Buckle in for a month of election surprises.
Elected officials in America have a difficult job at the best of times.
The United States has a population of over 330 million people- a diverse bunch, multitudinous and individualistic. All those old terrors still haunt us: Class struggles, social inequities, greed and poverty, discrimination, the arms race, man’s inhumanity to man.
The age-old, perennial struggle between the two opposing forces present in any human society is still happening, too. One might even say, the divide is as deep as it has ever been, deeper even than we knew in the days before social media put us all wise to the spectrum of personal opinions held by our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members.
The force of progressivism and the opposing force of conservatism- caught in an eternal tug of war- seem to be at odds as never before.
Elected officials were once able to take time off each year to do the hard work of freedom. After all, just like we learned in Civics 101, bills don’t just become laws by themselves. Countries don’t run on their own. The official duties of political office holders are many, complex and eternal.
On top of all that, elected officials, however effective they are at lawmaking and delivering for their constituents back home, still have to be reelected- fairly frequently, too.
Members of Congress must face the voting public every two years; a period which, as we’ve seen these past two years, can pass in the blink of an eye.
It seems like only yesterday, Democrats and Republicans were attending the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris; progressives jubilant, conservatives less so.
The jubilation wasn’t to last, however. President Biden inherited a nation still in the grips of a deadly pandemic, amid great turmoil both at home and around the world.
Heading into the midterms, voters have a whole host of deep concerns they did not have two years ago.
Inflation, soaring prices, and higher costs are crippling the working class. Crime is something increasingly on the minds of voters heading into November, a factor which Republican candidates are exploiting with ruthless efficiency.
To be fair, the correlation between the progressive “Defund the Police” movement of 2020 and the subsequent explosion of crime is hard to miss. Correlation isn’t causation, of course; many factors may have played a part in the crime wave sweeping the country.
Unfortunately for progressives heading into the election, some of those factors were heavily championed by popular progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Certain progressive policies worsened crime, and in Democratic Party strongholds in particular, overly broad bail reform being one of them.
Extended public school closures in districts that heavily favor Democrats were, in retrospect, probably a terrible mistake. In this, school districts which remained stubbornly shut to in-person learning throughout 2020 and most of 2021 were outliers, not just in the U.S. but internationally.
In most places, public officials and public health experts judged the risk to kids to be minimal, the risk to teachers being no worse than the risks other essential workers faced throughout the pandemic, and kept schools open.
Keeping schools shut hurt impoverished and disadvantaged households the most. The learning losses are staggering. Other losses are worse: Some already at-risk kids left middle school or high school in March of 2020 and never went back.
At the start of the Fall 2022 school semester, the Los Angeles Unified School district was missing between 10,000 and 20,000 students from the rosters.
The rise in crimes committed by young adults and minors is responsible, in large part, to the rise in crime overall.
Possibly as a result of rising crime, the Republican challenger to New York’s Democratic incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul is within a staggering two points of catching up in the polls. Considering pollsters are still wildly under-sampling likely Republican voters, this latest poll should shock any voting Democrat.
In Georgia, nasty political tricks have perhaps reached an all time low, with both Senate candidates tarnished by the suggestion of scandalous personal lives and past indiscretions. The two candidates, incumbent Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Hershel Walker are tied in the polls.
Even Dr. Mehmet Oz is catching up to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and, “Democrats Aren’t Laughing at Dr. Oz Anymore as Pennsylvania Race Tightens,” as Ed Kilgore put it for the Intelligencer yesterday.
Instead of laughing along, media outlets should perhaps be asking how these Republicans could possibly be gaining in the polls considering the unremittingly negative coverage they get in the mainstream press.
Gas prices, which reached shocking highs not long ago, are once again creeping back up, are already over $6 in California. With the news this week that OPEC will be, in spite of President Biden’s infamous fist-bump with Saudi Prince Muhammad Bin Salman months ago, cutting instead of increasing production, prices look likely to rise again- and soon.
On the same day the Biden Administration signals its deep displeasure at the move- and a sympathetic press accuses the Saudis of everything from helping Russia to intentionally sabotaging Joe Biden ahead of the midterms- a proposed ban on all offshore oil drilling is also incongruously announced.
With our strategic oil reserves now dangerously depleted, it’s clear America should brace for another bout with astronomical fuel prices.
Of course, anything might happen over the next month.
Just today, President Joe Biden made a major announcement, pardoning all those convicted for marijuana possession under federal law. 6,500 people are reportedly going to benefit from this move, along with several thousand more from the D.C. area.
The Biden Administration is also asking the states to reconsider their classification of the drug.
Also today, The Washington Post dropped this bombshell on its unsuspecting audience: “Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden: Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, must decide whether to charge the son of the current president.”
For some committed progressives in the press, the answer to the Democratic Party’s midterm concerns is for the press to treat Democratic politicians a little more gently. Alas, that doesn’t seem in the least likely to happen, or in some cases even be possible.
This is one election where no quarter should be asked for nor given by the press corps.
It looks like Democrats, Republicans, voters, undecideds, the apathetic and the acolytes are all in for a bumpy hayride heading into fall.
This October is going to be full of surprises.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)