Performance or performance art? A question for voters in 2022 (and 2024)

President BidenJoe Biden Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him the wrong time to prepare for the Trump debate: Biden book says Eid al-Adha has “special significance” amid the Manchin pandemic to support the candidate for the post of head of public lands PLUS is not a man of the game. But he makes a bet of enormous importance that voters will reward performance rather than the art of performance. Biden’s job, he says, is to get the government to work again.

During the New Deal, a generation of Democrats, including Biden’s parents and grandparents, grew up worshiping Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. For them, the government has worked by providing social security and jobs and bringing millions of people into the middle class with modest homes and plots of green grass. Life wasn’t perfect, but it did offer what Biden describes as “a bit of a break,” which meant going to an occasional dinner or movie, buying ice cream (a Biden favorite), or taking a vacation. with family. The late Hubert Humphrey wrote that the New Deal produced an “administrative liberal [who]. . . has a sense of urgency for the government to be up to its task. A government of work has become synonymous with liberalism.

It ended in the 1970s. Wage differentials, inflation and a defeat in Vietnam made government, in Ronald Reagan’s words, a “problem.” Gas lines, oil embargoes, Iranian hostages, and Soviet advances in Afghanistan and elsewhere have found Americans defensive and uncertain about the future.

In the decades that followed, the series of government failures continued. For Americans turning 21 this year, their lives have been marked by September 11, endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate and financial crises, racial conflicts, disappointing presidents, a January 6 insurgency. and more. The crush of student loans, a great recession followed by a great pandemic, and the belief that Social Security will not be there for them has created amply justified cynicism that goes unrewarded.

For Biden, renewing faith in government means injections of vaccines into guns, money in pockets and shovelfuls of dirt. Its infrastructure and Build Back Better plans include a free preschool and community college, more home health care for seniors, and most importantly, a monthly child care tax credit for those with less than $ 10 income. $ 120,000 or families with incomes less than $ 150,000. The program is already depositing checks into bank accounts.

Biden has focused on these “deliverables” and believes they will renew faith in the American Dream. In May, the economy created 850,000 jobs, adding to the 3,000,000 created since administration began. Biden noted that this was the fastest growing economy since 1984, and he echoed Reagan’s “Morning in America” ​​slogan, saying, “It’s afternoon here and the sun is coming out. “

Biden’s bet is that running the government will result in Democratic votes in 2022 and 2024. He isn’t necessarily wrong, although the administration faces significant challenges in getting its message across. Biden’s political antennae has always been particularly acute. In 1978, he opposed the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill, which would have made the federal government an employer of last resort. At the time, Biden noted that “the thing wrong with Hubert Humphrey is that he is unaware of the government’s limited and limited capacity to deal with people’s problems.” Ronald Reagan loomed on the horizon and Biden felt the political tides change. Biden’s bet is that this is a different time, with voters wanting more government, not less.

Republicans are making a different bet. For years, political scientists have observed that partisan conflict has become asymmetrical. If Republicans wanted to talk about taxes and cutting federal spending, Democrats wanted to talk about health care, social security, the environment and education. As both sides highlight issues that will benefit them politically, Republicans believe it’s not performance, but the art of performance, that matters most.

Performance is a crucial aspect of modern presidential politics. John F. Kennedy was a master of television. Ronald Reagan has excelled at making Americans feel good about themselves. But both men believed in things, and for them politics mattered. Kennedy wanted to go to the moon and strive for excellence. Reagan firmly believed in the virtues of tax cuts, barring government and individual initiative.

Donald trumpDonald TrumpGreene gets 12-hour Twitter suspension for COVID-19 disinformation Biden seeks to dump Gitmo PLUS was a master performer who cared little about politics. For him, the presidency was a daily program to be rebroadcast by his followers on social networks. His rallies were the pinnacle of performance art. The “Trump Show” has become the must-attend event for those who want to be entertained, not informed. Even when casting the White House staff and cabinet, what mattered was finding the right supporting players. Trump liked to uplift generals who watched their roles and Fox News hosts who repeated his often outlandish claims.

His tweets, TV appearances and emphasis on directing turned the Presidency into a TV series with a new episode every day. By generating both passion and clicks, Trump realized he could bring together millions of voters who didn’t care much about politics per se, but believed he spoke for them. His lack of political skills was reflected in the Republican Party’s failure to adopt a 2020 platform. It said a lot about Trump’s failure to describe what he could do in a second term. For him, keeping center stage was all that mattered in 2020.

Like Trump, other Republicans understand that the art of performance matters. Social media gives these Trump aspirants limitless opportunities to stage their own performances. representative Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP’s Efforts to Minimize Danger of Increased Riots on Capitol Hill The Memo: What Now for Anti-Trump Republicans? Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene says she will meet Trump “soon” in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) Can troll Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez Six takeaways: What FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Biden seeks to prove his skeptics wrong Cuba and Haiti pose major challenges for Florida Democrats MORE (DN.Y.) and generate thousands of clicks. Representative Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.) may to boast “Cry more, lib” and generates nearly 32,000 likes on Twitter. representative Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertControversy equals money for Greene, Gaetz GOP vaccine resistance poses growing challenge in fight against pandemic The Memo: COVID-19 spike raises stakes for Biden, GOP MORE (R-Colo.) May post a video wearing a Glock while walking the streets of Washington, DC Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzSix takeaway: What FEC reports tell us about midterm elections Controversy equals money for Greene, Gaetz Gaetz, Greene protest after third site cancels event MORE (R-Fla.) Can defend Britney Spears. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) May call the January 6 insurgency a “normal sightseeing”. These Republicans don’t just generate clicks; they generate cash. The goal is to go viral.

In 2022 and 2024, voters will have to decide what matters most: performance or the art of performance. It is a judgment of capital importance for both parties.

John Kenneth White is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. His latest book is “What Happened to the Republican Party?”

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