Joe Biden and the Stock Market: A Parable
It's the voters, stupid.
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1. A Failure to Communicate
Last week we talked about how, by most economic indicators, the country is doing very well—yet voters increasingly disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing.
There’s a new CNBC poll that gives the clearest indication I’ve seen, maybe ever, of
how stupid voters are the magnitude of Biden’s political problem.
Let me ask you about the stock market. How is it doing? Things going pretty well on Wall Street? Is your 401k nice and healthy?
You’re damn right it is.
Here’s the Dow over the last five years. You will note a trend?
Here’s the S&P 500. Look at how this thing takes off like a rocket in 2021!
So we can stipulate that, as an objective matter, the stock market is very good right now.
And now, let’s stipulate that most voters also think that the stock market is doing very well. Here’s the CNBC poll:
[M]ost people who said they plan to vote in the 2022 midterms say the U.S. stock market is doing “excellent” or “good” while just 46% say it’s doing “not so good” or “poor.”
It’s hard to know what to make of that 46 percent who think the stock market, specifically, is “not so good” or “poor”—I mean, it’s literally higher than it has ever been before. What would it have to look like for those Great and Good American Voters to think it was “good”? But whatever. Let’s put them aside for the moment and focus on the people who think the stonks are great.
Here’s the kicker:
[W]hen asked whether they approve or disapprove of Biden’s handling of the market, just 44% said they strongly or somewhat approve compared to 56% who somewhat or strongly disapprove.
The stock market is at historic highs.
Most people think the stock market is doing well.
And most people disapprove of Biden’s “handling” of the stock market.
This is a problem? Or at least it’s indicative of a problem: Voters have decided they think Biden is doing a bad job in general, and they are applying that verdict to everything he touches. That’s how you get a political death spiral.
We could talk about the hypocrisy and irrationality of voters, if you wanted to. When the Dow was riding high from 2017 to 2019, Donald Trump wouldn’t shut up about how he’d created the hugest most historic stock market in forever:
"The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts."
"Our economy is now booming and with all I am doing, will only get better."
"You're seeing what's happening with the stock market. People are appreciating what we're doing.
"The stock market is way up again today and we're setting a record literally all the time."
"Dow goes from 18,589 on November 9, 2016, to 25,075 today, for a new all-time Record. Jumped 1000 points in last 5 weeks, Record fastest 1000 point move in history. This is all about the Make America Great Again agenda! Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Six trillion dollars in value created!"
"Stock market hit yet another all-time record high yesterday. There is great confidence in the moves that my Administration is making."
"Business is looking better than ever with business enthusiasm at record levels. Stock market at an all-time high. That doesn't just happen!"
"Stock market hit another all-time high yesterday — despite Russia hoax story."
I could go on, but you were there. You remember it all. And voters bought it! Just go look at his job approval ratings on the specific issue of the economy: Even when voters hated Trump and thought he was doing a bad job overall, they gave him tons of credit for the economy.
Yet no matter how irrational voters have suddenly become, Biden’s administration needs to figure out how to rationalize them. I don’t know if this is a comms problem. Or a policy problem. Or a state-of-the-world problem.
But it is a problem. And it if Biden’s team doesn’t fix it, they’re in a world of trouble.
And what they’re doing right now isn’t working.
2. Door #2
The reason Democrats need to right this ship is because what’s behind Door #2 is not great. This Reuters deep dive on the anatomy of a death threat should give you chills:
Reuters has documented more than 850 threatening and hostile messages aimed at election officials and staff related to the 2020 election. Virtually all expressed support for former President Donald Trump or echoed his debunked contention that the election was stolen. The messages spanned 30 jurisdictions in 16 states. They came via emails, voicemails, texts, letters and Internet posts. . . .
About 110 of the 850 messages Reuters collected appear to meet what law professors and attorneys say is the federal threshold for prosecution. That would make them so-called true threats, generally defined as those intended to put a person in fear of death or bodily harm or to inflict severe emotional distress. In many other messages, harassers call for violence without threatening to act themselves. Arrests for threatening election workers have been rare, even in cases of true threats.
The piece has audio and screenshots. Here’s a very small sample:
Reuters makes clear that there’s a line out there between death threats and protected speech, and the majority of these are probably protected speech. But even the true threats almost never end in prosecution. The people who make them face no consequences.
It’s important to understand that there are actually two crimes going on here. The first is making a death threat. But the second is that the purpose of that threat is the intimidation of a public official. It’s similar to the way in which murdering a witness in a trial is a more serious crime that murdering someone in a bar fight: The crime against the individual is also a crime against the public.