Election Day finally arrives tomorrow, and most serious political analysts expect the Democrats to lose their majorities in both houses of Congress while incurring significant collateral damage in numerous state and local contests. There is still some uncertainty about the ultimate size of the looming wave, but there is little doubt that it will profoundly alter the political landscape. This inevitably raises the following question: Do the Democrats have the capacity to learn anything from defeat?
Sadly, the answer is probably “no.” The Democrats suffer from a collective learning disability that prevents them from grasping important realities about the voters — such as our capacity to differentiate between fact and fiction. They believe that most voters disapprove of President Joe Biden’s fiscal stewardship because the White House has failed to craft an effective narrative to explain his economic “successes.” The Democrats can’t conceive of an electorate capable of clearly comprehending the world without being told what to think about it.
This view of the voters was perfectly distilled by Paul Krugman in a recent New York Times column: “Voters do, indeed, perceive a bad economy. But perceptions don’t necessarily match reality.” Krugman would have us believe that, when Biden looked into the camera last month and declared, “Our economy is strong as hell,” he was right. Our lived experiences with inflation, the decline in real wages, and product shortages tell us nothing about the health of the economy. So, how exactly would Krugman teach us the error of our ways?
I’m not suggesting that Democrats spend their final campaigning days telling voters that the economy is actually just fine. It isn’t. But Democrats shouldn’t concede that the overall economy is in bad shape, either. Some very good things have happened on their watch, above all a jobs recovery that has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations. And they have every right to point out that while Republicans may denounce inflation, Republicans have no plan whatsoever to reduce it.
Krugman insists that “very good things have happened on [the Democrats’] watch” but names only one. Moreover, the “jobs recovery” he touts has been accompanied by a labor shortage caused by the Democratic war on work. The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that unfilled job openings have increased to 10.7 million. This will continue to fuel a dangerous wage-price spiral that will force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to the point that a recession is inevitable.
As to a Republican plan to reduce inflation, the mere fact that the GOP will control the House of Representatives will halt the inflationary spending spree. The inflation that now bedevils us was ignited by the “American Rescue Plan” passed by the Democratic Congress and signed into law by Biden against the advice of countless economists. As the Hill reported at the time, former Obama administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers described it thus: “I think this is the least responsible macroeconomic policy we’ve had in the last 40 years.”
The voters understand all this and that claims about the absence of a Republican plan are false. Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal reported last June, the GOP was already working on an inflation strategy in anticipation of winning a majority in the House. Paul Krugman is by no means the only commentator who believes that the electorate is too clueless to know who wrecked the economy. Michael Tomasky implausibly asserts in the New Republic that the Democratic Party has a better economic track record than the Republican Party.
Every poll I’ve ever seen that asks “which party is better for the economy” shows that American voters favor Republicans. They’re the party of business, after all. It’s about that simple. In addition, the presumptions voters have been brainwashed into believing over these last four decades — private spending good, public spending bad — makes it easy for Republicans to argue that Joe Biden and the socialistic Democrats caused inflation with all that irresponsible spending … It’s all lies.
He then cherry-picks various statistics that purport to show that, historically, Republicans typically make a hash of the economy, forcing their Democratic successors to come in and clean up the mess. If this seems backward, it’s not an illusion. Tomasky admits he omitted President Reagan’s tenure from his “analysis” and hilariously claims that including those stats wouldn’t alter the ultimate conclusion. Anyone old enough to remember the Reagan recovery from President Carter’s stagflation knows this fails the laugh test.
The good news is that the Americans who witnessed the near-miraculous Reagan recovery are the least likely to buy this balderdash. Moreover, they are also the highest-propensity voters in midterm elections. In the 2018 midterms, for example, 63.8 percent of voters aged 65 and older cast ballots, compared to 30.1 percent of voters aged 18 to 24. From the perspective of the Republicans, it doesn’t get much better than this. Seniors are far more likely to suffer hardship due to “Bidenflation,” and they are also more likely to show up and vote.
All of which brings us back to the question posed above: Do the Democrats have the capacity to learn anything from defeat? If history is any guide, they will engage in about 15 minutes of introspection and ignore the obvious lesson. This party has won the House majority twice in this century and only managed to hold it for two terms each time. They treat their constituents like serfs and are somehow surprised when the latter revolt. The Democrats clearly suffer from a learning disability. The only cure is a decade or three in the wilderness.