Consider this a counterpoint to my previous post about Kamala Harris. While CNN and Politico highlight the Veep’s failures, the Washington Post reports that Democrats have gotten very worried about Joe Biden’s ineptitude. Tyler Pager notes that they have belatedly discovered that Biden doesn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the problems he’s either created or magnified.
The only thing missing is the ubiquitous Downfall video:
But just in the past week, inflation hit a 31-year high as prices rose 6.2 percent over a year ago, coronavirus cases are ticking up again and the United States announced that Qatar will serve as its diplomatic proxy in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — head winds that come as the Democratic Party reels from a set of unexpected losses in elections around the country.
In these and other cases, a growing number of Democrats worry that the White House has repeatedly underestimated the scale of the challenges facing the country — exacerbating the party’s political problems and making its already perilous path to holding Congress in 2022 even more difficult. They acknowledge the problems presented by the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and an uneven economic recovery, but fear that the administration’s tendency to downplay the issues has only made things worse.
The White House response also runs counter to a promise Biden made as a candidate, when he quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt saying, “The American people deserve to have it straight from the shoulder.” He vowed he would “tell the truth” and “be candid.” But mixed messaging from the White House, some Democrats argue, has undermined its credibility and set confusing expectations for Americans.
Welcome to the party, pals. Why did it take months of increasing inflation to finally get the point to sink in among Democrats? Probably because they bought their own PR while assuring everyone that Biden’s plummeting approval numbers were only “transitory” too. They missed what some others caught immediately — that Biden’s disgraceful bug-out in Afghanistan while leaving thousands of Americans behind stripped Biden of any pretense at competence or honesty. That unmasking touched off a confidence-crisis cascade that has finally begun to include some of Biden’s Democratic colleagues.
In part, anyway. The White House and its allies still seem in denial about the impact of such a cascade:
Privately, many administration officials and allies contend that the state of affairs cannot get worse, thinking that Biden and the Democrats have hit their floor in negative approval ratings, according to people familiar with their thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations. By next year’s elections, top Democrats say, the national environment will look dramatically different. They project confidence that the coronavirus pandemic will fade, allowing Americans to fully return to their normal lives, and that supply chain bottlenecks and inflation will also ease, allowing the economy to improve.
To some extent, this is beside the point now. Biden ran as the experienced hand who could return America to a non-crisis mode of governance and provide a framework for collaboration. Biden bailed out of the latter promise immediately when he inexplicably decided that losing House seats and getting a 50/50 Senate meant he had a mandate to become FDR and LBJ all at the same time. Biden botched the expectations game, a political blunder that someone with 50 years in Washington should have managed better.
However, the real problem for Biden is that the aura of competence has been utterly stripped away. The botched retreat from Afghanistan and Biden’s flat-out lies about it have become Biden’s Hurricane Katrina and Iranian hostage crisis moments. There will likely be a floor for Biden’s collapse at some point, but the fact that he’s falling into the 30s in some national polls suggests it’s lower than one would expect from a Democratic president that can still expect significant cover from the mainstream media. Biden’s status as twenty pounds of fertilizer in a ten-pound bag is now apparent to nearly everyone, and that realization cannot be undone by inflation abating several months from now.
And even to the extent that economic results are still relevant, the White House seems incapable of working to improve the situation:
Biden and his aides also face a credibility issue — making promises for months about improved conditions, only to have lingering issues resurface or worsen.
“They have a problem,” said John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio who crossed party lines to endorse Biden in 2020. “They made projections and predictions based on their experts. Their experts were wrong, and they’re not making any changes.”
In that sense, Kamala Harris is a sideshow. The real disaster is in the Oval Office, and Biden doesn’t have the self-awareness or insight to recognize it. As he has throughout his career, Biden thinks he’s the smartest guy in every room that he enters and that his version of reality is the one everyone else sees. Biden won’t change because he thinks he’s a smashing success, and he’ll stick to that vision until everything crumbles around him. Including his own party.