At first glance, midterm elections may appear deceptively low-impact: the possibility of a minor reshuffle in either House or Senate gives way to a mid-point between the much larger and heated Presidential race.
In reality, midterm elections are possibly the most decisive approval poll an incumbent can receive. Besides, losing either chamber can represent a significant setback for any government and make it more challenging to deliver any pending campaign promises.
Less than two months from the next election, the Democratic Party has every reason to be concerned. The current economic crisis will make the electorate's "seal of approval" much more elusive.
What Are Economic Indicators Saying?
Over the past year, the Biden Administration has bent due to the mounting pressure of poor economic prospects. This is a topic we covered extensively before: although the economy was expected to slow down after 2021, this year has seen several red flags.
The most important was the continuous decline of the nation's GDP. After three consecutive quarters of "negative growth," many economic analysts expected an official announcement shortly after.
The Government preferred to stay silent on the topic, at least for the time being. But for many experts, the signs were nonetheless on the wall. One of the strongest? The combination of ongoing inflation with low unemployment.
Historically, the combination of inflation above 4% and unemployment below 6% was followed by a recession in two years or less. Both conditions were met at the end of 2022's second quarter, prompting the Deutsche Bank to adjust its economic prediction from "mild recession" to "major recession.
Even left-leaning figures now openly admit the terrible news. For example, Lawrence Summers, who once served under President Clinton, recently stated there's an 80% chance of a recession in 2023. Forecasts all steer clear from sunny skies.
What about the People in the Middle?
Economics often uses obscure lingo and confusing mathematical indicators – but when the economy is going poorly, most households notice. And worry.
As a result, if there is one word that can describe the current mood of average Americans, it's "pessimism." The latest Gallup poll leaves little room for doubt here: according to their data, 4 in 1 Americans list economic woes as the top concern for the next two years.
Meanwhile, despite the continued (although moderate) job growth and a slight dip in the price of fuel, 76% of Americans think economic prospects are getting worse.
Any chances at recovery that require private investment may also be delayed: Gallup's Economic Confidence Index, which measures business owners' feelings about the economy on a scale from -100 to 100, is now at -39.
The End Result: A Difficult Time to Seek Approval
American democracy is based on the concept of separation of powers. As a result, an economic downturn is rarely the sole doing of the President. However, President Biden is accountable for it, at least in the eyes of the population.
Furthermore, the current administration has not been able to enact the aid packages it had initially promised as part of the Build Back Better plan. In a context of uncertainty and deprivation, many voters will be anxious for a change – and the midterm elections create the perfect opportunity to express this desire.
An election year is possibly the worst time to deal with disasters, crises, and unrest. It should not come as a surprise that current electoral polls are no longer wondering whether the Democrats will be defeated in November, but how deep a defeat it will be.
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