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Biden is in Trouble
And by extension, so are the Democrats.
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Last weekend, a CBS News poll offered a rather grim statistic about the public’s perception of Joe Biden’s age and health: “Only a third of voters think that Mr. Biden would finish a second term.”
The survey found 44% of voters think Biden would “leave office” before the end of his term, with 22% unsure. The same question was asked about Trump: 16% of voters think he would leave office before then, and 29% aren’t sure. Also according to the poll, 44% of voters think only Trump is physically healthy enough to serve as president; 16% think only Biden is.
Needless to say, these statistics are unprecedented. A supermajority of the American public believes the Democratic Party is (on the verge of) asking the country to vote for a president who will either die in office or be so infirm that he is obliged to resign. As Charles Cooke puts it, this is like asking Americans to buy a car that they believe is likely to fail them before reaching the end of its expected term of use. But it’s actually worse than that. Because the “replacement car” would be Kamala Harris—arguably one of the worst politicians in American history, if you’re going by her approval rating.1
Bob Dole is often trotted out as the example of a “too old” candidate. Twenty-seven percent of voters believed he had too many years under his belt for the presidency. By contrast, 77% think that Biden is too old—including two-thirds of self-described Democrats. That is extraordinary. What’s even more extraordinary is that Democrats have tethered their party’s fortunes to its decrepit, octogenarian figurehead even though it didn’t have to be this way. Amazingly, up until roughly the beginning of last month, the Left’s media lackeys were still dedicated to debunking the notion that Biden was anything other than fit, cogent, and capable.
On the September 7th edition of Washington Week with the Atlantic on PBS, Politico’s Kyle Cheney asked why no one brings up Trump’s age. Pressed to answer his own question, he blamed the “years of concerted effort” by Republicans to “weaponize Biden’s age against him.” The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich condemned the GOP further: “It’s not just making an issue of Biden’s age, it’s lying. It’s saying he’s senile, saying he’s demented, saying he’s out of it.” “Right,” added Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s editor in chief. “Mentally, he’s quite acute.”
Molly Jong-Fast, the Daniel Goldman of liberal punditry, writes in Vanity Fair:
Google searching “Is Biden too old?” bears countless results. Meanwhile, search “Trump is too old,” and you’ll get stories about Biden’s age. Which raises the question: How much does writing about something make it real in the eyes of the electorate? If Hillary lost the 2016 election to “but her emails,” could Biden lose 2024 to “but his age”?
As if that’s the reason Clinton lost; and as if Americans can’t see and judge for themselves whether Biden is too old.
But in the past few weeks, many of Biden’s media myrmidons have done a complete 180°, realizing that Democrats are almost certainly stuck with a 2024 nominee who 36% of voters believe is mentally unfit to serve as president right now. After seeing the results of several recent polls, the press has pivoted from blaming Republican chicanery for the widespread notion that Biden is too old, to hand-wringing over the Democratic officeholders who have handcuffed their party’s prospects to a doddering candidate who originally told his aides he would serve only a single term.
The sudden panic is inexplicable. Polling of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 has been tight for months. The vast majority of Democrats have been telling pollsters consistently for over a year that they do not want Biden as their party’s 2024 nominee. Conservatives haven’t been the only Americans to notice the president’s mumbling, bumbling, and fumbling; bipartisan majorities have been saying that he’s unfit to serve a second term, and they’ve been saying it for over a year as well.
The press hasn’t been ignorant of this data. Journalists simply refused to acknowledge it, having convinced themselves that ratifying the observational judgments rendered by Republicans would advance Trump’s political prospects. Ironically, if the imperative to avoid giving even one inch on the issue of Biden’s fitness hadn’t prevailed over the media’s job to accurately report on reality, it’s possible Democrats wouldn’t find themselves in such a bind.
But Biden’s age is hardly the extent of Democrats’ problems. The electorate is currently undergoing a sea change that will redound to the GOP’s benefit in 2024.
As Ruy Teixeria has highlighted, the Democratic Party has become the party of white college-educated voters,2 who tend to be ideologically monolithic liberals. In the process, Democrats have been purging less ideological nonwhites with mixed policy preferences. According to the 2020 Cooperative Election Study, among the most liberal voters — those who agree with liberal positions more than 90% of the time — there are 20 times more white college than black voters. And because highly liberal white college graduates are over-represented in the party’s infrastructure, media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, and academia, their cultural outlook heavily influences the culture associated with the party. These developments have resulted in the Democratic Party becoming uncompromisingly and uniformly liberal in its policy orientation.
As Democratic positions and the Left’s image have come to be defined by white college-educated liberals, many nonwhite working-class voters have begun to feel less comfortable with the party, given their mixed policy views. It turns out that the agenda driven by these white college graduates, especially the progressives who fuel the party’s activist base, is far less coterminous with that of minorities than Democrats realized.
In a recent 6,000 respondent survey conducted by AEI’s Survey Center on American Life and the National Opinion Research Center, approximately half of nonwhite voters said they consider the Democratic Party too extreme, think it bases its decisions more on politics than common sense, and supports policies that interfere too much in people’s lives. Over two-fifths don’t see the Democrats as sharing their values. And over a third think Democrats look down on people like them, don’t value hard work, and aren’t patriotic. It’s therefore no surprise that the Democratic Party has been experiencing steadily declining margins among minorities.
A recent New York Times analysis provides abundant and persuasive evidence that this trend is real and shows no signs of going away.
Democrats have lost ground among nonwhite voters in almost every election over the last decade, even as racially charged fights over everything from a border wall to kneeling during the national anthem might have been expected to produce the exact opposite result. Weak support for Mr. Biden could easily manifest itself as low turnout—as it did in 2022—even if many young and less engaged voters ultimately do not vote for Mr. Trump.
Many of Mr. Biden’s vulnerabilities—like his age and inflation—could exacerbate the trend, as nonwhite voters tend to be younger and less affluent than white voters…Issues like abortion and threats to democracy may also do less to guard against additional losses among Black and Hispanic voters, who tend to be more conservative than white Biden voters. They may also do less to satisfy voters living paycheck to paycheck: Mr. Biden is underperforming most among nonwhite voters making less than $100,000 per year, at least temporarily erasing the century-old tendency for Democrats to fare better among lower-income than higher-income nonwhite voters.
And then there’s the economy. People aren’t buying the “Bidenomics” bull.
Noah Rothman rightly points out that Biden sought to own the pandemic as an issue, making a series of promises during his first year in office that included restoring the economic status quo ante and bringing the country back to “normal.” While the pandemic might be over, the lingering second-order effects are still felt, and they are a source of widespread resentment. Voters associate Democratic pillaging of the U.S. Treasury in the name of pandemic-mitigation efforts with rising rates of inflation, and a massive tranche of polling shows that the public is extremely unhappy with the state of the economy.
CBS found that 45% of all voters believe they are “worse off” in financial terms than they were before the pandemic, including a majority of self-described independents. Clearly these voters don’t blame Trump for their pandemic-related financial woes because a whopping 71% are backing the former president, while just 28% of them support Biden. What’s more, voters believe Trump is better suited to restore price stability than Biden (by an eleven-point margin).3
Last week’s Washington Post/ABC poll is even more brutal for Biden, with a horrid 30% approval rating on handling the economy. Breaking the results down by working-class (non-college) vs. college-educated voters is revealing. Working-class respondents give Biden a 24% approval rating on the economy; college-educated voters give him a 43%. Seeing as Bidenomics is specifically pitched as a way to build working-class enthusiasm for Biden’s candidacy, that would seem to be a problem.
The Washington Post/ABC poll also finds that a mere 25% characterize the national economy as excellent or good, with just half as many (19%) feeling that way among the working class as among the college educated (38%). A dreadful 14% of working-class respondents say their personal financial situation is better now than when Biden took office, compared to 50% who say they are actually worse off.
This negative outlook was echoed in a September Gallup poll, which found that nearly three-quarters of voters feel pessimistic about the direction of the economy. By the widest margin since 1991, Americans trust Republicans to keep the country prosperous. Similarly, only 28% of Americans said they were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the state of the economy in a new NBC poll—the lowest level of economic satisfaction in nearly a decade of the network’s polling. The NBC survey also shows that Republicans hold an historic 21-point advantage over Democrats on the economy.
In terms of issues that will likely affect the eventual outcome of the 2024 presidential election, inflation is inarguably among the most important. According to the latest edition of The Liberal Patriot/YouGov (TLP/YouGov) 2024 presidential election project, Americans overwhelmingly feel that inflation is “still a very serious problem that is not improving,” with working-class voters particularly likely (68%) to feel that way. And understandably so: It still costs $734 more each month to buy the same goods and services as two years ago for households who earn the median income. That adds up to nearly $9,000 a year—money that few Americans have lying around, which explains why household debt and credit card debt are climbing higher and higher.
Buying a home or car right now is also “completely unaffordable for the typical American household because you’re mixing the higher borrowing costs with the high prices,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He estimates that the typical American household would need to use 42 weeks of income to buy a new car, as of August. And the National Association of Realtors calculates that the typical American family can’t afford to buy a median-priced home. U.S. mortgage applications for home purchases have fallen to their lowest mark in 28 years. For the average lender, a top tier 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now over 7.5% for the first time in at least 22 years.
And yet, the message from most Democrats is that voters are perceiving the economy incorrectly and they should be happy and grateful for Bidenomics.
New York Times columnist and Democratic water-carrier Paul Krugman spent most of 2021 telling his readers that the likelihood of inflation was being grossly overstated, only for reality to embarrass him as the year went on. Now, the man who assured you that inflation would never arrive is trying to reassure you that it’s long gone. A couple of weeks ago, Krugman tweeted, “In the past I’ve focused on a measure that excludes lagging shelter and used cars as well as food and energy. Just to note that it adds to the evidence that inflation has been largely defeated.”
Sure, Paul: As long as you exclude food, energy, shelter, and people looking to buy a used car because the average monthly payment on a new vehicle is $736 (a record high), everything is just hunky-dory.
As James Carville said in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Come next autumn, if Americans feel like the economy is doing well, Biden stands a good chance of winning another term. Other factors will no doubt influence the race; it’s possible that the strong headwind Democrats are facing ends up being too much to overcome. But first-term presidents with burgeoning economies who enjoy widespread economic optimism tend to get reelected. The problem for Biden is that the conditions leading to pervasive economic pessimism are likely to stay in place. As this Wall Street Journal article underscores, a significant portion of Americans will still feel frustrated about the economy a year from now. And that surely has the Biden team freaking out.
The bottom line is that the negatives laid out in this post are formidable. In no universe would you nominate someone like Biden under such circumstances if he weren’t already president. According to the recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Trump is up an eye-popping ten points in a hypothetical 2020 rematch. More registered voters believe he has a vision for the future, a strong record of accomplishments, and even “cares about people like you” than believe the same about Biden.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats are once again hitting a familiar refrain:
“Democracy is on the ballot” = The ends justify the means.4
A core, defining belief of modern-day Democratic Party politics is that the Left isn’t battling mere political opponents, but Fascists™ led by the Orange Hitler hell-bent on imposing totalitarianism. Subsumed by wildly irrational fear — “Democracy will end if Trump wins again!” — it is not only expected, but even rational for a political movement to embrace authoritarian tactics (like censorship) in order to stave off an existential threat. Fear is the lifeblood of authoritarianism, which is why demagogues manipulate and stimulate that human instinct.
We’ve already seen the lengths that Democrats are willing to go to destroy the republic and rule of law over their seething and obsessive hatred of one man and his supporters. As 2024 draws near, if Biden remains as unpopular as he is now, and if Trump continues to lead in the polls, be on the lookout for Democrats to use Our Democracy™ as operational justification to ensure Biden wins. Conditions will be created to ensure they can rule in a state of exception because they cannot accomplish what they want within the commonly understood confines of a constitutional republic. In other words, rules will be bent; exceptions will be made; norms will be ignored. When “Democracy is on the ballot,” losing is not an option.
According to NBC News, Harris’ net-negative rating of -17 is the lowest for a vice president in the history of its poll. Make no mistake about it: People are beginning to understand that a vote for Biden is really a vote for his Vice President.
Prices are up by 17.4% and real wages are down by 3.1% since Biden took office.
Noble Cause Corruption: A form of corruption that comes in the guise of virtue. When people are convinced of the nobility of their goals, they may think the ends justify the means. They will legitimize immoral/illegal actions if they “come from a good place” in their hearts.