Politics

You’re focusing on the wrong things, damn it – HotAir


It’s been clear for months that the public feels this way, ever since Democrats took up Build Back Better as public anxiety over inflation began spiking in the fall. But it’s nice to have a poll confirm it so succinctly.

Dems are stuck in a doom loop of their own making. The grimmer the midterms look for them, the more urgent they feel it is to pass their agenda now, while they’re still in power. But the more they fixate on their agenda to the exclusion of other priorities, the more convinced swing voters become that they’re unfocused — which makes the midterm outlook grimmer.

Maybe this data will shake them out of it? Eh, probably not. After Joe Manchin plunged the dagger into BBB, Democrats pivoted to … voting rights, not inflation. In fact, even within the context of election reform, they’re focused on the wrong thing.

Oh well. They can’t say next January that they weren’t warned.

Nate Silver warns that we shouldn’t read too much into polls that attempt to measure the public’s policy priorities since every priority has a huge constituency. For instance, this same survey finds that 41 percent think Biden is focusing too little on voting rights. Only 25 percent believe he’s focusing on it too much. For race relations that split is 44/20. Bottom line: Americans want the president focused on, well, everything.

What makes Biden’s lack of focus on the economy and inflation stand out is that those issues are near the top when people are asked to identify the most important problem facing the country. The only one that rated higher was COVID at 26 percent; 22 percent said the economy is most important and 20 percent said inflation is most important — and since there’s considerable overlap between concerns about inflation and the economy at the moment, we might view them as a single policy priority. That would be 42 percent, a near-majority.

By comparison, just 16 percent said voting rights and access are the most important issue at a moment when Democrats are throwing the full weight of the presidency and their media megaphone behind galvanizing Americans around the subject. The voting-rights push may end up doing the party more harm than good inasmuch as it signals to the other ~85 percent of the electorate how out of touch Dems are with their priorities. Which would be bad enough even if it hadn’t followed hot on the heels of Build Back Better, another subject that showed how out of touch Dems are with the average voter’s priorities.

There isn’t much Biden can do to ease inflation or the political pain it’s inflicting on his party apart from demagoging corporations over rising prices. But devoting more of his face time with the public to that subject would at least blunt the perception that he’s consumed by the wrong things. A stark reality:

“It’s rare for a president to be at odds with Republicans, moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats — all at once,” Axios notes today in a story titled “Biden’s epic failures.” But that’s where the president is, with centrist Dems to his right fretting about the party’s COVID policies and progressives angry that his two big-ticket agenda items, BBB and voting rights, look doomed. The fingerpointing has begun:

“I think millions of Americans have become very demoralized — they’re asking, what do the Democrats stand for?” said Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent in charge of the Senate Budget Committee. In a lengthy interview, he added, “Clearly, the current strategy is failing and we need a major course correction.”

Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat from a blue-collar Ohio district who is running for the state’s open Senate seat, said his party isn’t addressing voter anxieties about school closures, the pandemic and economic security. He faulted the Biden administration, not just for failing to pass its domestic agenda but also for a lack of clear public health guidance around issues like masking and testing.

“It seems like the Democrats can’t get out of their own way,” he said. “The Democrats have got to do a better job of being clear on what they’re trying to do.”

Ryan is right to see the confusing public health guidance as another problem for his party:

That goes hand in hand with complaints about Biden being “unfocused.” Americans expect clear guidance from the feds during a public health emergency but the CDC’s recommendations have gotten more opaque lately, not less.

The worst part for the White House is that even if they attempted a full reset for year two, abandoning Build Back Better and voting rights and promising a centrist agenda focused entirely on COVID and inflation, it’s anyone’s guess if they’d gain more votes in the midterms from that gambit than they’d lose. The left would be enraged to see Biden give up on their top two priorities in order to tack towards the middle. “I don’t think any of us are expecting anything else to pass,” said one Dem operative to Politico recently. “It has left our opponents emboldened, or supporters dejected and our prospects for 2022 dim if not dark. So we have a lot of work to do to dig out of this … We better have some golden f***in’ shovels.”

I’ll leave you with this, a gentle reminder that there may be only one Republican capable of losing to Biden in 2024 given the trajectory the president’s on.




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