Even with so much evidence to the contrary, some media commentators cling to the creaky shibboleth that the “wisdom of the American people” is expressed in every election. Wisdom is not the word that springs to mind when contemplating what drives this country’s citizens to cast their votes the way they do. At best, an election is a collective gut reaction that is derived as much from deep-seated biases and misinformation as by rationality and serious research.
We may be sentient beings, but we are no geniuses when it comes to politics.
A little over a year ago, Americans made a choice for president between a calm, competent, seasoned professional politician and an amoral, ignorant, narcissistic con man. Nearly half of the voters went for the con man. At the time, there was a modicum of comfort in the fact that a bare majority of Americans voted the other way, but now, if polls are correct, quite a few of those folks appear unhappy with their choice. Do they want the con man back?
In one year, Joe Biden has managed to help millions of Americans navigate through the COVID-19 shutdown of the economy by providing billions of dollars in direct aid to individuals and businesses. He has signed into law a massive infrastructure bill that will fix highways, bridges, electrical grids, transportation links and other vital underpinnings of our economy, something past presidents – the con man in particular – failed to do. Biden has also ended the endless war in Afghanistan and has brought coherence back to American foreign policy. And, in the federal bureaucracy, he has replaced criminality with competence.
Nevertheless, the president’s poll numbers are sinking.
Voters on the left complain that Biden has not done enough, as if it is not a political miracle that he has accomplished so much in less than a year, given the razor-thin Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. Voters on the right see Biden through the distorted lenses provided by Fox News, Alex Jones and QAnon and await the imminent restoration of Donald Trump’s regime, either through the Pillow Guy or the ghost of John F. Kennedy Jr.
Perhaps most dispiriting of all, the middle-of-the-road, suburban swing voters seem to be swinging away from Biden. Ask them why, and they cannot really tell you. If their comments to the media are a true indication, they have no clue what Biden has been doing for them. They know more about who Kim Kardashian is dating or where to get the best Black Friday deals.
Yes, the voters get it right now and then, but it is not wisdom. It is dumb luck.
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