It’s the economy, Joe, and only the economy

Joe Biden’s supporters — and perhaps Biden himself — can’t understand why the presidential poll numbers on the economy aren’t better. Why is he getting so little credit for so much good news on inflation, wages, jobs and the recovery of American manufacturing? Donald Trump’s idea of a strong economy centered on the stock market, about which he tweeted obsessively. Biden’s focus is on Americans who aren’t already rich. And, by the way, stocks are also doing real well.

Americans in their prime years, ages 25 to 54, are flooding back into the job market. The share of them working or seeking jobs is the highest it’s been since 2002. Workers are the happiest they’ve been for decades, according to the Conference Board.

So why on earth have polls given Trump a significant lead over Biden on the question of “who’s done a better job handling the economy?”

Answer: Because the Trumpian right is so good at dragging Democrats into their cultural wars. And the rich people who benefit the most from tax cuts command the bigger megaphones.

Democrats should consider the foolishness of passing around Vice President Kamala Harris’ rants. Even when she’s right, her explosions of outrage come off as bad action. Now out is a campaign video of her hollering at a sorority event about book bans and, specifically, a new social studies curriculum in Florida that includes lessons on how “slaves developed skills” that could be used for “personal benefit.” Of course, that message is a disgusting rationalization of slavery. But most everyone already knows that. It’s meant to bait the left.

Her rage face and aggressive finger wagging do not obscure the reality that Harris is a woman of privilege using her mixed-race background as some kind of qualification for high office. That rubs Americans of all color sore. One recalls the first Democratic 2020 presidential debate, when she viciously attacked Biden for his position on school busing. In doing so, she misrepresented his position, which, it turned out, had been hers as well.

Note that as the primaries progressed, the politically powerful Black Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina brought his voters to Biden’s side rather than Harris’, which reflected his judgement that Biden could beat Trump and Harris could not.

Democrats should not be sinking into the Republicans’ culture war traps. Yet they feel obligated to spend so much of their airtime countering transparently dumb talking points, be it on race or on gender.

Democrat Bill Clinton won two terms following James Carville’s sage campaign advice: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Why don’t Democrats, if they want to energize Black voters, talk about how the Black unemployment rate recently hit a record low? Not only are African Americans surging into the workforce, but they’re also getting jobs that require more skills, pay better and are more stable.

Heaven knows Biden has been trying to tout America’s extraordinary economic progress since he ascended to the presidency. Inflation is now down to the point that wage gains exceed losses in the dollar’s value.

Perhaps Democrats can remind blue-collar Trump supporters that their hero tried to take away the health coverage of 16 million Americans and raise premiums for millions more. That was in 2017, when Trump pushed Senate Republicans to pass a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats and a Republican named John McCain stopped it.

At the time, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina praised skinny repeal as “a first good step” in killing the ACA altogether. That was the plan.

Democrats should not let Republicans lure them away from what matters to voters. “It’s the economy, stupid.” To that they should add, “Stop talking about everything else.”

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.