The midterm election campaigns are in full swing and we know this because there is a ton of new polling coming out every week. If you are a Republican you are enjoying them immensely. If you're a Democrat, not so much.
So far the consensus is that this will be a typical midterm election which means that the party in the White House is likely to lose seats. It's not written in stone, of course. The post-Trump political world remains volatile and world events have a way of changing the predictable electoral trajectory. From the looks of the polling, the country is still in a bad mood. Two years of dealing with the pandemic has taken its toll both socially and economically. Inflation is biting, even with strong wage growth. And for half the country, the assault on democracy engineered by Donald Trump and the Republicans feels like a dangerous threshold has been crossed while the other half thinks the election was stolen from the rightful winner. The culture is raging again at home while we are witnessing yet another horrific war, this time in Europe, and the whole world is holding its breath in the hopes that it ends quickly.
Personally, I think the last five years of divisiveness and chaos at the hands of Trump and the Republicans left the country with a collective case of PTSD. But the reality is that on a number of levels, the country is climbing back out of the Trumpian abyss.
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First of all, the unemployment numbers are excellent. There are a lot of jobs out there and wages are growing too. People have the freedom to quit and find other work and the confidence to do that is something many haven't felt since before the financial crisis over a decade ago. Last Friday, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate is down to 3.6% with 416,000 jobs created in March alone. In fact, 6.4 million jobs were created in 2021 and 1.7 million so far in 2022. That's an astonishing turnaround in a very short period of time.
Unfortunately, the media always seems to find a way to give this news a negative spin. This one from Axios is dizzying:
It's very hard to understand the need to put the word millions in quotes in a headline like that unless you want to suggest that number isn't real. Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, quipped in response, "His campaign pledge to create millions of jobs is complicated by having created millions of jobs."
That sort of spin from Axios may explain why polling shows that 37% of Americans think jobs have been lost over the last year while only 28% think jobs have been gained. That's with 3.6% unemployment!
"The last five years of divisiveness and chaos at the hands of Trump and the Republicans left the country with a collective case of PTSD"
If you think that all of this is one big contradictory mishmash of economic illiteracy, you are right. Here's living proof, with Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich, at Trump's rally over the weekend telling the crowd that unemployment is at a 40 year high and that we have a labor shortage:
This is somehow Biden's fault, too.
Politico explained the incoherence as the result of the Biden White House's inability to properly "message" the global problem of inflation which is taking precedence over all other economic concerns. They quote a gleeful Republican operative saying that "When Republicans are talking about people encountering rising prices every minute of every day versus Democrats talking about bridges that might be built in three years, it's like an NFL team going against a peewee football team."
Maybe. But Republicans shouldn't measure themselves for a Super Bowl ring just yet. Their "NFL team" is getting more dysfunctional by the day.
There's no need to recapitulate all the ways in which Donald Trump is complicating the GOP's hopes for a big win in November. From his endorsements of fringe candidates to demands for a litmus test on the 2020 election to his incessant ranting against the so-called RINOs, Trump is making the GOP's campaign much more difficult than it should be.
But he's not the only problem and he may not even be the biggest one. No, that would be Florida Senator Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who decided it would be a good idea to defy the Senate Majority Leader and put out an agenda for Republicans to run on. That might be reasonable in the abstract, but his 11 Point Plan to Rescue America is batshit lunacy and the Republicans know it.
Much of it is the usual right-wing cant about work and family and law and order. But there is some stuff in this thing that will make for some beautiful ads if the Democrats can find it in themselves to get off the defensive and tell the American people about it.
Scott proposes to reduce the federal workforce by 25% in five years and limit all federal employment to 12 years. He wants to move most Government agencies out of Washington and sell off most of the federal government's assets, buildings and land. He wants to gut the IRS by 50%, even as he proposes to raise taxes on the poorest Americans. Oh and he pledges to sunset all federal legislation in five years, including Social Security and Medicare, as well as the Civil Rights Act. All of it. Every five years, it would all have to be passed again.
And he proposes to "finish building the wall and name it after President Donald Trump." Isn't that sweet?
The shocking thing is that Scott really isn't out of the GOP mainstream with these ideas. For all the talk of "populism" in Trump's GOP, it's always been more about culture war and xenophobia than anything else. The average Trump voter hears "drain the swamp" and "deep state" and thinks it's about punishing the woke Democrats and traitorous RINOs and many of them are probably on board with taxing the poor and ending medicaid for people they think don't deserve it. But the minority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who aren't bought in to the Trump cult will be reminded of just how nuts the Republican Party has become if they look at Scott's plan. This is the Republican Party, it's not Trump.
I'm not saying that the Democrats have an easy row to hoe to keep control of Congress. But despite their delusions of NFL grandeur, it's not as if the other side is a juggernaut. Between Trump's terrible candidates, the toxic white supremacist, QAnon conspiracy, Putin adoring faction of weirdos making news every day, and now this right-wing wet dream of a legislative agenda from Rick Scott, the Democrats have plenty to work with — if they can bring themselves to take it to Republicans instead of waiting to be run over.