Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump would be among the least desirable nominees for 2024. Americans are profoundly unhappy about the direction of the country and want someone focused more sharply on challenges in their daily lives and less on the cultural issues that obsess the extremes of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Mainstream Democratic voters may want something done to address access to abortion, energy costs, crime, equity and child-care but don’t confuse them with violent pro-choice demonstrators, pastors wrapping themselves in Rainbow banners, and professional activists at nonprofits and in the media.
Biden’s responses to inflation—the Inflation Reduction Act, blaming Vladimir Putin and monopolists, and tapping the strategic petroleum reserve—are getting him little traction.
Little support for Biden
Much has been written about the New York Times poll in July that found 64% of those planning to vote in a Democratic presidential primary would prefer someone other than Biden. And subsequent polls confirm this finding or at least show that support for a second term is not particularly strong among within his own party.
Pundits in the mainstream media aligning with the hard left warn Biden risks losing the Democratic base by not fighting hard enough for the progressive agenda.
For example, by declaring a national health emergency to protect women’s right to an abortion.
Or by declaring a National Climate Emergency to erase the Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA. Essentially, it said the administration can’t force utilities to retrofit or junk old coal- and gas-fired plants without Congress writing a law.
Of the Democratic primary voters in the New York Times poll who want Biden not to run again, only 9% say it’s because he is not progressive enough.
Trump seen as unattractive
Trump continues to enjoy enough support among Republican voters, and, if he chooses to run, stands a decent chance of being nominated.
However, in interviews and focus groups conducted by The Wall Street Journal and Republican strategists, his supporters appear to be concluding the revelations of the Jan. 6 Committee make him unattractive. GOP lawmakers are not very enthusiastic.
His constant harping about a stolen election doesn’t address voter’s concerns now. His legal problems are a severe liability among independents, and he consistently trails Biden badly in head-to-head polls.
Like their moderate Democratic friends, Republicans and independents are exhausted and want their lives fixed.
Want decent folk
Most decent folks earn their living by making things other people use. They don’t need their lives justified or careers financed by manufacturing guilt about the exaggerated or imagined consequences of historical injustices, threats to their rights, or environmental Armageddon.
Those that do include the executive classes of the pro-choice and the climate/racial/economic justice movements at nonprofits, universities and law firms. Diversity and inclusion officers embedded in organizations to root out sexist, racist and ableist speech and private thought.
Equally culpable are conservative pundits and politicians preaching that those progressives are taking a wrecking ball to civilization and God’s ordained order.
The noisy gets the press—too often, they are the press.
Protests and outrage—decadence and disharmony—attract eyeballs, boost ratings, multiply mouse clicks, and sell ads. The media is all too happy to fix public attention by fanning the flames.
Disillusionment and exhaustion is most apparent among younger voters. They are tired of septuagenarians and octogenarians reimaging Woodstock and the Reagan Revolution to manufacture contemporary rage.
The Ivy educated and high-techies aside, the Global Financial Crisis, COVID and now the inflation fallout from excessive pandemic spending and war in Ukraine have truncated the youth of too many Americans into endless musical chairs for good-enough paying jobs and affordable rents.
Solutions, not revolutions
In the quiet of the voting booth, Americans want solutions not revolutions. They worry about inflation, decent jobs in a coming recession, accessible housing, police tactics and crime, and competent schools for their children.
Addressing those issues will require smarter use of federal dollars—not raising or cutting taxes. And reimaging cities to be affordable and safe, not welfare programs for municipal unions, privileged sanctuaries for the value-signaling, Acela Class or a pit of despair for the working poor.
Replacing the useless degrees universities frequently hustle with more affordable, job-waiting training programs offered by Coursera and other private firms. And acknowledging that many long-departed students were hustled as adolescents by self-serving educators.
Democrats too much believe boosting voter turnout among young people and Hispanics will improve their prospects. However, motivating participation by more disaffected young folks and Hispanics, who are moving toward the culturally conservative Republican Party, may not deliver the dividends progressives expect.
The party that put forward a 40-something candidate with moderate, plausible-sounding plans to curb inflation and rekindle growth, tap down abortion and climate/racial/economic justice hysteria and limit the damage imposed on Americans by conditions in Europe would capture the White House in 2024.
Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.
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