The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion It’s all over but the shouting

President Biden delivers remarks Tuesday at the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

“I don’t want to hear any more of these lies about reckless spending,” President Biden yelled into the microphone at the AFL-CIO gathering on Tuesday. “We’re changing people’s lives!”

Biden should have been at ease talking to labor activists — perhaps the closest thing he has to a base — about debt, deficits and federal spending. That’s the kind of stuff voters once upon a time got up early to vote for or against. But that doesn’t happen anymore.

Presidents rarely, even in front of friendly audiences, raise their voice as to seem to be yelling at voters. This clip will rank along with Howard Dean’s scream, John F. Kerry’s “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” and Barack Obama’s promise about keeping your doctor and your health-care plan if you liked them.

Biden’s target was as wrong as his tone. The kind of spending voters are talking about this year isn’t the public kind. It’s the private kind. With less than five months before Election Day, Biden and other Democrats face two central nightmares: At least once a week, nearly every American household fills up a gas tank or a grocery cart and gets hit with a sickening sticker shock. Their wallets are shrinking — fast — and they have only one party to blame for the horrible feeling.

Jennifer Rubin

counterpointBiden’s rousing speech before the AFL-CIO is exactly the message Democrats need

The damage is already being felt. In a special election on Tuesday, Democrats lost a congressional seat in a Texas district that Biden carried by 4 percentage points in 2020. And it was significantly weighted toward Hispanic voters. All year long, participation in Republican primaries has far outrun participation in Democratic contests. Democrats had a bad 2021, with the election of Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor in Virginia — a state many thought had already turned blue — and the trend has not abated. Hispanics don’t seem to be lining up as the reliable Democrats that many in that party had long assumed. A deluge is coming for Biden’s party, and the White House — if the boss’s shouting is any measure — knows it.

Help is not on the way. Some Democrats assumed pro-choice voters would come out of the woodwork to save them in November after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion in the Mississippi abortion case was published in early May. Instead, an attempt on the life of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh happened. Days later, an ashamed House Democratic leadership cleared the way for a bill protecting justices’ families weeks after it had unanimously passed the Senate. What Democrats thought might be a help to them politically looks to be yet another albatross around their necks.

Democrats counted on the handpicked-by-Nancy-Pelosi Jan. 6 committee to fascinate America. But only about 20 million tuned in for a prime-time show last week — about as much as a “Sunday Night Football” game — and ratings tend to go downhill from any series premiere. You have to wonder if anyone will be watching when it wraps up. Pelosi’s gambit has failed as thoroughly as her two impeachment prosecutions of Donald Trump. Each time, the Senate declined to go along.

Meanwhile, the main enemy — inflation — ravages the finances of every American family. Every single item in a grocery store gets there by truck or van. Most are wrapped or contained in plastic of some sort. Prices for fuel — whether gasoline or diesel — plastic and fertilizer are soaring. While the president has invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite production of baby formula and solar panels, he refuses to do so for oil, natural gas and gasoline. He and his party simply will not offend the Climate Change Cult that levers the entire party into ignoring the havoc that skyrocketing oil prices are wreaking on voters.

The gerontocracy atop the Democratic Party is going full “Thelma & Louise” — heading over the cliff. If you have not seen the movie, Google the end. It’s the only prophecy you need for Democrats in the fall.