought about a “fundamental shift on the economy.” Democrats passed, with few or no Republican votes, the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Over in the Nation, the headline on Katrina Vanden Heuvel’s column is, “In This Time of ‘Polycrisis,’ the Midterms Are More Critical Than Ever.” She explains that “polycrisis” is “the word historian Adam Tooze uses to describe multiple, simultaneous systemic crises that intensify as they collide, resulting in dire and deadly disruptions.” She lists off high food prices, climate change, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Covid-19, and inflation as elements of the “polycrisis.”

I wasn’t familiar with the term “polycrisis” until I read her column, but I figure that if you’re the incumbent party, you really don’t want to preside over one of those. In fact, you might say that the whole point of government is to avoid a polycrisis. The argument in the Nation is that things under this administration and these Democrats in Congress have never been worse, which is why they need to stay in power.

Right around now, some Democrats will argue that Biden inherited a bunch of problems when he was sworn into office — and that the direst one at the time of his election, the Covid-19 pandemic, is largely resolved.

But even the simple argument that “Biden and his team helped end the Covid-19 pandemic” is complicated by the president’s own words and policies.

Appearing on 60 Minutes in September, Biden boasted that, “The pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.” The secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, issued a statement declaring that, “The president is right,” and yet six weeks later, Becerra renewed the declaration of a public-health emergency. As Charlie Cooke observed, the memo that the Biden administration released to justify Biden’s student-loan-relief order rested entirely upon the pandemic being an ongoing emergency; therefore, it is significant when the president declares that the pandemic is over. Finally, in late October, while encouraging Americans to get boosters, Biden lamented, “Let me be as plain as I can. We still have hundreds of people dying each day from COVID in this country — hundreds. That number is likely to rise this winter.”

So, is the pandemic over or not? The Biden administration’s perspective of the pandemic swings dramatically depending upon its political needs of the moment — “Schrödinger’s Pandemic.”

Quite a few severe national problems arose well after Biden was sworn into office. Inflation passed 4 percent in April 2021, 5 percent the following month, 6 percent in October 2021, 7 percent two months later, 8 percent in March of this year, and 9 percent in June. Biden didn’t inherit high inflation; he and his policies helped create it — or, at minimum, exacerbate it.

Biden didn’t inherit high gas prices, but he and his policies helped create them — or at minimum, exacerbate them. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline on Inauguration Day 2021 was $2.39 per gallon. In mid June, the national average hit $5.01, and this morning, it is at $3.79 per gallon. Biden recently boasted that, “Today, the most common price of gas in America is $3.39 — down from over $5 when I took office.” The fact-checkers indeed took him to task for that one.

You may have noticed that the administration is now referring to “the most common price of gas,” instead of the average price. As a good Wall Street Journal column from Josh Zumbrun laid out last week, this is a bit of numerical sleight-of-hand designed to make gas prices look about 50 cents cheaper than the prices you’re used to hearing discussed.

If you’ll pardon a brief, traumatic flashback to math class, this comes back to the concepts of mean, median, and mode. As the invaluable Khan Academy summarizes, “The mean (average) of a data set is found by adding all numbers in the data set and then dividing by the number of values in the set. The median is the middle value when a data set is ordered from least to greatest. The mode is the number that occurs most often in a data set.” In the set of numbers ten, nine, four, three, two, one, and one, the mean is 4.2, the median is three, and the mode is one.

As Zumbrun noted, on “Oct. 3, GasBuddy pegged the [national] average at $3.78 while AAA said $3.79. Not an interesting difference. More interesting was the median reported by GasBuddy, at $3.49, and the mode, at $3.29.” By choosing to measure gas prices by “the most common price of gas,” instead of the average, Biden can make gas prices seem significantly lower.

Biden didn’t inherit high rates of illegal immigration, he and his policies helped create it — or at minimum, exacerbate them. In January 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered about 78,000 migrants at the southern border with Mexico. Within two months, that number had jumped past 170,000, and it has remained between 164,000 and 241,000 in every month since. It was about 227,000 in September 2022, the most recent month that CBP has data.

Biden didn’t inherit a Russian invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Biden explicitly boasted on the campaign trail that, “Putin knows that when I am president of the United States, his days of tyranny, and trying to intimidate the United States and those in Eastern Europe, are over.” The record of the past two years indicates that Biden entered office with a wildly exaggerated sense of his own persuasiveness, leverage, and ability to intimidate hostile foreign leaders. The Biden administration couldn’t deter Putin from invading Ukraine or for committing heinous war crimes, month after month. This morning, the New York Times reports that, “Senior Russian military leaders recently had conversations to discuss when and how Moscow might use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.” That’s about as ominous as it gets, but the Biden response to Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling has been to offer an off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness soliloquy about the potential for “Armageddon” at a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Then there’s the lingering high crime rates and the general sense of dangerous anarchy in America’s biggest cities, accompanied by a seeming explosion of homelessness, the ongoing baby-formula shortage, the rapid rise in interest rates and its effect on the housing market, and the lingering problems in American supply chains. Even if a new president and his team inherit a crisis, the American people have a right to expect some significant progress in resolving that crisis.

And then on top of all that, there are the administration’s self-created problems — choosing to attempt to fire employees who wouldn’t get a Covid-19 vaccine, the embarrassing fist-bump with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, endless outreach to a hostile Iranian regime that never generates any worthwhile results. One of the consequences of a united government is that the party in power gets just about all of the credit for what’s going right, and just about all of the blame for what’s going wrong. Unfortunately for Democrats, the electorate feels as if things have gone badly for much of the past two years, and are still going badly today.

Gallup found that Americans are the most frustrated, sour, and disappointed about the state of the country as they’ve ever been around a midterm election. To hear Biden and the Democrats tell it though, it’s all just bad luck. Don’t blame them. They just work here.

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