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OPINION | DANA KELLEY: Six months in

by Dana Kelley | July 30, 2021 at 3:05 a.m.

Six months in, and American optimism has tanked.

In the most recent ABC News/Ipsos Poll, a majority of Americans now say they are pessimistic about the direction of the country. That's a 53 percent increase over the response from the same poll in early May.

The number of people who say they feel optimistic about the way things are going dropped by nearly a third. Notably, the down numbers are about the same for Republicans and Democrats.

Perhaps that's the predictable result of a political strategy that sought to defeat hyperbolic balderdash by employing equal but opposing hyperbole.

For instance, during his campaign Joe Biden blamed every single covid death on Donald Trump. "If the president had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people would still be alive," candidate Biden told a CNN town-hall audience in September 2020. "All the people. I'm not making this up."

Of course he made it up. Not a single medical authority backed up Biden's preposterous claim last fall--it was snake-oil falsity of Trumpian proportions and rated so by all fact-checkers--but some gullible voters may have bought it anyway.

Now Biden has been president for six months, and covid indicators are going the wrong way. Average daily deaths from covid in June 2021 were 342. While that's lower than last June's daily average of 659 deaths, it's a long way from zero.

It turns out that linking covid deaths to the president "not doing his job" was just pathetic proof of a career politician perfectly willing to say anything to get elected.

"We're going to get it under control, I promise you," Biden said just days before the election. "Look, the first step to beating the virus is beating Donald Trump."

Yet now that he's in the Oval Office, blame-shifting is in full force, and people dying from covid is Facebook's fault.

But misinformation about the vaccine had its genesis in the Biden-Harris campaign strategy, which propagandized the pharmaceutical race to develop a vaccine as untrustworthy in hopes of weakening Trump, even if that meant damaging public health confidence.

Kamala Harris punctuated the politicization of undermining the vaccine by telling a national debate audience flat-out she wouldn't get a vaccine promoted by Trump. Little wonder some people are skeptical about getting a government-issue shot in the arm, after prime-time doubt-planting like that.

Another factor for hesitancy is the lack of full FDA approval. Under the Trump administration, the FDA issued emergency use authorizations for the vaccines, and it's widely assumed that approval is a foregone conclusion.

Still, the fact is that until any drug is approved, it's not approved. While evidence of effectiveness appears to be high, and the FDA has given assurance that the vaccines meet its rigorous standards for safety and quality, some people nevertheless stand on principle against taking unapproved vaccines.

And then there's the historical flu-vaccine track record. Influenza killed more children during the 2018-2019 season than covid did last year, but only six out of 10 kids get a flu shot. Overall, about half of Americans shun flu vaccines, despite an annual death toll average of 30,000-40,000 flu victims and the CDC's perennial recommendation.

Six months in, and buyers' remorse among voters is spiking.

Besides covid, other negative surges are swamping Biden's administration, as his approval ratings sank to their lowest levels yet. Consumer prices are up, as Americans are reminded every time they fill their fuel tanks. Violent crime rates are up, particularly in large cities under Democratic governance. Unemployment claims are up, after steadily declining. Government spending is dangerously up, to more than 26 percent higher than the national gross domestic product.

In addition to a majority for the first time voicing disapproval of his performance as president, the latest Rasmussen poll reported that 42 percent of those surveyed "strongly disapprove" of Biden's first six months in office, against a mere 26 percent who "strongly approve."

Candidate Biden promised to be a president for all Americans, and enjoys only the slimmest of majorities in Congress (which are at great risk in the midterms). But President Biden has been far more prone to champion divisive partisan positions and causes than to try and govern toward middle ground.

Six months in, and the soul of the nation isn't healed much. The Democratic lure had been a return to Oval Office decency, but indecency isn't always loud and disrespectful. Sometimes the most egregious lie is spoken quietly, dressed up in the regal trappings of deliberation. Like the way Joe Biden intoned that "Jim Crow" was real in the 21st century. Hijacking and exploiting such a term in such a way demeans the integrity of both his office and its holder.

New highs in both citizen pessimism and presidential disapproval ratings may reflect a national sigh of disappointment at being, once again, snookered by political overpromising from a presidential wannabe.

All pendulums swing toward equilibrium, and maybe after narrowly picking and suffering two extremes as president--a naïve political novice and a lifetime partisan hack--the populace will be drawn more toward center-balanced candidates in 2024.

Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

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