Which raises a question few would have asked just a few months ago: Is Joe Biden — who, for the record, had a much better midterm than Ronald Reagan in 1982 — perhaps headed for a moment of “morning in America”?
A few months ago I looked at the “Misery Index” – the sum of unemployment and inflation, originally suggested by Arthur Okun as a quick and crude summary of the state of economy. I used to think this index was stupid; there are several reasons why this shouldn’t make sense. But it has historically done a surprisingly good job of tracking consumer sentiment. And as I noted even then, the misery index seemed to be declining.
Well, now he’s fallen off a cliff. Using the inflation rate for the past six months, the misery index, which stood at 14 as recently as June, has now fallen to 5.4, roughly what it was on the eve of the pandemic, when Donald Trump confidently expected a strong economy to secure his re-election.
Nor is it the only thing the Democrats have going for them. Green Energy Subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act Drive Multiple New Investments in Domestic Manufacturing; it’s unclear how many jobs will be created, but the next two years will give Biden plenty of opportunities to preside over factory openings, giving speeches about how America is making America great again.
Now, I’m not predicting a Democratic explosion in 2024. On the one hand, a lot can happen in the next 22 months, although I don’t think Republicans, even with the cooperation of too many in the media, will convince Americans that the Biden administration is riddled with corruption. On the other hand, elections are often not so much about the quality of things as the perceived rate of improvement, and with inflation and unemployment already low, it’s unclear what room there is for a boom.
Additionally, extreme political polarization has likely made landslide elections a thing of the past. Republicans could probably nominate George Santos and still get 47% of the vote.
But to the extent that the economic landscape shapes the political landscape, things look much better for Democrats now than almost anyone imagined until very recently.