Since the 1990s, it has been American political dogma that politics follows the economy much more so than social wedge issues. This is especially true in mid-term elections and really especially true after a president’s first term. As an example, when George H.W. Bush won Operation Desert Storm, he looked unbeatable. The economy took a quick stall and Clinton won a plurality of a three-way vote. In 2010, in the middle of the Great Recession, Democrats suffered historic losses during Obama’s first mid-term elections despite the fact that Obama inherited the crash. Going into 2022, the Democrats’ primary political concern is an economy that is at the mercy of two global forces beyond President Biden’s control, both situations he essentially inherited; COVID restricting the flow of goods causing rising inflation, and now the war in Ukraine ripping Russia out of all world trade, including petroleum, putting even more pressure on prices.

According to Axios, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concurrent sanctions will put tremendous stress upon the U.S. economy. Democrats had best be ready with messaging to counter it, lest they enter the election season hearing about the great Trump economy, which was – in fact, terrible, as we came out of COVID:

 We just went through a massive economic upheaval. The recovery is still fragile — supply chains aren’t fully recovered, and inflation is at record highs. Now, add on the fallout from both the war itself and the crippling economic sanctions levied against Russia for its unprovoked attack. We’ve never ripped an economy as large and as interconnected as Russia’s out of the global economic fabric. Russia’s economy is reeling, as intended, but you can’t do that kind of extraction without hurting yourself in the process. There already are, and will be more, disruptions to the flow of goods and money in our intricately connected world.

We would never paint ourselves as the victims in this matter. Clearly, Ukrainian citizens are the real victims. But that doesn’t change the dynamic regarding Biden’s attempt to get the economy going with the Build Back Better plan, forever stalled out due to Manchin and Sinema, the loss of the Child tax credit just as the gas price crunch really hit, and prices soaring in the stores along with the prices at the pump.

Democrats must prepare their messaging now. The roots of this economic chaos were sowed in the first days of COVID and Trump’s weakening of NATO and strengthening of Putin. Then be ready to point out what Biden has already done – compared to the GOP under Trump, to get the economy going; the infrastructure plan, record low unemployment, wages rising (albeit not fast enough), and with plans as to how to handle the continued shortages.

Because we can hear the Republicans now, the “greatest economy in the history of the world, lowest gas prices (because there was nowhere to go), tax cuts” will come ringing out from every Republican campaign commercial. The Republicans already presume that historical forces will hand them the House and the U.S. Senate (though the Senate map is more difficult for them). Democrats are historically their own worst enemy by refusing to talk about all they’ve done right, and allowing Republicans to frame the issues. Democrats must, must, must, be very clear with Americans. NO, Trump did not oversee the greatest economy ever. Indeed, when a crisis hit, it became one of the worst. We are still amidst a crisis.

Trump couldn’t get “Infrastructure Week” done, try to imagine him and the Republicans trying to navigate the economic difficulties we face in the months ahead. Scary, isn’t it? Then that is the message. Watch what we do, not what they say.


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