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Joe Biden as Prime Minister
A quick note on last Tuesday's election results.
Hey all. We are about to head into the season of top-tier holidays, so this will be a Jackal chocked full of fun stuff to keep you full until December. Then, the Jackal returns with only a couple of issues before Christmas. It is truly wild that we are at the end of the year already, and even wilder that 2024 is an election year.
Before we get into what this Jackal will be about, I want to re-up my discussion with Adam from last week. Specifically, I want to highlight something he said in the interview, which was that interest rates would be coming down in 2024: “I do see interest rates coming down, and I see inflation coming down even more, and I see things starting to really rip.”
Honestly, I raised my eyebrows. Inflation is currently at about 3.2% (we got great inflation news in a report from earlier this week), which is better than it was but not quite where the Federal Reserve wants it.
But here was Goldman Sachs only a few days after our discussion:
Goldman forecasts core inflation will enter its “final descent” next year toward the Fed’s 2% target, enabling the Fed to decrease the federal funds rate for the first time since March 2020 in what would be a welcome milestone for investors as lower borrowing costs boost bottom lines (my emphasis).
Goldman is relevant because they were really the only big finance firm to say a recession wasn’t likely. Alliance Bernstein was about a 50/50. But Goldman got it right while a lot of others got it wrong.
We’ll see what happens, but I thought it was worth noting!
Why in the White Christmas Latte are you calling Joe Biden a prime minister?
So, an emerging story over the past few weeks (months, even) is that Joe Biden’s approval ratings and poll numbers really aren’t that great. Two weeks ago, there was a major freakout about a New York Times poll that showed President Biden losing to Donald Trump in a bunch of swing states.
Liberals went into bedwetting mode. The sky was falling, their nominee was old, and Donald Trump is the turd that won’t flush. Film at 11. But then last Tuesday’s elections happened, and Democrats got all happy again. Why? They - once again - over-performed at the polls and crushed Republicans.
The big headlines were that they held on to the governor’s
distillery house in Kentucky, legalized abortion in Ohio, and flipped Virginia’s lower chamber. But that wasn’t all: They dominated school board elections and defeated Republicans who were running on eliminating “woke” stuff from the library/textbooks/bathrooms. And then there was this observation from Dave Weigel:
Basically, everything is coming up Democrats. And before you write off the Democrats’ wins last Tuesday by saying these were goofy “special elections,” they really do matter. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the election of Democratic officials will preserve ballot access rules put in place at the State level by Democrats. They flipped a GOP seat for the first time in 100 years in order to secure that win. Huge deal.
It seems like right now, Americans really like voting for Democrats. So, why are Joe Biden’s numbers so bad, and why is he losing to Trump in (some) polls? Basically, it’s because Americans want something they can’t have: More choices.
Joe Biden is doing better than other world leaders in a hostile environment.
When I say Biden’s numbers are “bad,” I mean they are bad in America. But people everywhere are dissatisfied with their leaders:
Global inflation will produce approval ratings like these. In the U.K., for instance, the core inflation rate was 5.6% last month, which is a number the U.S. hasn’t been hitting since 2022. While the U.K. is seeing a slowdown in its inflation rates, it’s still worth noting that the U.S. is in pretty good shape in comparison to other countries. And I’m using the U.K. on purpose because their system of government is a great example of what’s happening with Biden.
You see, in the U.S. we have what’s called a presidential system, and in the U.K. they have what’s called a parliamentary system. Spoiler: Lots of nerdy American political folks spend their days on Twitter pining over parliamentary systems. It has been a “neat” thing to get super into in between generating Hot Takes.™ But most American’s don’t know the difference.
In a presidential system, someone like Joe Biden serves as both the head of government and the head of state, and he derives his power from being the executive. Joe Biden is a branch of government all on his own, and he sets lots of rules and policies with oversight from Congress. In fact, you can see all these changes happening every day in the Federal Register, where the Executive basically tells you, “Hey, I am going to do all these things that you may or may not like.”
In the U.K. - and other parliamentary democracies - the head of government is called a Prime Minister, and he derives his power from the legislature. In fact, the Prime Minster is almost always a former legislator him/herself. What basically happens is the U.K. will hold elections and people will vote whether or not to put a certain political party in power. In the U.K., the Conservative Party (Tories) currently controls the government, but polls are showing that their major opposition (Labour) would cripple them if elections were held soon.
It’s not that the Brits have a particular hatred for Rishi Sunak; they just don’t like the way his Party is running things. The same could have also been said about Boris Johnson, who most Brits saw as a likable oaf (pre-Partygate) who happened to be the head of the Tories.
You can see why it’s an attractive form of government: There is less power concentrated in the hands of one executive, and if that executive becomes super unpopular, his own Party-members are not at all hesitant about criticizing him because if he is unpopular, then so are they. The incentive structures of it are really quite nice, especially when you look at the cult-like following Trump musters in Congress.
I love all of this for you, but why is it relevant?
I basically think that voters are treating Joe Biden like the prime minister of some random parliamentary democracy. They want Democratic policies, especially on issue like healthcare, education, and abortion, and they turn out to vote that way. They are not really thrilled with Joe Biden being the head of the Party, and express their discontent in polls, but they do overall support the policies he pushes.
We have been down on polling in the Jackal since 2020, but I think it’s important to note that even leaving their accuracy aside, polls conducted right now are not at all a good measure of how people will vote in November 2024. At that point, voters are going to turn out to vote for either Democrats or Republicans, and recent history has shown that they are turning to Democrats more and more, mostly based on how nutty Republicans have been.
There was some speculation on Twitter that it’s possible people like the Democratic Party, but will flip to Trump because they liked the economy when he was President. It just seems wrong to me. Voters are basically saying, “We like the Democrats on abortion, healthcare, and education, but we will not vote for the guy who is the HEAD OF THAT PARTY.”
The election is a year away and thus too far to make a genuine prediction. But you would obviously want to be where Joe Biden is, rather than Donald Trump.
Can you give me something fun to read instead of going on and on about parliament?
Here is the other thing that is directly related to the foregoing: Nikki Haley made headlines this week after a series of polls showed her climbing to the top of the GOP primary. In New Hampshire, she has completely left Ron DeSantis in the dust (remember when your humble fabulous told you almost a year ago that he didn’t have the mojo?)
The standard response to this is, “It doesn’t matter, because Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.” And my general reaction to that take is:
Here is the thing: I don’t want to jump ahead of ourselves too much, but I also cannot get this point out of my head. Donald Trump is currently on trial in Georgia, D.C., Florida, and New York.
It is unclear to me if the trials in Georgia or Florida are actually going to conclude prior to the election. And the two trials in New York are not going to produce jail time. But the January 6th case in D.C. definitely could.
That case goes to trial in early March, and will probably last anywhere from four to six weeks (maybe a bit longer). If Trump is found guilty, he is going to be sentences some time shortly after that. Meaning, it is entirely possible that Trump will physically go do jail next year.
Just based on statistics, the DOJ has an 82% success rate in Federal prosecutions (when the defendant enters a “not guilty” plea). It would be silly to bet against them, but I guess anything can happen. Is it really possible that the GOP is going to conduct a Presidential run with Trump campaigning FROM JAIL? I honestly want to know what people think, because it is so hard for me to see.
The GOP is just going to sit there and let their candidate for the Presidency run from jail? He will do rallies by video in an orange jumpsuit? None of these scenarios are baked into the polls, because no one can actually picture them, but it is definitely being talked about in GOP circles.
That is why (spoiler) you have seen a lot of big GOP donor money move to Haley. They are preparing for a scenario where someone - either Haley or DeSantis - has to take over the nomination from Trump, and they are flocking to the person with the best numbers against Biden.
That’s why you will see Nikki and Meatball Ron stay in the race, and watch people who cannot generate any natural enthusiasm when their donor money runs out (Tim Scott), leave the race. I know DeSantis’s team wants to stay in for a long time because they have convinced themselves that the rumors Donald Trump is gravely ill are actually true.1
It is definitely something to think about over the Thanksgiving break. Have fun talking about politics with your relatives. I’ll see you in two weeks.
Dave Weigel has a substack, and it’s great.
This Paul Krugman piece on the economy was super helpful.
The Economist says Trump poses the greatest threat to the world in 2024.
Hey! The Supreme Court finally put together an ethics code! Hey! It is kind of a joke!
This piece on how/why the opioid epidemic started in The Bulwark (subscribe) is really amazing.
So is this interaction between Tim Miller and Kari Lake.
If you are new to the Jackal, you should know that it comes out weekly but has a lighter schedule in December, in lieu of the holidays. But no worries: One major, major piece is coming that will give you a lot to think about while opening presidents and sipping egg nog.
People believe that they want, but I don’t see how you can take these rumors seriously.