Early-term presidents almost always face reprimands in Congressional elections, as their actions often energize opposing party supporters against them, and any struggle they lead can result in the disengagement of their own voters. This time around, with Democrats having only the narrowest majority in the House and Senate, they badly need the economy to move forward and the pandemic curse to be far behind the country a year from now. But a catalog of problems, including a short labor market, rising energy prices, rising inflation, political polarization over vaccines, and an immigration crisis on the southern border, create a national mood dissatisfied with the pre-election year.
The president sought to provide some light at the end of the tunnel last week, but was careful to point out that Covid-19 was far from going away. He cited “significant progress” but added: “Now is not the time to give up. We have a lot more to do. We are in a very critical time as we work to turn the corner on Covid- 19. “
Biden’s election was in many ways a reaction to the chaos of Trump’s failure to properly handle the pandemic. In fact, the president himself said it at a press conference in March of this year.
“When I took office I decided that – this was a pretty basic and straightforward proposition – and that is that I was elected to solve problems,” Biden said. “And the most pressing problem facing the American people, I said from the start, was Covid-19 and economic dislocation for millions upon millions of Americans.”
By his own reference then, and in part due to factors beyond his control, Biden failed. And his reduced approval ratings seem to reflect his own judgment that beating the pandemic was how he would be judged by voters. If the president can’t make the case to Americans next year that he did what he was hired to do, then the party’s traditional gains from the out-of-power White House could translate into major Democratic losses in Congress. .
Buttigieg: challenges for the next year
During the 2020 campaign, Biden’s performance was notable for his mastery of the scale of the Covid-19 crisis, relentless public appearances on message, and an almost Fireside Chat style in which he appeared to take on Americans. in his confidence and strengthening their confidence. As president, and since the pandemic lasted longer than Biden and everyone expected, he was less sure of himself and his message didn’t resonate with the same. The chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and Biden’s laconic public response, meanwhile, supported the views of critics who concluded his presidency was overtaken by events.
There are some promising signs about the pandemic. Daily new cases of Covid are about half the level of the summer outbreak and tend to decline in almost all states. Deaths are also starting to decline. It is likely that economic activity and job creation could increase once the virus ebbs across the country.
On that note, Buttigieg’s comment on CNN’s “State of the Union” is the latest sign that a post-pandemic economic surge that could help mask other issues and persuade voters to stick with it. to Biden’s path is far from certain.
“It is certain that many of the challenges that we have faced this year will continue into the next year, but we can take short and long term steps to address them,” Buttigieg told Jake Tapper.
Buttigieg spoke after Moody’s Analytics warned last week that supply chain disruptions “will get worse before they get better.”
The stacks of containers receding in U.S. ports and idling ships awaiting unloading are exacerbated by a post-pandemic shortage of truckers, meaning this is a problem that is not easily addressed. resolve quickly. And the tightening of the supply chain increases demand, which in turn increases inflation, making the cost of living more expensive and increasing pressure on voters’ wallets.
Rising demand fuels inflation
Buttigieg, a rising Democratic political star who might have expected the Transport Department to provide a relatively safe political landing point, now finds himself in the midst of a risky political crisis.
He actually described the crisis – at least the issue of strong consumer demand – as a sign of success for the president.
“Each of these ships is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying, because demand is up, because revenues are up, because the president has managed to pull this economy out of a terrifying recession. “Buttigieg said on” State of the Union. “
The transport secretary’s appearances on several Sunday talk shows – and the president’s decision last week to summon port bosses and unions that led to the introduction of 24/7 operations in the Port of Los Angeles – prove that the White House is very much aware of the damaging political impact of the supply chain problem and its consequences for ordinary Americans after a grueling year.
“There is $ 17 billion in the president’s infrastructure plan for ports alone,” Buttigieg told Tapper. He presented the other strand of Biden’s program as an essential element in restarting the economy slowed by Covid.
While many of the issues hampering Biden’s presidency appear intractable, Democrats can at least hope things improve by next year. If the United States is finally in the final stages of the pandemic, global energy prices fall and supply chain tightening eases as the rest of the world draws closer to victory over Covid , voters may feel in a better state of mind as the midterm elections approach.
But for now, the economic situation is difficult.