Friday, July 29, 2022

Is "Biden is senile" backfiring?

It is strange how suddenly the story about an imminent midterm blood bath in the midterms has faded away. The consensus nowadays is that the Democrats will probably expand their majority in the Senate, although holding the House is still in question. The sudden change in fortunes (according to swings in the polls) is attributed to: (1) the Uvalde shooting, (2) the Dobbs abortion decision, (3) the J6 hearings, and (4) the series of really bad candidates (mostly Trump-endorsed) the Republicans are running on. I wonder if there are a few other factors: (5) the Republicans' inability to move on from the 2020 election (which is related to #3), and (6) Biden's age.

I need to explain that last one more. Republicans have been talking about Biden's alleged senility since the 2020 election. Personally, I think they came up with that because Biden was running to be the oldest president ever and to deflect from Donald Trump's fairly clear (in my mind) mental decline. Going into the midterms, Republicans had a real advantage given that the party with the Presidency almost always loses seats in Congress in the midterms. That phenomenon is even more pronounced in recent times, as party identification increases and all elections have become ways to show support for your team. The idea is elections are nationalized and voters vote more for the party than the individual. So if they are not happy with a President, they will vote for the opposite party as a way to express dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction with Biden is pretty high. His legislative agenda had stalled (or at least that's what it looked like before this week), and voters' chief concern, inflation, is something that the public largely blames the president for, even if there is not a whole lot he can do to fight inflation.

But I wonder if the Republicans' constant messaging about how Biden is incompetent, or checked out, or not mentally capable to address our problems, could be undermining the usual midterm voting patterns. If Biden was senile, that is an individual issue. It doesn't mean the current mess we are in is the result of Democrats in general. If someone thinks "Biden is a good person who is in over his head and is failing as a president" that is an argument to put more Democrats into the government to make it easier for Biden, or at least his aides who (that person might think) are really running the show. If our problems are because we have a demented individual in the White House, it makes no sense to take it out on people with their entire mental faculties who happen to be in the same party as the President. "Biden is senile" is an argument against nationalizing the mid-terms because it is a personal flaw, not a flaw that would tar any other Democrat.