Call it the return to normalcy that wasn’t. President Joe Biden and his fellow establishment leaders are crumbling in the polls and in actual elections as shocking numbers believe the future is bleak. Perhaps this is because normal doesn’t exist anymore in a world where governments are at war with their own citizens, and parents are under attack.
Once upon a time, Karl Marx and Robert Engels proposed that the workers of the world would unite against the capitalist class, bringing a brave new world of economic equality into fruition, but a funny thing happened on the way to a socialist utopia built on equity: The workers of the world appear to be uniting against the left-leaning establishment that controls the levers of political and cultural power and writes the rules that supposedly pave the way for equity. Around the world, workers appear to be realizing that the nexus between politicians, corporations, media, and academia simply cannot be trusted. Instead of pursuing the best interests of their constituents and customers, they pursue their own interests, often at the expense of others.
Thus, the French political world was rocked by a razor thin election last week that saw massive declines in establishment support and the rise of far-right and far-left, populist style candidates. The numbers were staggering from the elite point of view. The BBC reported that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen “has been on a journey, taking France’s far right to within touching distance of the presidency.” As they see it, “She may sound more moderate but the policies she embraces are no less radical than before on immigration, nationality and Islam. Emmanuel Macron says her programme is racist.” Despite these protestations and incendiary accusations, Ms. Lepine trailed the establishment incumbent Macron by only 4.2% of the total vote share, 23.4% to 27.6%. The far left, anti-establishment populist, Jean-Luc Melenchon received 22% of the vote, and the other far-right candidate, Eric Zemour pulled in 7%. This means the “outsider” vote cleared 50% of the total, easily outpacing the establishment. In addition, the one-time ascendant Green Party received a dismal less than 2%, and much of the shift in the vote was due to younger people abandoning “safe” candidates in droves. Voters under 35 chose Mr. Melanchon, then Ms. Le Pen, with current President Macron placing third. In fact, the only group Macron truly prospered with was those over 60, suggesting this is the lone voting bloc in the entire country that still trusts the establishment.
Everyone else is looking elsewhere and for good reason. Pessimism about the future is rampant around the world. We often hear talk about our dim prospects in the United States, but the Pew Research Center found that the people of France, Britain, Spain, and Italy were even more pessimistic. The question they asked was a simple one: When children today grow up will they be financially better off than their parents? In Greece, 72% said no. In France it was 71%, Spain 69%, the United Kingdom, 65%. Canada also clocked in at a whopping 69%. The United States wasn’t stellar either at 58%. Across North America and Europe, the average was 60%, almost two in three, who feel the next generation will be poorer. Even worse for the establishment, this poll was conducted in 2017 before the pandemic. Imagine what the numbers look like now. This level of dissatisfaction simply isn’t sustainable long term because democratic governments cannot function forever when well over half the people believe their children are going to be confined to substandard living, if not outright poverty. Something will have to change, either the governments will become ever more tyrannical, as we have seen in Australia, Canada, and other supposedly representative democracies throughout the pandemic, or the establishment will be cast aside as we saw with the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Donald Trump, by the way, is now the most popular national politician in the country with a personal approval outpacing President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell.
President Trump may have lost his bid for a second term, but even a cursory look at the trajectory of President Biden’s Administration suggests the establishment’s victory might be incredibly short lived. As we saw in actual elections in France, President Biden is bleeding support from the critical groups that put him into office in the first place. Pundits can endlessly debate the reasons why, but no one doubts that his poll numbers are dismal in key constituencies including blacks, Latinos, and young people. A recent Gallup poll found that he’s practically fallen off a cliff since his inauguration, down 21 points with Generation Z, 19 points with Millennials, 15 with Generation X, and 7 with Baby Boomers. In fact, the only group holding steady amid an overall 14 point drop is those born before 1946, almost a mirror to what President Macron is experiencing in France. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of this shift: These are the very voters he needs to have any chance in the midterms, much less re-election. In political terms, he’s bleeding from a femoral artery instead of some minor flesh wound. Further, this younger cohort is also the group progressives and the establishment have been counting on to create a permanent ruling majority.
Gallup, however, found that they have far too much of an independent streak to be so locked in. “One reason older Americans are less likely to have changed their opinions of Biden during his time in office is that they are much more likely to identify politically as a Republican or a Democrat than as an independent. Approval ratings are more strongly linked to partisanship now than in the past. To date, approval of Biden among independents has declined more than it has among Democrats or Republicans.” The story isn’t much better with minorities. Blacks and Hispanics are also, to use Gallup’s phrasing, “among the subgroups most likely to show declines.” The same series of polls found a 21 point swing among Latinos and 20 points among blacks, both about as steep a drop as younger Americans. As they reported, “Early in Biden’s term, 87% of Non-Hispanic Black adults approved of the job he was doing. That fell to 74% in the summer of 2021 and is now at 67%, 20 points lower than in the early stages of his presidency. Among Hispanics, Biden’s job approval has slumped from 73% in early 2021 to 52% now, a 21-point fall.” College graduates, another key constituency of the President, are likewise down 13 points, people with graduate degrees are down 10. Lower income, less than $40,000, down 18, middle income, between $40,000 and $99,999, 13, and upper income 12.
All told, there is no good news anywhere you look, prompting the question: What accounts for this sudden drop among his own voters, the people he was counting on and who were counting on him? Of course, it is impossible to say for sure, but some reasonable explanations present themselves if we dig deeper than the impact of inflation or chaos around the world.
Ultimately, I think we need to reconsider the idea of “normalcy” itself. President Biden appealed to voters by claiming he offered a return to the vague concept of normalcy after the tumult of the Trump years. It’s no secret that President Trump was a controversial figure to say the least, and Biden seemed to promise something far less polarizing by comparison. The promise that everything and anything wouldn’t turn into a controversy or a fight, and that the country wouldn’t appear to be careening endlessly between various crises. One look at the headlines is enough know that President Biden failed to deliver, but still it seems to me we are asking the wrong question. The right question, in my opinion, is does normalcy even exist anymore in the traditional sense, or has the Overton Window expanded so dramatically that the very idea of tranquility and rationality in politics is fundamentally flawed? Sadly, I believe that appears to be the case. America was never a Norman Rockwell painting, but we used to have a few shared beliefs that were unquestioned, even if they were always difficult to define in detail. Central to these beliefs was the idea that the nuclear family, however flawed in its millions upon millions of incarnations, was of paramount importance to a functioning country, and that the country itself was fundamentally good because of these millions upon millions of families.
This meant a few things in practice: Parents had broad discretion to raise their children as they saw fit. Parents had responsibilities to provide for those children as best as possible. Parents weren’t afraid to speak their mind about their children, and outsiders should keep to themselves except for cases of actual crime and abuse. Today, however, every one of those edifices is under constant attack, both politically and culturally. The educational establishment now believes it knows best for Americas’ children to the point where they bemoan limitations on explicit sexual education targeted at 6 year olds and regularly consult with pre-pubescent kids about their sexual identity. What is normal about your seven year old boy coming home from school and telling you his teacher said he might be a girl? Or learning that it’s now school policy for biological males to share a locker room or bathroom with females? Likewise, a broad swath of the progressive left advocates for replacing the melting pot that schools have become since desegregation with a variety of safe spaces for minorities and different disciplinary models based on race. What is normal about your white son coming home from school and telling you he was suspended for a prank committed with his black friend, but the black friend only got detention? This sense of shattered normalcy is also ever present in our culture, from the commercials we watch which rarely depict anything resembling a regular family composed of straight parents and adorable children of any race anymore to popular TV shows which either bemoan the state of the country or go out of their way to showcase the latest woke trends. Wokeness, it seems to the “normal” observer, has infiltrated every aspect of mass media. You cannot read a car magazine these days without some mention of racism or sexism in the United States.
This collision of the political, cultural, educational, and entertainment spheres is a lot of things, but normal isn’t one of them. One need only watch TV with commercials for a couple of hours to see for themselves. These trends are necessarily compounded by the never ending pandemic. “Normal” America cheered on planes earlier this week when a Federal Judge finally ended the mask mandate, but not everyone was equally enthused. Leftist celebrities and politicians took the opportunity to declare they would continue the abnormal practice of masking, essentially forever. The Biden Administration plans to appeal the ruling for reasons that defy explanation, a topic I will cover on Monday. I could go on, but the point is not to blame any of these trends on President Biden or other world leaders in particular, though of course I believe they bear some responsibility. On a deeper level, however, they are the avatars of the establishment class that has destroyed normal forever and wreaked this havoc. The things that used to be considered given whether you were on the left and the right simply are no more, from your personal freedoms and autonomy, to how you raise your children, to the simple escape of watching television for a few hours with your family.
None of this is what it was, not even close, and people appear to be realizing the establishment is to blame. Thus it certainly seems like they are uniting against it. I’m reminded of the John Mellencamp Classic, “Pink Houses” and its celebration of life even amid the challenges people face and the shortcomings they might have for any reason:
There’s a black man with a black cat
Livin’ in a black neighborhood
He’s got an Interstate runnin’ through his front yard
You know he thinks that he’s got it so good
And there’s a woman in the kitchen
Cleanin’ up the evenin’ slop
And he looks at her and says, “Hey darlin’
I can remember when you could stop a clock.”
Does anything like this simple world, where one is happy for the things they have rather than jealous of what they don’t, even exist anymore? If not, then nothing will ever be normal, ever again as long as the establishment remains in charge.