Why are Americans so upset with Joe Biden? | Robert reich


AAmerica is bursting with good news. Unemployment is down, wages are up, consumer confidence is rebounding and consumers are spending more (retail sales jumped 1.7% in October, the third monthly increase). Covid appears to be on the decline, at least among those who have been vaccinated. And two major parts of Biden’s legislative agenda – last spring’s $ 1.9 billion US bailout and his recent $ 1.2 billion infrastructure plan – have been enacted.

So what’s not to be happy about? Apparently a lot. Biden’s job approval rating is 12 points lower than when he took office – now just 41% (roughly where Trump was for most of his presidency). Most registered voters say if the midterm elections were held today, they would support the Republican candidate. Even Trump beats Biden in hypothetical clashes. Over 60% of Americans say Democrats are out of touch with the concerns of most Americans. And Republican congressional candidates now hold their biggest lead in midterm voting preferences in 40 years.

How can the economic and pandemic news be so good, and so much of Biden’s agenda is already passed – yet is the public so bitter towards Biden and the Democrats?

Some blame the poor messages from Biden and the Democrat. Yes, it is awful. Even now, most Americans have no idea what the “Build Back Better” package is. It sounds like infrastructure, but this bill has passed. “Human infrastructure” doesn’t make sense to most people.

Still, that can’t be the main reason for the paradox, as Democrats’ messaging failure dates back at least half a century. I remember in 1968 after Nixon beat Humphrey on hearing that the problem with Democrats is that they talk about politics while Americans want to hear values ​​- the same criticism we hear today.

Some blame the media – not just the dastardly Fox News, but the general public as well. But here too, the problem predates the current paradox. Before Fox News, Rush Limbaugh poisoned countless minds. And for at least four decades, the mainstream media focused on conflict, controversy, and scandal. The good news does not catch the eye.

Some suggest Democrats represent the college-educated, suburban middle class who don’t really want major social change anyway. However, this is not new either. Clinton and Obama abandoned the working class by embracing commerce, rejecting unions, subsidizing Wall Street and big business, and embracing deregulation and privatization.

So what explains the big gap now between the country’s performance and the poor political situation of Biden and the Democrats?

In short: disappointed hopes. After four years of Trump and a year and a half of a deadly pandemic, most of the country was anxious to put all the horror behind – to start over, to erase the slate, to heal the wounds, to restart America. Biden, in his calm manner, seemed like the person to do it. And when the Democrats took over the Senate, the expectations of Democrats and Independents soared.

But those expectations couldn’t be met when all the underlying structural issues were still with us – a deeply divided nation, with the Trumpers still threatening democracy, rampant racism, corporate money still dominating much of politics. , ever-growing inequality, inflation undermining wage gains, and the Delta variant of Covid still takes its toll.

Dismissed hopes make people angry. Mass deception is politically toxic. Social psychologists have long understood that losing something of value leads to more anxiety than getting it leads to happiness in the first place.

Biden and the Democrats can take comfort in that. Hopefully a year from now the fruits of Biden’s initiatives will be felt, Covid will be behind us, the bottlenecks behind current inflation will be overcome, and the horrors of the Trump years will become more visible through congressional investigations and campaigns. halfway through the Trumpers.

More importantly, America’s irrational expectations for speedy deliverance from all of our structural problems will have settled into a more sober understanding that solving them will require a tremendous amount of work, from all of us.

Then I guess the nation will be better able to appreciate how far we’ve come in just two years from where we were.

About Valerie Wilson

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