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Two items have nagged me all this week.
The first is President Biden’s abysmal approval rating. Most analysts suggest he is getting hammered over inflation because the economy is the greatest concern of Americans. It always is, of course, and justifiably. But the economy continues to add a massive number of jobs, even if wage growth isn’t keeping up, people are working. Unemployment rates are at near historic lows.
And many of the extant causes of inflation are beyond the control of the president or our political system. Supply chains around the planet, disrupted by Covid, were just beginning to recover when Putin lost his mind. Vast exports of wheat from Ukraine, which can’t be delivered, will drive food prices, and the pinching of natural gas and oil supply lines from Russia compound the problems. The Saudis have not yielded to pressure to increase their output because they, like American energy companies, are enjoying record profits. The only weapon Mr. Biden has is to release a million barrels daily from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is likely to have an impact of under a nickel a gallon. Regardless of what consumers believe, no president has ever had any real control over gas prices.
Homebuilders in the U.S. cannot even offer price estimates, either, on finished projects to prospective buyers because they are waiting on materials costs to be provided, and they won’t be attractive. Microchips and rare earth materials like nickel for batteries continue to diminish in supply because of strained geopolitics caused by the war in Ukraine, and countless other issues are driving up the costs of production. When an agriculture business pays $7 a gallon for diesel, you will be spending a hell of a lot more for corn-based products or beef or pork or wheat. And none of that is likely to change in time to help mid-term elections. Unfortunately, voters are motivated by blame in the 21st century.
The president is also getting no benefit from deftly managing the Ukrainian conflict, either. His approval on that is estimated at 18 percent in polls even as he keeps the U.S. out of creating a wider war. His trip to meet with NATO members in a summit was diminished into criticism over his one line claiming Putin cannot remain in power, a thought harbored by most of the wider world. Instead, national media were unable to let go of the notion he was calling for regime change, probably oblivious to all the regime changes the U.S. has historically enabled and executed.
Meanwhile, as Biden suffers politically at home, Putin’s propaganda is working. His lies of Nazism in Ukraine, biological weapons labs, and nuclear development, have all convinced the Russian population that the war is justified. His approval rating is 83 percent while 81 percent of his constituents support the invasion and destruction of Ukraine. These numbers would make it seem unlikely the authoritarian despot is about to be overthrown. A rally-round-the-hammer-and-scythe phenomenon is helping a man who capriciously kills off his political opponents and jails thousands of public protestors without due process.
The GOP media and message machine is also doing a fine job of supporting Putin, the same people who for decades sold Russia and the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire.” Congressman Madison Cawthorn and Ohio GOP Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance, who have expressed anti-Ukraine sentiments, are not “lonely voices,” as suggested by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In January, a few months before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine launched, a poll by the Economist and YouGov showed the Republicans viewed Putin more favorably than they did many leading Democrats. Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Putin a “very talented statesman” who “knows how to use power.” Trump stands behind his flattery of the murderer Putin by calling him “very savvy” and a “genius” while FOX entertainers like Tucker Carlson politically fellate Putin on the air to the point where the TV personality’s programs are deployed as part of Russian propaganda.
And Joe Biden gets the bum’s rush?
Which brings me to item number two. Why is the public tolerating the Trump party’s demonization of the helpless and the right’s creation of meaningless issues? Tens of millions of Americans have diabetes and need insulin. Average monthly cost for the daily medicine is $1000, but the U.S. House brought up a measure to cap the price at $35 a month. The house passed the bill but there were 193 Republicans that voted against helping people get medicine many cannot afford, and may be what keeps them alive. One GOP rep was worried there might be future attempts to control the cost of food and gas. Oh, gasp.
There was no election fraud, either, regardless of how loudly the ex-president shouts his lie, and yet dozens of states have enacted laws making it harder vote. Twenty-three thousand mail-in ballots were discarded or returned to Texas voters because they did not meet arcane identification requirements that were almost impossible to understand, which, of course, was the entire reason the Republican legislature turned them into laws. The anti-democracy leadership of the state uses the word integrity to describe what they did, but the correct title is voter suppression.
How is it not obvious to even the least aware and lowest intellect that the Republicans are manufacturing nonsense to distract you while they loot the government and line their pockets and further enrich their wealthy supporters? The bigoted base is focused on bullying people of color, gays, lesbians, transgender kids, and immigrants. Texas governor Abscess has had to be restrained by courts from investigating families who are dealing with the trauma of having a child not identify with the body in which they were born. He is trying to make the care and counseling of transgender children into a crime of abuse. While children in state care are being abused and dying in privatized facilities and rural hospitals are closing because of his bad Medicaid policies, Greg Abbott spends his time and energy harming the tiny population of the most helpless and emotionally struggling population in his state.
A larger crime of the financial variety, though, is the Abbott Tax, which is showing up on your utility bills. Those billions of dollars the energy companies made during last winter’s deep freeze had to come from somewhere and they are coming from you. Look at your latest gas and electric bills and note the increases and surcharges. This is a direct result of a governor who has resisted regulating the state’s electric grid and connecting it to the national network, which would protect consumers during outages. There’s probably no connection to the fact that his biggest donors are energy companies and their executives.
If the Texas-Florida-Missouri triad’s version of gangrenous conservatism continues to infect the media and the voting populous, we are doomed. The media keeps trotting out the narrative that Democrats will be destroyed in the mid-term elections this November, and there are certainly reasons for concern. The gerrymandering of congressional districts by Republican state governments will have an impact on numbers of Democrats in the house next year, but isn’t the public smart enough to see and hear all the vile acts and lies proffered by the right? (Never mind, please don’t answer).
Will you let them whitewash our history? Even more? There are powerful visuals that can be used to assault the lies of the right just as they assaulted democracy on January 6th of 2021. How does anyone vote for a party or its candidates after it facilitated and made excuses for an attack on one of the most iconic symbols of democracy in human history? Only two Republicans have joined the January 6th panel to seek the truth that will help prosecute the individuals and organizations that attempted an American coup.
If I were managing Democratic Party messaging, I would simply show the video of the attack and underneath I would play the soundtrack of Donald Trump taking the oath of office on the day of his inauguration. His sworn vow to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States would look quite pathetic juxtaposed against his supporters banging down the walls of the U.S. Capitol. Given all the evidence accumulated, why has Trump not been indicted, and why are Americans so skeptical of our judicial process that only a small percentage expect the treasonous dictator wannabe and his sycophantic enablers to be brought to justice?
I’d also run ads talking about the Biden Covid rescue package, which was opposed by every member of the GOP in congress. The president used his political capital to make sure every household got a check to help pay rent and mortgages and feed children when the economy slammed into the virus wall, and then he led the creation of a bailout for millions of businesses that would have been permanently shuttered had the government not intervened. Add to that economic relief a national vaccination program to protect anyone who wanted protection and with no charge, executed across the country to a level of great effectiveness.
Remember the infrastructure package? Remind the voters about that transformative piece of Biden legislation, Democrats. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans opposed the measure even though it will provide high-speed Internet to every household in the country, replace lead pipes, rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, and create untold numbers of jobs that support domestic manufacturing and supply chains. Still, Trumpublicans who voted against one of the most important pieces of law in a century are presently out campaigning on it and acting as if they had something to do with projects that are beginning to show up in their districts.
Billions will go into repairing and replacing roads and bridges, creating a nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations, upgrading airports, and paving new highways, improving ports to facilitate better supply chains, building a better national electrical grid, carbon reduction and removal, cleaning up 49 Superfund sites, and billions for upgrading aging water infrastructure. All those anti-tax Republicans Americans voted for through the years then went to Washington and spent your money on defense contractors to fight wars for profit in the Mideast while your own country fell into disrepair.
The other, equally important war is the one we are waging against each other within our own borders. The troubles in American institutions of our culture, economy, and politics are historical and becoming even more profoundly manifest. The political fight over control of the government creates casualties of its agencies and the taxpayers who provide them funding. It is too facile an explanation to say that our nation is being sundered by populism and nationalism, but this democracy is collapsing beneath the crushing weight of our nameless, shapeless dread.
The hard truth to accept, then, is that there are not always two sides to every story. Sometimes there is only one, and far too many Americans are refusing to see what that story is. They have decided to believe lies.
And that’s a decision that has the potential to undo what’s left of our democracy.