Mainstream media outlets may not be happy about it, but this election is about the economy.
“Is President Joe Biden in any way responsible for elevated inflation?” struggling Arizona Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) was asked during a recent press interview.
The response was an immediate, unhesitating and illuminating: “No.”
Her commitment to the Democratic Party, while no doubt admirable, is leaving Democrats like Hobbs more vulnerable to political attack than a smart pivot into a discussion of what Democrats, if elected, intend to do about the top two voter concerns this year: Inflation and the economy.
“Inflation and the economy,” is shorthand for a much wider and larger range of concerns: Namely, Americans are experiencing financial pain much worse- which has worsened much faster- than anything they experienced in 2008.
“Everything your family bought last year now costs about $5,200 more,” found MoneyWatch on March 30, 2022. That was, of course, back when some optimists were still calling such inflation “transitory”.
According to Moody’s, by August 3, 2022, inflation’s impact on the average household was up to $460 per month.
“Inflation costing the average American $717 a month: Higher prices already cost Americans $8,607 over past year,” was the more pessimistic take at FOX News, but not even NPR could put much more of a spin on it.
Only a month later, even the optimistic inflationary cost estimates were up to $11,500.
Consumers are piling on credit card debt they can ill afford. Family budget cuts have gone well beyond trimming the unnecessary fat of a few luxuries and lunches out.
Some Democrats are falling into the trap of dismissing the real-world concerns of the working class. Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in the media.
Journalists and opinion writers are waxing poetic about the day when some of the large price increases of 2021 fall off the yearly average, which will make rising prices look, if only on paper, a little better. They are often dismissing out-of-hand the economic pain being felt by the working class as, “higher gas prices”.
The mainstream media landscape is suddenly littered with trendy think pieces about how inflation isn’t as bad as people are making it out to be, which are being added to all the other articles about higher energy costs being the price of Democracy.
“Republicans Cannot and Will Not Reduce Gasoline Prices,” threatened Washington Monthly on October 21. “The pain at the pump isn’t going away, despite their drill-baby-drill talk. The good news is that the electric revolution has arrived.”
…and the really bad news is that the majority of electricity powering the U.S. grid is still being produced by burning fossil fuels; coal, natural gas, and petroleum, as even the most cursory internet search will reveal.
“High Gas Prices and Recession Appear to Be the Cost of Defending Democracy,” wrote Barron’s, somewhat loftily, on June 22, 2022.
“We need to talk about what’s at stake in the midterms,” lectured MSNBC on October 20, 2022. “Most coverage would have you think this election is about inflation and gas prices. It isn’t.”
“This election isn’t about inflation or abortion: It’s about whether democracy can survive,” warned Salon sternly on October 17, 2022. “Of course the economy and reproductive rights are important. But in the shadow of fascism, they almost don’t matter.”
Some media outlets seem genuinely angry that the American voting public would ignore their plethora of warnings about Threats to Democracy and care more about not being able to pay their bills. Perhaps they haven’t noticed the precipitously falling levels of trust in the media.
“Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority,” groused the New York Times on October 18, 2022. “A New York Times/Siena College Poll found that other problems have seized voters’ focus — even as many do not trust this year’s election results and are open to anti-democratic candidates.”
“Americans’ Indifference About January 6 Is the Real Threat to Democracy,” scolded the Intelligencer on October 20.
This attitude is making progressive media outlets seem woefully out of step with the working-class American electorate, as poll after poll- which are probably still underestimating likely Republican and conservative-leaning voters- are revealing.
“Without an Economic Message, Democrats Will Never Close the Deal,” The Nation warned today. “Abortion and extremism have made the midterms a neck-and-neck race — but the party is still missing an economic message.”
This is a message pouring in from all sides. Will mainstream, progressive media outlets change track before it’s too late?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)