You never really know when voters are done and ready to move on until, well, they move on.
Take the political journey of Donald John Trump.
There has never been anyone like him. When he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president, no one in the political class took him seriously. His domination of his fellow Republicans in the 2016 primary, and defeat of Hillary Clinton in the general, became one of the greatest political upsets in American history.
What no one knew, including probably Trump himself at the time, was that many Americans were sick of everyone in office for the last 30 or so years. The Clintons, the Bushs, the senators, the governors, the frequent flyer candidates like Santorum and Huckabee. All of them.
And the voters had a point.
Iraq and Afghanistan had become Vietnam 2.0, and what was most frustrating about it is that no one in D.C. seemed to have learned anything from Vietnam. How could it happen again, led by the many of the same people who lived through the fall of Saigon?
And then there was the economy. I distinctly remember visiting Washington right after the Great Recession turned Florida into a sea of half-built subdivisions and dollar stores. D.C. was booming. No restaurants closed, apartments and office buildings at full capacity, and plenty of folks who clearly were able to keep their gym memberships. It was like visiting another world. And it was infuriating.
The thing about politicians who are out of touch with their constituents is that they are out of touch with their constituents. They don’t realize what their constituents really care about or are really upset about until the day of reckoning arrives.
Trump took advantage of this discontent with his 2016 election and came into office like a heat-seeking missile, intent on destroying every norm and every person who looked like the old guard. And he was completely successful in blowing it all up. The voters wanted a new direction and they got it in spades.
But ultimately, it was a little too much. They didn’t want that much chaos. So in 2020, the voters selected President Joe Biden, whose message, in a nutshell, was “I’m a nice guy who won’t insult people and be in your face all the time.” Trump didn’t know when to lay off, and it cost him.
A year and a half into the Biden presidency, however, and it’s clear that Biden is making the same mistakes as Trump — he’s also not in tune with the mood of his constituents. Instead of being laser focused on inflation and gas prices, which is what people care about, Biden seems intent on completing a liberal checklist of policy issues.
And it’s going to cost Biden and the Democrats dearly in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
Both Trump and Biden have risen to the highest of political heights because, when they were at their most successful, they were in sync with the voters. They both have also paid the political price for getting out of sync.
Who in 2022 and 2024 will best capture the mood of the country? Will it be Trump, Biden or someone new like Gov. Ron DeSantis? Whoever it is, they better spend less time in insulated D.C., and more time in real America.