Of course, the problem with putting most of your eggs in one basket is that they can be whipped into shit omelets in no time. And while Republicans enjoy a lot of advantages going into the midterms—history is on their side, for one thing—they’ve become such a pack of frothing weirdos they may have trouble keeping white suburban voters in the fold no matter how much avocados cost in November. And if gas prices begin trending down further, they may not get the red wave they’ve been counting on. Politico:
With just over 100 days to go until an election that could end Democratic control of both houses of Congress, it appears that gasoline prices may have peaked too soon to remain the lethal campaign weapon for Republicans that they seemed to be a month ago.
The national average price of a gallon of regular gas has shed more than 70 cents since its peak above $5 a gallon at the beginning of June, falling to $4.30 as of Wednesday. Market analysts generally expect prices to continue to fall through the end of the year, even if they’re likely to remain elevated compared with the pre-pandemic era.
Of course, when public health officials asked Americans to wear slightly uncomfortable strips of cloth over their faces to slow a pandemic that eventually killed more than a million of us, they acted like they were being asked to nail-gun medieval plague masks to their faces (which would have made your hometown parish’s Christmas midnight mass a lot more cool and fun, come to think of it). So asking those same Americans to help preserve our centuries-old American democracy even though they were forced to skip a summer trip to Disney World may be too big of an ask.
Then again, maybe they won’t need to choose between a free democracy and jaunty sojourns to the World’s Only Corn Palace after all.
One GOP operative acknowledged that the drop could make a difference.
“If the market continues to respond as it has and gets back to year-ago prices, that will definitely blunt the criticism” over inflation, said Chuck Coughlin, a Republican political strategist in Arizona, which has experienced some of the highest inflation in the country. He said a decline to last year’s fuel prices may even “be in reach by early October when early ballots drop for the general” election.
Well, that would be nice. And if the Fed somehow manages to tame inflation without triggering a recession, Team Blue could actually be in decent shape come November. Fingers crossed.
Of course, gas prices are still elevated compared to where they were last year at this time—and particularly compared to where they were during the brutal Trump recession, which stifled demand for nearly everything, from gas to airline tickets to Fleet Farm next-door-neighbor repellent. But it’s much harder for Republicans to campaign on sinking gas prices—regardless of the heights they recently hit—than it is to make hay out of climbing costs and the uncertainty that comes with them. And it gives Democrats enough breathing room to get playful with their political jabs.
It also highlights the danger in blaming one guy for prices that are actually set by global markets. If you’re going to blame President Joe Biden for inflation and high gas prices, after all, it only makes sense to give him credit when those prices begin to settle down.
In fact, during a hearing last week, Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, taunted GOP Sen. John Barrasso over his party’s messaging going into the fall. “Gas prices have gone down 40 cents in the past month,” King asked. “Does the Biden administration get to take credit for that? Or do they only get blame when they go up?”
But while gas prices have dropped precipitously—and could go even lower before the midterms—it’s too early for either party to rest easy.
“We had several rocks thrown in the pond earlier this year,” RBN Energy analyst John Auers told Politico. “The ripples have subsided, though someone could throw another rock.”
That said, it was mostly bad economic luck that drove Biden’s approval rating to Trumpian depths. Some good luck could at least stanch the bleeding in November. And given the radical nature of today’s GOP, it’s not out of the question that we could actually maintain control of Congress.
But that all depends on you. If you want to do your part in preventing a future right-wing dystopia, there are steps you can take. Volunteer to send letters to voters, or contribute to Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. And most of all—remember to vote!
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.