Analysis: America is on edge, and that’s bad news for the White House

Many key aspects of economic, social and national life that were once seen as certainties of proper functioning are irrelevant. The Covid-19 pandemic, while easing its deadly grip, has left a complicated legacy of challenges that still disrupt daily life. Some are aggravations – like the more than 800 airline flights canceled on Sunday. Others threaten the economic outlook and Americans’ sense of security and well-being, such as growing fears of a recession.

Such an atmosphere is sure to engender further turbulence in a nation that sees widening ideological divisions ahead of midterm elections that are likely to cause further dysfunction if power is divided in Washington between Republicans and Democrats. And that almost guarantees years of political wrangling before the 2024 presidential race, which could hamper the country’s ability to resolve any crisis.

Acute problems include record gasoline prices. Families are struggling to cope with soaring prices for food and vital goods. Some big cities are failing to manage a homelessness crisis. The baby formula shelves are still often empty. And summer getaways are hampered by an airline industry thrown out of balance by Covid-19. While vaccinations and less lethal variants have reduced the threat of the virus, it continues to disrupt businesses, schools and summer camps.
The political divide in the country, meanwhile, is exemplified by the torturous effort to push even rudimentary gun safety measures through the Senate. While liberals watch the ever-increasing death toll from mass shootings in horror, conservatives who believe all gun rights are in jeopardy are making it difficult for Republican lawmakers to compromise. Political divisions are also underscored by the mixed reception of the televised hearings of the House Select Committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection. The panel shows how close the United States has come to an authoritarian takeover with former President Donald Trump’s attempted coup. But the new evidence is largely ignored by its supporters, reflecting the GOP’s turn against democracy and raising the stakes for the upcoming election.
A tense national mood is likely to be heightened if, in what would be a double triumph for conservatives, the Supreme Court rules against mainstream public opinion, eases restrictions on guns and strikes down a woman’s right to abortion in the next few days. Already, a man has been accused of trying to kill conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh, reflecting the tense atmosphere surrounding the court and the politicized issues it faces.

Imminent problems

Things are also going badly abroad. The United States is funding a war against Russia in Ukraine, which — despite Biden’s success in reviving the Cold War Western Front against Moscow — is turning into a costly stalemate. A superpower showdown with China will strain American resources, and a new nuclear crisis with Iran could soon join the ongoing one with North Korea.

These are undoubtedly troubled times. But some perspective is also in order. Biden is right to point to strong job growth that has brought unemployment down to levels so low it could cushion the impact of a possible recession triggered by the Federal Reserve’s aggressive attempt to rein in inflation. And for the first time in two decades, the United States has no troops on the ground in a major war overseas. A snapshot of almost any time in the history of the United States could reveal political struggles over the fate of the country and the extent of the rights conferred by the Constitution. Even if a recession does come, hopefully it won’t be on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis or the Great Depression nearly 100 years ago, although that’s small consolation for anyone losing. his work.

The crushing of the current crises will inevitably have more immediate political repercussions for Democrats in Congress who face a dire environment less than five months before Election Day. Midterm elections are usually hurtful for first-term presidents. Biden’s eroded approval ratings and the White House’s difficulty projecting control threaten to hand both the House and Senate to Republicans, prolonging a political era in which nearly every election seems to turn into a repudiation of people in power and a recalibration of voter decisions from the previous election.

One wonders how much Biden could do to improve the economy and all the problems plaguing the country. But his professed rationale for his 2020 victory – that he was chosen by voters to solve problems – is crumbling. And while the White House has taken several steps to smooth things over – including the expanded use of wartime powers under the Defense Production Act, the release of millions of barrels of oil from national reserves and mounting emergency infant formula flights from abroad – his efforts have not always been successful.

On inflation specifically, the White House has delivered an often confusing policy message as officials vacillate between saying there’s little more Biden can do to highlight multiple plans. to show that the president understands the pressure on Americans. But given the reality of rising gas prices, Biden is a politically tough place — unable to take credit for the positive aspects of the recovery, as many people simply don’t feel the strength of the crisis. economy in their life.

At times, Biden seemed to take credit for what works in the economy and blame others for what doesn’t – dismissing criticism that his stimulus spending was fueling inflation and calling high gas prices a “price hike” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week, the president went after big energy companies for their inflated profits, in what might be a smart policy ploy to rally Democrats, but one that might not help lower gas prices.

Biden’s remarks in an interview with the Associated Press last week that the Americans are “really, really depressed”, after years of pandemic deprivation and political divisions, were in accordance with his promise to always tell the Americans the truth without makeup. But they haven’t necessarily painted the image of a president capable of inspiring the nation in difficult times. This is particularly problematic since his comments coincided with a proactive attempt by the White House to dampen speculation about Biden’s re-election intentions amid growing talk of his age. He will be 82 years old between the next presidential election and the inauguration. Every White House assurance he plans to run only fuels stories about Biden’s political situation.

But Washington would whisper much less about its future if economic conditions were better.

things could get worse

The disheartening reality for Democrats — and struggling Americans — is that things could get worse.

A combination of stubbornly high inflation and mounting job losses in a slowing economy due to Federal Reserve action would spell even greater political disaster for the White House. The administration already has limited credibility to talk about the economy after repeatedly downplaying the risks of risking inflation last year and insisting it was a temporary phenomenon. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is one of the few officials to admit she was wrong, as she did in a recent CNN interview. She insisted on ABC News’ This Week on Sunday that while inflation was “unacceptably high”, a recession was not inevitable. Brian Deese, the director of Biden’s National Economic Council, had a similar message on other Sunday talk shows.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, meanwhile, added to the confusion of messages regarding Biden’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia by saying she believed Biden would meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which intelligence services Americans accuse of ordering the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden said last week that he would not travel to the kingdom to meet the crown prince but would attend an international meeting of regional powers at which he would be present.
The White House says Biden's meeting with Saudi officials next month

The dance on a rhetorical pinhead reflects an apparent desire by the administration to mend relations with the Saudis to ensure increased oil production that could lower gas prices. But it’s also a reflection of the backlash Biden is facing from some Democrats for softening his stance on a nation he once called a “pariah.”

Back home, the administration’s struggles are bound to be good news for Republicans betting on big medium-term gains and having an easy case to make that Biden’s economic plans aren’t working. Any improvement in the inflation picture is unlikely to be enough to change the political environment before November. And a protracted fight against rising prices and a possible dip into recession could haunt Biden as the 2024 campaign heats up after November.

It gives Democrats heartburn as Trump shows all signs of launching a campaign for his former job – despite evidence of his extremism and abuse of power exposed by the House panel during its hearings televised.

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