A bloodbath is coming in 2022. And it’s all about the economy, stupid.
While ancillary issues like cancel culture and critical race theory further the divide between Democratic elites and American voters — and, indeed, electability — the top issue in 2022 has always been and will continue to be the economy. Pocketbook issues always matter most, especially now and regardless of the daily social media cycle.
On that score, President Biden has every reason to be concerned. Even Democrats can’t paint a rosy picture for 2022, hence the likes of NPR predicting a “red wave.”
You don’t have to be a Republican to see it. Just crunch the numbers: U.S. inflation recently surged to a nearly 40-year high, rising 6.8% from a year ago — the fastest increase since 1982. Used car and truck prices are up 31% since last year. Energy costs are up 33.3% year-over-year. The cost of gasoline is up even more (58.1%) in a span of 12 months.
Throw in a 6.1% food price increase, and you have the lowest level of American purchasing power in a generation. In politics, the equation is simple: You start with a crisis — in this case, inflation. If enough people worry about the crisis, they will blame the current leadership in Washington. And blame eventually becomes change.
Public opinion suggests historic change is on the way. Nearly 90% of Americans are “highly concerned” about inflation, with many planning to cut back on spending — a vicious cycle for a consumer-driven economy. The crisis has been clearly identified.
Now, on to blame. With Mr. Biden’s approval rating cratering, American voters now favor Republicans on handling the economy by an unprecedented 18 percentage points — a record gap. Nearly 70% of Americans specifically disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of inflation. The more Democrats celebrate 1.5-cent drops in gas prices, the larger the gap will grow. The more they preach about electric cars or tell coal miners to “learn to code” (and they will), the redder the wave becomes.
How does the $2 trillion Build Back Better plan — a tax-and-spend behemoth — cure America’s inflation ills? Newsflash: It doesn’t. Wasn’t “free” money the problem in the first place? Yes, it was. Democrats should heed the recent advice of Sen. Joe Manchin: “We can’t afford to continue to flood the market as we’ve done.”
Our economic system can’t afford it, and neither can his party — not when inflation is only one indicator of economic failure. As we speak, millions of U.S. employers struggle to hire employees who would rather quit their jobs or live on their COVID-era benefits. Job openings still surpass a record 10 million, with a record number of small business owners reporting labor quality as their top business problem. Some employers are so desperate to hire that they’re giving out incidental bonuses just to find workers. Others are getting rid of drug-testing requirements. When almost 70% of employers find hiring difficult (a 15-year high), anything goes.
You’ve probably noticed a lot of “records” for the Biden economy — and none good. By now, you know the numbers. This is one of the worst economies to “run on” in U.S. history, and that is the tall task for Democrats next year.
For the incumbent party, losing seats in a midterm election is normal. But there’s nothing normal about a political bloodbath. I’ve spoken to dozens of Republican activists in recent weeks, and they’re more energized than ever. They know, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Brace yourselves for history in 2022.
• Ted Harvey is chair of the Committee to Defeat the President.