For Joe, It’s All Downhill From Here
Now is the time for Democrats to panic.
THE NATIONAL INTEREST
by Christian Whiton
Hamas’ savage assault on Israel is only the latest nightmare for President Joe Biden. The breakout by the Islamist proxy of Iran marks a new low point of this increasingly Jimmy Carter-esque presidency.
Yet, Democrats and the media have been shocked by recent polls showing Biden neck-and-neck with his contenders. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump could both beat Biden in notional matchups. Some Democrats have yet to panic, but they should: Biden’s position will deteriorate further this winter.
First, there is “Bidenomics.” A White House insulated from the public by a sympathetic media sent the president out to tout his economic record this summer and fall—a big mistake. Since Biden took office, cumulative inflation of nearly 20 percent means that the government has effectively vaporized one-fifth of voters’ savings and purchasing power. Unlike a stock market decline, this is lost money and buying power that cannot be recovered in the future.
Unfortunately for Biden, matters are getting worse, not better. When the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports third-quarter GDP growth on October 26, it will likely show a healthy-sounding two-to-three percent. But the real economy is getting worse, and voters know it, judging from Biden’s meager 37 percent approval for handling the economy according to the RealClearPolitics average.
The manufacturing sector has been in a slump for a year. Housing is unaffordable. Consumers have blown through savings from the pandemic and racked up a record amount of high-interest credit card debt. Student loan payments have just resumed. Gasoline prices will likely increase until a recession arrives. High-interest rates will put many companies that need new capital under stress or into bankruptcy. Commercial real estate is headed for a more profound crisis, which in turn will put financial organizations that carry those real estate companies’ loans into distress. The economy will likely contract this quarter, leading to a stock market decline. A second quarter of economic contraction in the new year would lead to a technical recession being declared just as the election campaign heats up next summer.
The foreign policy outlook is just as poor. Biden’s popularity went negative after the humiliating 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden’s aides have hoped that success in Ukraine would wipe away that shame. However, the much-touted spring and summer Ukrainian counteroffensive failed. Both parties in Congress support continued funding of Ukraine’s military and government, but the public has soured. Polls now show a majority of voters want an end to the U.S. largesse. Voters see China and Iran as serious threats that require attention and aren’t buying the Beltway expert argument that the United States needs to wage a draining proxy war with Russia to scare Beijing and Tehran.
Voters will only become more displeased that Washington appears to care more about Ukraine’s borders than our own. Biden’s summer charm offensive on China—he sent several cabinet officials to Beijing, one of whom literally bowed to China’s vice premier—has yielded nothing of value. His Europe-first foreign policy also seems to have breathed new life into terrorism sponsored by Iran and its proxies, including Hamas.
Back at home, Biden faces the real prospect of third-party challengers who will sap votes from the Democrats in key states. Liberal activist Cornel West will run as an independent. Robert Kennedy Jr. also just decided to do so, given his treatment by the Democrat establishment and progressive media, who refused even to countenance discussion of his points of view.
Democrats comfort themselves that Republicans are in disarray, having ousted the latest lackluster Republican Speaker of the House. But all Republicans need a Speaker who can do a decent job of communicating the crises at the border and on the budget. Even though they must eventually compromise with Democrats, given the balance of power in Washington, all Republicans have to do is put up a fight and stay generally on message until all attention turns to the presidential race. That could happen beginning in January when Trump could stumble in the Iowa Caucuses, likely at the hands of DeSantis.
Finally, there is Biden’s visibly deteriorating health. The Constitution created a strong presidency because it is necessary to manage a giant executive branch, act decisively in a crisis, and cut deals in the shared powerlessness that marks much of bureaucratic and legislative Washington. Paradoxically, it is the presidency, not the Congress, that is the most democratic institution in town. The president alone is elected by the whole country, and he alone has the power to advocate decisively for the people’s interests. Does anyone think Biden is getting better at performing this role? Instead of Biden, the highly ideological White House staff operates the executive branch. Voters grasp this dangerous situation, with large majorities saying Biden is too old to govern.
Therefore, Biden will likely lose altitude on the real economy, the stock market, foreign affairs, and his health. His opponents on the Left and Right will gain strength. Growing numbers of Democrats perceive this, as indicated by more and more Left-leaning pundits calling for him to step aside. Come winter, they will have even stronger arguments to dump Biden.
Christian Whiton is a senior fellow for strategy and trade at the Center for the National Interest. He was a senior advisor in the George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump administrations.
Original URL: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/joe-it%E2%80%99s-all-downhill-here-206932
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