Campaign season is ramping up, and with Biden’s approval numbers steadily falling, Democrats look increasingly likely to get wiped out in the midterms. Yes, there’s lots to fret about the state of our democracy—after all, the party that continues to deny the legitimacy of the previous elections stands to be rewarded at the upcoming ones—but other things are afoot. A couple of stories on my radar:
The Almighty Fed
Inflation is top of mind for many voters and is likely a substantial cause of Biden’s lackluster polling. Unfortunately for presidents who find themselves behind the inflation 8-ball, the cure for inflation is often as painful as the disease itself. Also unfortunately for sitting presidents, they don’t get to choose how and when inflation gets tackled. They only get the blame for the pain.
I think that as a result of living in the post-Trump, post-COVID, post-expertise world, I feel quite unsettled knowing the fate of the economy, and thereby the livelihood of every American citizen, is tied to the decisions made by nine unelected bureaucrats at the Fed. Decades back, Alan Greenspan was broadly viewed as an infallible diety. Today, it feels irresponsible to trust technocrats with this responsibility.
Then again, I certainly wouldn’t prefer shifting this responsibility to Congress, which can barely string together votes to avoid defaulting on our bills. And considering the incompetency displayed by Biden’s administration in various other arenas, I’m glad they aren’t making this call either. And I’m not a cryptocurrency maximalist who believes we’d be better off with no one at the wheel.
So where do I land? I suppose grudgingly backing the Fed’s expertise. Let’s hope they get it right, despite what is in retrospect a very mixed record.
Biden the Statesman
As tensions on the Ukrainian border continue to rise, President Biden held a two hour news conference this week. He bungled a question so badly that the President of Ukraine rebuked him. His team had was running clean-up almost immediately.
The words of the President of the United States always matter, but they are especially important in times of potential conflict. Such moments demand precise language and calculated statesmanship.
If Biden isn’t capable of speaking with exactness on such delicate issues, then Damir is right, the president’s team should seek to avoid putting him in situations like these. Of course, such an admission would undermine the president’s perceived ability to lead the country, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Pelosi Steps In It
After a lengthy investigation by Business Insider about members of Congress trading stocks, there is renewed interest in banning the practice. But instead of using the anti-corruption momentum as a much-needed political gift, Speaker Pelosi publicly defended the practice.
It’s not a great look for the Democratic old guard, but the backlash was swift and notably bipartisan. In the House, AOC spoke out forcefully while Kevin McCarthy promised to prohibit stock trading next term if his party retakes power. Meanwhile, Senators from both parties are already introducing bills to do the same.
Defending stock trading by Congressmembers is clearly political poison. So why would Pelosi, a notoriously shrewd politician, damage her party like this? Politics is a notoriously filthy business, and even the shrewdest players can get clobbered if you swing at them from a blindspot. I wouldn’t have thought Pelosi would stumble this badly on something so obvious. But she did. And whatever the reason, it’s yet another story that will likely linger into the midterms, even if individual Democrats manage to distance themselves from Pelosi’s performance.
A COVID Diary
Shadi tried out an unusual format for the Monday Note this week and completely nailed it. The piece was funny and whimsical, while also being deeply introspective. It was a uniquely fun read. I’m glad Shadi treated us to a different side of himself.
Blogging is Back
I’m a bit younger than my colleagues here at WoC, and up until this very moment I haven’t admitted to them that I have no memory of the glory days of blogging. When they were excitedly describing how our new blog, Friends & Enemies, would work, I struggled to see the vision. Now that it has launched, I’ve been thrilled with the result and can’t wait to see where the guys take it from here. One thread which started as an interesting point about the American desire to place itself in opposition to an external “evil”, has derailed into a high falutin mini-debate over the philosopher Chantal Mouffe vs. Pat Buchanan. The new blog feature has been utterly delightful to watch unfold, if you haven’t checked it out, you are missing out.
If you missed the latest podcast with Aaron Sibarium, please do go listen. The conversation is fascinating and at times unsettling, but I find myself ruminating on one specific part of the conversation: when the guys admirably tried to steelman the other side of the argument. It occurs to me that if our mission at Wisdom of Crowds is to understand why people believe what they believe, we should seek out a culturally progressive guest who holds these views in earnest. After talking with Shadi and Damir, this is something we are going to strive to accomplish. So, if you have any guest suggestions, please send them our way.