Less than a year ago, America was led by a man who governed to please the Fox News host Tucker Carlson and toyed with the idea of imposing martial law. After Donald Trump, you’d think the American people would just enjoy having a normal president who doesn’t use his Twitter account to threaten neighboring countries or corporations. But they don’t. Take one look at national polling numbers and you’ll see that Americans are unhappy with Joe Biden: According to FiveThirtyEight, 51.7 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed that 50 percent disapprove of Biden’s handling of the pandemic and 59 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.
To improve Biden’s popularity, earnest consultants might tell him to work on the fundamentals. But the fundamentals are actually good: The economy is getting better. Americans have both cash and jobs. Sure, inflation is an issue, but it’s a global phenomenon and not unexpected, because we’re coming out of a pandemic. The disconnect between the facts and the polls suggests that Biden’s true problem is a narrative one. Specifically, he doesn’t have an enemy, a punching bag to absorb Americans’ anger (rational or irrational).
That’s what the Democratic strategist James Carville thinks. “As of now the White House does not have good story tellers. Good stories need villains,” he texted me. The Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock made a similar point, telling me, “Every good campaign needs a villain.” Pollock believes that “the president and his team understand the enemy piece,” noting that “the president has zeroed in on the corporate greed of the oil and gas companies who are trying to raise their prices for nothing more than profit.” Perhaps Biden’s wising up. If he wants to win reelection, however, he needs to shed his nice-guy persona. [Continue reading…]