The headlines about the polls are right, of course.
President Joe Biden's approval rating is in the toilet, right down there with presidents who stumble into wars, hostage crises, gas shortages and other calamities.
Biden has done none of those things, thankfully.
We stumbled out of a war, not into one. Fewer troops are in harm's way.
The economy, while certainly not as strong as the administration's cheerleaders relentlessly claim, is by no means foundering the way it was when both inflation and unemployment were in the double digits, not to mention America being held hostage.
Yes, the president has been seen closing his eyes at inappropriate moments.
And, more seriously, the administration has come to be seen as unreliable when it comes to the pandemic, the proof being the growing divide between the governors and the public, on the one hand, and the administration on the other.
It's one thing to have governors against you; the public is another matter.
But the underlying reason we can even think of getting rid of our masks is that the pandemic has become more manageable in the year since Biden became president.
No, he didn't cure it, and he didn't stop it; but enough people got vaccinated so that our hospitals no longer face the prospect of turning people away — "rationing care" being the euphemism — that so terrified us for two years.
A year ago, it took persistence and more to get a vaccine even if you were in one of the first tiers. I remember the feeling of lifesaving relief when my family was vaccinated.
Those appointments were like gold.
Today, it takes one call to your local CVS and they'll take you the same day. Vaccines are available to all comers. Antiviral treatments are finally available. Home tests are free.
What more should Biden have done?
Meat costs way too much. So does gasoline, especially in California, where stations literally advertise $6 gas. There are obvious problems with the supply chain, whatever that entails. The cost of housing, also especially in California, is absurd, and the prospects for young people buying their first home are an affront to the old definition of the American dream.
Even so. The right job may still be tough to find, both for young and not so young people, but a job for right now has never been easier to find, and the pay has never been better.
The complaints you hear these days are more likely to be from employers trying to fill shifts than from employees looking to fill them.
But does anyone give Biden credit for a full employment economy?
Do people say, "Thanks, Joe," when they cash their paycheck?
You can be sure we'd be blaming him for unemployment, if there was any.
And do we say, "Thanks, Joe," when we take off our masks? With the anti-vax movement, and all the snafus, most Americans got fully vaccinated.
Do we give the administration credit?
Imagine the hell there would be to pay if it were otherwise.
We may be doing OK, but how many people feel secure about the future?
There is the rub.
Former President Donald Trump — and mind you, I'm not yearning for him — was in our faces, all the time. He was many, many things, most of them bad for democracy, but he was relevant, on an hourly and daily basis.
Biden is relevant inside of the Beltway, I have no doubt of that. It's just outside the Beltway where he fades away. He is not in our faces. But he's not in our future either.
Oh, he's taking the requisite trip to Ohio to tout his infrastructure bill, the sort of trip Democrats take for such things.
Is that really newsworthy? Are we already running in Ohio?
Political communication has changed.
A trip to Ohio won't do it.
The Beltway view doesn't sell.
Irrelevance easily becomes disapproval. Biden needs to engage people on what matters, on their lives and their insecurities, and until he does, those insecurities will continue to fester at his expense.
After all, who else is there to blame?
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.