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Midterm Election Prospects

I have a tendency to look at political polls, particularly when we are near an election. I know that polls can be misleading; and I am more likely than in past decades to think that some of them use skewed samples, or might even be “‘push polls,” where you can lead the respondents to a particular answer.

An example might be if you asked questions about “strength in leadership,”about Lincoln or Churchill. and what qualities make a great leader; and then asked, “How do you rate President Biden’s leadership?” You have led the person polled to compare Biden with historic leaders, or to imagine great leadership, and then of course Biden is going to get worse numbers than if you had not “pushed” for the answer.

That is why I get irritated at “general opinion” polls, because the media almost always overextrapolates from them, and then this becomes “common wisdom,” which of course was intended by the biased pollster.

The “horse race” polls are probably more accurate, though we have seen a good deal of inaccurate polling in recent elections. So much so that one becomes suspicious. of the polling or the voting. There has apparently been a hidden Republican vote in major elections. Biden’s popular vote victory over Trump was about four points less than the last polling. Various Senate race margins won by Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham were much larger than the last week’ of polling. What to attribute that to, is difficult to know. Even so, one is apt to look at polls as still a reasonable guide to how the elections will turn out.

Now, as we probably all know, the polls continue to be unpleasant for Biden. The “Favorable/Unfavorable” daily polls continue to have him in the negative. somewhere around 40% positive to 58% negative. It is almost impossible to find a poll where his Favorables are 45%.

This began around the time of the pullout of troops from Afghanistan. For whatever motives, the national media really turned against Biden then. My feeling was that, given that Trump had committed to the pullout; that the country’s leaders were all making plans to escape with their money, there was no good way to do this; and that it actually went fairly well, as pullouts go. But the media showed the same pictures, which made it look as if it was chaotic, unplanned, and disastrous. It is interesting that a year later, no one talks about it, but the media made it look as if it was a terrible disaster.

So Biden’s ratings dropped from about 52% to the mid-40’s, and since then have continued to trend down. Of course, the media showing California gas stations with prices of $6 or more, plus the typical “person on the street” interviews with someone lamenting the inflation, the cost of everything, has greatly overstated the problem. Inflation is not good, no one likes high gas prices (except for the oil companies which are making record profits, even while the price of a barrel of oil drops), but it is certainly not an economy falling apart, as the chyrons and photos would have one believe.

This essay is not about debating the economy, but there are certainly many respected economists who say that the economy is actually pretty good; with job growth, ease of finding employment, earnings. The one big issue is inflation Inflation of 8.5% is not good, but it is year over year, not the daily rise which most of the media is either too ignorant or too biased to explain.

Prices are not going up 8.5% per day, as the “prices continue to soar” stories would have you believe. If something you bought cost $100 a month last year, it costs around $108.50 per month now. Not to minimize that, but it is far from the Weimar Republic, where “you used to take your money in your pocket, and take home your purchases in a basket, and now you bring your money in a basket, and take your purchases home in your pocket.”

Most people drive, so gas prices do hurt, and I do not like them. But take a look at the profits reported by oil companies, and the comparison of per barrel costs, vs. gas pump prices, and you will see blatant price gouging by the oil cartel. And of course–and this is very important–the Republicans as a bloc vote against any bills to limit price gouging, or to do anything to ease the burden on consumers.. The Republicans want the economy to struggle, and to be portrayed as far worse than it is, so that people will vote against the Democrats. That is a story which most of the media does not care to tell.

So here is the self-perpetuating narrative, “President Biden’s poll numbers continue to be bad.” Many people go along with it, as they like to be on the “right” side of an issue, so they are not apt to disagree with the apparent general sentiment.

That is something we cannot do much about, though as always, we wish that the Democrats’ ability at conveying political messages were better. And as usual, there is a fairly large contingent of Democrats who are unhappy, who say, “I voted for Biden, and he is not doing what I want him to do!,” words to that effect. The fact that the Democratic House has passed a number of excellent bills which are killed in the Senate, by the filibuster, and the fact that Manchin and Sinema have either been bought off, or are essentially Republicans, is not taken into account by the unhappy people.

We have Ashley Parker, who took over Philip Rucker’s position as Chief White House Reporter for the Washington Post, who continues to write pieces about “Democratic dissension,” “Democrats express dissatisfaction with Biden, as crises mount.” The implication is that the crises are either Biden’s fault, or that he is not able to cope with them. Then, when she gets on TV to explain her articles, all she comes up with is that some Democrats feel that Biden should attack Republicans more.

Okay, but this is not going to solve the war in Ukraine, or get gas prices down, or fix the climate, or take assault weapons away. The Democrats cannot pass these things now, and Biden can’t do them by Executive Orders, so while we are all frustrated, the sense I get is that Parker just wants to get headlines and scare up some controversy. I don’t know which Democrats are “dissatisfied,” and what they want Biden to do. They don’t, either.

Actually, I have read, and you could check it to confirm, that gas prices have dropped for 21 straight days. Not much, not enough, and not in California. But the media reported every price increase. And again, how is Biden supposed to reduce gas prices, if Republicans will do nothing to stop corporate price gouging?

Well, this lengthy preface gets us to the point where it seems almost certain that Biden’s popularity is not going to go up, and it may even go down. There is nothing he can do to suddenly galvanize it. The Republicans and the media and some inability on Biden’s part to convey the message with the forcefulness that might be needed, has baked this cake, as they say. If we are waiting for those numbers to go up in the next four months (and I had been), I think it is futile.

BUT–it is possible that this is not necessarily determinative of the upcoming Congressional elections. Some pretty good Senate polls show Fetterman and Warnock with good leads. Ryan in Ohio has a chance, as does Beasley in North Carolina. Now, we know that Republicans usually gain in Senate races in the last few months, probably because of all the money they have to pour into ads. We have been told that Democrats have more money than usual, so maybe that effect can be vitiated.

The House is a different story. You can’t gerrymander a Senate race, whereas Republicans gerrymandered every House district they could, while too many Blue states stick to their bipartisan commissions. And of course there is all the vote suppression. Tim O’Brien, who is high up on the Bloomberg media hierarchy, said yesterday that he does not expect the Democrats to hold the House.

That is very bad, for reasons we can elaborate on later, but which most directly would mean that Democrats cannot pass any bills, because all the bills brought up in the House will be Republican bills, from bad, to awful, to terrifying. And all the House hearings about Biden and Hillary and Schiff, and the impeachments which they will undertake, for revenge, political gain; and as with all the “Gates” they invented after Watergate, their attempt to mock it all, as partisan, and devoid of any significance.

Holding the Senate would give Biden free rein to appoint judges, including if any Right-Wing Justices left the Supreme Court, though unlikely. They could also block all House bills, which would make it like Obama’s last six years, except that the Republicans might shut down the government this time, which might backfire.

Well, before we get there, Matthew Dowd, another long-time Republican strategist who has disavowed his former party, and now focuses on what he thinks Democrats should do, because it is these people’s nature, has said something which does have a ring of accuracy to it. He says that Democrats must not run on Biden’s record, must not get involved in arguments about what he did or didn’t do. He thinks they should solely focus on how dangerous Republicans are, and will be if they hold power.

In other words, sort of run away from Biden, at least don’t focus on him. He does have a point, in that as Biden’s poll numbers stay low, individual Democrats seem to be doing rather well in their races. Of course, this could all change, and then they would all go down together. Dowd, and others who hold his view, think that making midterms a referendum on Biden, is a losing strategy; and that the Democrats’ strength lies in telling the populace how bad and dangerous the various Republicans running are.

It is interesting, that the reason that the Conservatives in England jettisoned Boris Johnson, is that they think that he would be a weight dragging down their party in the next election. Well, we cannot do that here. We have to rely on Biden to win in 2024, unless he simply chooses not to run. Trying to unseat him in primaries would be an unpleasant battle, with the inevitable repercussions with disaffected Democrats. So Biden has to be supported now. But that does not mean that Democrats should try to explain all of the current national concerns, though I wish they could, because people are getting a very distorted picture.

Ordinarily, the midterms are considered a referendum on the party which won two years before, and it usually is bad for that party, particularly if it is the Democrats, because their supporters usually are not as inclined to vote in the midterms, a very bad thing which has to stop. But maybe this time, people will vote against the party which will ban all abortions, probably ban birth control, do nothing about guns or climate, will take away the right to vote for millions of people. Run on those things, and we can win, is the contention.

It may well be true, and maybe that is how we are running now. We really do need to keep the House, too, but we would need some awfully good news to do that. Maybe an all-out campaign to tell people that Republicans are determined to ban abortions in every state, might get them to think more about that, than what the gas price is that day. That price will change, whereas one’s right to an abortion would not come back soon, not with electoral realities, and the Supreme Court prepared to strike down any legislation it disagrees with.

I saw a cartoon depicting a “The Handmaid’s Tale” tableau. And a little girl saying to her mother “How did this happen?” And the mother saying, “Well, gas prices were high…” That is exactly how it could go, and has in history at some times..

There is some event, or economic problem, a famine, a flood, and it is used by authoritarians to trick people into letting them gain power, with all the attendant repressions. Once power is given away, it is very difficult to ever get back.

Republicans have been trying to manipulate the voters and the media or many years, and think they can do it any time they want. They have to be stopped, and it will take people keeping their focus on rights, liberties, and their potential removal by the Republican fascist-theocrats. to do it. That, and voting, of course.

11 Responses

  1. Here is an encouraging poll, if one is going to look at polls; 92% of Democrats now say they are extremely likely to vote in November, as compared to 89% of Republicans. That is a nine-point improvement for Democrats since the last time this poll was taken in March. Get that to 98%, and prospects improve even more.

  2. Off topic: Scroll down to RD’s last post for the usual links to Arkansas Rocks for The Magical Mystery Tour and Beaker Street, since as usual, I can’t post anything but words on William’s links.

  3. William’s posts, not William’s links. I can’t correct my mistakes on WordPress at all.

  4. My feeling was that, given that Trump had committed to the pullout; that the country’s leaders were all making plans to escape with their money, there was no good way to do this; and that it actually went fairly well, as pullouts go.

    It was pretty freaking awful, William – particularly if you had the misfortune to be Afghan and female. Maybe that makes me some kind of imperialist warmonger, but condemning an entire country to 7th Century intolerance and thuggery seems shameful to me – no matter who does it.

    • I think Biden might actually have gained a significant amount of traction early in his Presidency if he’d proclaimed an unwillingness to follow through on his predecessor’s plan to surrender to the Taliban. But that’s a lost opportunity.

  5. Prices are not going up 8.5% per day, as the “prices continue to soar” stories would have you believe. If something you bought cost $100 a month last year, it costs around $108.50 per month now. Not to minimize that, but it is far from the Weimar Republic,

    That’s certainly correct, as far as it goes, but the inflation rate is not uniform and necessities (e.g. food, rent, fuel) are rising faster. You’re correct in your assertion that gas prices have dropped from their peak, but they’re still 44% higher than they were at the beginning of the year (https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_gas_price). While average rents have dropped a fraction of a percent over the last month, they’re still up over 25% year over year (https://www.rent.com/research/average-rent-price-report). Food in general is supposedly up 10% YoY (although my weekly groceries are up about 20% from last year). I’m lucky in that I don’t commute by car (and neither does Dr. Dr. Mrs Propertius – we fill up the car about once every 3 months) and I’m pretty highly paid, but not everyone is in that situation. If you can’t afford to get to work, can’t keep a roof over your head, and have to cut back on meals I don’t think it matters much that the price of iPhones is pretty stable.

    I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere by trotting out a bunch of economists to tell people that the real difficulties they’re experiencing are all in their heads. Herbert Hoover tried that (“Prosperity is just around the corner!”), which is how we got FDR. We ought to be making a lot more noise about record profits in the energy industry and other examples of price gouging and corporate malfeasance – of course then all those corporate PACs won’t be giving bunches of money to the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC.

  6. So here’s what scares me about the midterms -I saw some issue polling last week (I can’t find the original source, but it popped up in my Apple News feed). Basically they asked a bunch of voters what their most important issue was this year and two numbers popped out:

    Inflation: 35%
    Abortion rights: 5%

    I don’t know how representative the sampling was and I don’t know how the questions were worded (i.e., whether it was a “push poll”), but those are some pretty scary numbers. Like it or not, the economy is always the incumbent administration’s fault in the the minds of many voters. The fact that 78% of voters disagreed with overturning Roe does us very little good if that sentiment doesn’t drive their votes.

    • Yes. disconcerting, and at least somewhat a function of the media talking about it as if it were not worldwide, worse in most of Europe, and not ameliorated by a still strong job market. Under Hoover, of course, we were heading for about 33% unemployment. And the thing that we never hear discussed, what do the Republicans plan to do to combat inflation? Get rid of Social Security and Medicare, so less people will have any money to spend? Do nothing to rein in corporate price-gouging, and companies using their profits for stock buybacks, and executive bonuses? Vote for Republicans, and this is what will happen,.” should be the constant refrain. The ultimate goal of every Republican-run economy has been no job and wage growth, and more Americans without the ability to stay above water. Eventually, you end up with feudalism.

      • Eventually, you end up with feudalism.

        That’s the logical endpoint of where the GOP’s platform is taking us. The thing that I don’t get, is are these GOPers really that dumb that they think that only the Liberals will be serfs? only the poor will be serfs? I would like to be around when this happens just to see the look on Josh Hawley’s (insert the name of your favorite smug GOP politician here) face when he finally realizes… oh shit, I’m a serf too.

        • Yeah, I’ve always thought that feudalism is the natural result of unregulated capitalism.

      • [A]t least somewhat a function of the media talking about it as if it were not worldwide, worse in most of Europe, and not ameliorated by a still strong job market

        Absolutely true and completely irrelevant to someone who doesn’t have the money to buy the same bag of groceries they bought last week. We have no messaging about this. The Republicans will do what they always do – blame everything on free-spending Democrats (even though Biden has cut spending). Someone who is being evicted because their rent went up 25% doesn’t care what the inflation rate in France is.

        Criticizing corporations for price gouging is not something the DNC, DSCC, or DCCC are willing to do, because those organizations are dependent on corporate and plutocratic largesse. There are, however, political organizations (and personalities) who don’t suffer from those limitations (Progressive PACs and people like Fetterman, AOC, or Bernie who aren’t dependent on corporate contributions). They can spread the word while still giving Biden and the mainstream committees some cover.

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