COVID-19 vaccinations of America’s children are underway; about 28 million kids ages 5 to 11 are eligible to be protected. Meanwhile, the 90-day average of both cases and deaths among the overall U.S. population is trending steadily lower, as vaccinations increase.
A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has been approved by Congress. Money, gobs of it, will soon start flowing to all 50 states for badly needed road and bridge repairs. Rural communities with poor internet service will soon have high-speed broadband. Lead pipes, which deliver tainted water to countless communities, will be replaced. The nation’s rickety power grid will get an upgrade. And more.
What else? Wages are up 4.2% over the past year, slightly higher than the “core inflation” rate that the Federal Reserve watches like a hawk. Speaking of the Fed, it says household wealth in the United States is at an all-time high, thanks to the solid housing market and a stock market that continues to defy gravity.
Overseas, we’re out of a money-sucking war in Afghanistan, and most of the world has a sharply improved opinion of America and faith in the president to do “right thing in world affairs.”
Unhappy? Remind them of the good
To recap: Jobs, jabs, prosperity and peace. And yet most Americans are unhappy. Just 28.6% say the country’s going in the right direction, says the Real Clear Politics average of all recent polls.
If nearly 6 million jobs had been created in less than one year on Donald Trump’s watch (fact check: that’s more than were created during his entire four years in office), he’d throw a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue for himself.
If he had been able to get a giant infrastructure bill passed – and in four years he failed, even though Republicans had both House and Senate majorities during his first two years – the first thing that would have gotten built wouldn’t have been a bridge but a monument to himself.
Biden does these things and his approval hits the skids. What gives?
My sense is that the administration – from the president on down – isn’t doing enough to “own the narrative.” When nearly 60% of the country – a vast majority that extends well beyond the 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats – say things aren’t going well, well, something’s up.
Perhaps the something is that Democrats have allowed the impressive economic gains occurring on their watch to be overshadowed by their “wokeness.” Not to denigrate words like “equity” and “fairness,” but perhaps Mr. Biden and Co. should spend more time reminding Americans of the basics: Jobs are plentiful. Wages are up. The country is opening up. Things are getting fixed. As Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville famously said three decades ago: It’s the economy, stupid.
Biden’s a nice guy, a good guy. A church-going family man. A doting grandpa. But he’s also an aw-shucks kind of president. Here’s the deal: What we need to see is the president talk up his accomplishments more. Certainly not in the “look how great I am” Trump way, but certainly not in his low-key, long-winded way that isn’t working now.
I keep remembering a line he used as vice president: “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!” Why hasn’t the White House communication office – or the president himself – come up with something pithy that reflects jobs, wages, vaccinations and peace? Americans with short-attention spans like pithy.
Take credit in states that matter
The president will go to Baltimore on Wednesday to talk up the new infrastructure bill and all that it’ll do for Charm City. God knows Baltimore needs fixing. But why waste time in a blue city in a blue state?
Why not step up his game and go to Ohio, where he got creamed by eight points a year ago, to remind Trumpsters who’s getting their bridges fixed?
Why not hit every swing state while he’s at it? And unless I was looking in the wrong places on Facebook, or whatever it’s called these days, I didn’t find much messaging around these themes.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is a smart, savvy guy. You know what else he is? A verbal sparrer par excellence. Remember how he went into the lions’ den – Fox News – last year and destroyed their anchors by turning the tables on them? I’d like to see him do that now to tin-foil-hat-wearing Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity and ask them what’s so bad about 6 million jobs, protecting kids and record wealth for the American people.
There’s no question that Biden, like any president, has problems. It’s a tragic fact that the Afghanistan evacuation cost 13 American service members their lives. But it’s also true that more than 120,000 men, women and children were evacuated safely and flown to freedom. Not nearly enough has been said of the latter.
Inflation is on the rise, blunting the 4.9% increase in wages Americans have seen over the past year. Blame this on the global pandemic, which has gummed up the supply chain. These are global problems. But the way Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy talk, you’d think it’s all because of Biden. McCarthy hopes to ride his disinformation all the way to the speaker’s chair in a year. Unless the administration and its allies can blunt the California con-man’s narrative, he very well may.
Jobs, jabs, prosperity and peace. That’s a good starting point for this president to better own the narrative that he is writing.
Paul Brandus is the founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. His latest book is “Jackie: Her Transformation from First Lady to Jackie O.” Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReport