Politico published a story today about behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic strategists to figure out what went wrong in Virginia. The center-left group Third Way polled Virginia Democrats and found the problem was much worse than a poor candidate (Terry McAuliffe) or even general disappointment with President Biden. Most poll respondents simply couldn’t identify anything that Democrats had accomplished.
Most of the voters Third Way spoke with in suburban Virginia focus groups, according to the report, “could not articulate what Democrats stand for. They could also not say what they are doing in Washington, besides fighting.”…
Just one year after Democrats kicked Donald Trump from the White House, it’s not obvious to many voters what Democrats are doing now that they’re in charge — despite the enactment of major legislation, including a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill earlier this year and an infrastructure bill last week.
Following the House’s passage of the social spending package on Friday, one Democratic strategist who advises major donors said, “Too late. We’re f—ed.”
The story goes on to argue that even if voters are made more aware of the infrastructure bill and even if Democrats manage to pass the reconciliation bill, there’s not much evidence any of it will shake voters out of their general disappointment with President Biden.
By most objective measures, Biden and Democrats in Washington are doing a lot — with pandemic relief and infrastructure bills passed, and social spending on the horizon. Vaccines are widely available, including for children. Businesses are reopening and kids are back in school. But none of that appears to have helped Biden or the down-ticket Democrats who will be fighting for their political lives next year.
In the Third Way focus groups, pollsters found voters who backed Biden last year “do not necessarily blame him for ongoing problems with the delta variant, inflation, or supply chain bottlenecks. But at the same time, these 2020 Biden voters had little positive to say about him right now, and many described disappointment or a sense that he is not doing well. They were reluctant to say he’s not up to the job, but they don’t feel like he’s getting it done right now.”
I don’t think this malaise is as difficult to explain as Democratic strategists seem to think. I’d put it down to three problems, two of which don’t get mentioned in this story. First, Biden overpromised and underdelivered. Last October I was pretty irritated when President Biden (or someone on his team) tweeted this:
I'm not going to shut down the country.
I'm not going to shut down the economy.
I'm going to shut down the virus.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 30, 2020
So simple. So arrogant. So false. Joe Biden promised it would be easy to solve the country’s problems. We just needed his leadership to make it happen. How is that promise looking now that there have been more COVID deaths in 2021 than there were in 2020. True, that’s largely the result of the delta variant but Biden also had three effective vaccines from the day he took office. Biden promised a return to the pre-COVID world but that hasn’t happened and after Afghanistan a lot of people are wondering if he was really ever up to the job or just had a good PR team.
And his promise about not shutting down the economy relates to the other problem that isn’t mentioned by Politico: Inflation. Inflation is surging in ways that people can see and feel. The cost of gas here in California has risen dramatically, just as one example. And the evidence suggests inflation is going to continue for at least another year, maybe longer. No matter what else is going right, people won’t feel good about the economy or the future while inflation is surging.
Third, Democrats see their party split into factions that turn every effort to get something done into a pitched battle between moderates and the socialist left. Whichever side of that battle individual Democrats are on, they are likely to feel irritated with the other side, meaning with fellow Democrats. Is it any wonder that the average Biden voter in Virginia doesn’t have a clear sense of what the party is doing? That’s not a messaging problem, it’s an accurate reflection of reality.
To sum up, Biden overpromised and underdelivered, inflation is worrying people about the future. the Democratic party is torn between two opposing factions that fight each other at every turn. Given all of that, it’s really no wonder that Democrats are f***ed.