Bring On the Non-Drama Election


Don’t look now, but the political era of existential-crisis mongering may be reaching its overdue end. Thank Democrats for screwing the basics up so badly as to focus minds.

That’s the takeaway of

Joe Biden’s

breathless Wednesday speech. It used to be that if a president scheduled prime-time air to warn the nation of a “threat” to “democracy,” from “dark forces,” that has placed everything from our “personal freedoms” to the “rule of law” “on the ballot”—he’d be referring to something like World War II, and get a listen. The Biden speech got a shrug. Voters have sat through this apocalyptic movie many times now, and know its anticlimactic ending. Besides, they’re busy searching for spare change to cover the rising grocery bill.

Not that the left isn’t giving it the old middle-school try. The Nation’s

Katrina vanden Heuvel

warns we are in a “polycrisis,” of “war, extreme weather, contagion, concentration,” coupled with “poverty,” “homegrown dictators,” “obscene inequality,” “big money,” “election deniers,” “nativism,” and “oceans of disinformation and dishonesty.”

Barack Obama

told an Arizona rally this week that democracy “may not survive” the midterm election: “That’s not an exaggeration.” The Atlantic’s

Tom Nichols

recently tweeted: “The United States is facing the greatest danger to its constitutional system since at least the 1950s, if not the *18*50s, and millions of people are like: Yeah, but gas, man.”

Yeah, but gas, man. And hallelujah. Bring on the non-drama election.

For those counting, this is the fourth cycle Democrats have made histrionic claims of external threat, internal menace and political demise.

Donald Trump

became their foil, and no claim about him or his supporters became too absurd. Collusion with Russia! Institutions crumbling! Rule of law—gone! Climate melting down! Nation succumbing to nationalists, racists, misogynists, phobes of all kinds! Voter suppression! Minority tyranny! Insurrection! Along the way the left conjoined its agenda with the saving of humanity: If you want to rescue “democracy,” kill the filibuster, end oil, put the feds in charge of voting, censor “disinformation,” raise taxes, forgive debt, expand entitlements, and celebrate

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Disney’s

“Lightyear.”

Only Mr. Trump is neither on the ballot nor in the White House, an absence that has freed the collective American mind to refocus on the real, and worrisome, domestic policy issues at hand. Democrats have clarified matters further by governing in an aggressively ideological and unserious way. Democratic spending sent inflation raging, and recession looms. The stock market—meaning 401(k)s and 529s—is in the tank. The left’s assault on domestic energy feeds untenable energy prices. Their defund-the-police movement produces soaring crime. Blue-state school lockdowns set kids back by years. The border barely exists.

So yeah, but gas, man. In the recent Wall Street Journal poll, 64% of respondents said this midterm is “more important” than most elections. Asked why, the categories that got the significant majority of support included “we need change,” “current administration failing,” “anti-Democrat,” “fiscal issues,” inflation, crime and immigration. Only 13% listed “democracy in danger” and 12% “anti-Republican”—Mr. Biden’s audience.

So why keep ignoring the vast majority’s concerns? Mr. Biden gave the same speech in Philadelphia in September, and Democratic fortunes have declined nearly every week since. One obvious answer is that Democrats don’t have a good story to tell. Which gets to the other: The only agenda progressives will allow the president to sell is one that even the Biden White House knows is too toxic to campaign on.

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What’s the president supposed to say? Elect Democrats, and we’ll spend a lot more money during this time of inflation! Elect Democrats, and we’ll raise taxes on the verge of recession! Mr. Biden could have pivoted long ago to a message that resonates with more of the electorate: pro-energy, pro-growth, pro-fiscal-rectitude. But his base would lose its mind. So Mr. Biden is left talking to them alone, using the “threat to democracy” to spur Democratic turnout.

There’s a potent lesson for Republicans, too. If this election is showing anything, it’s that most Americans are exhausted by hysteria, impeachment, live congressional investigations, conspiracy theories and politicians who keep wrecking standards and norms in the name of saving democracy.

They want a governing class that acknowledges their real problems, presents a sober plan for tackling them, engages in regular order and—more than anything—meets that baseline requirement of acting grown up. Should the GOP win one or both chambers of Congress, it will face intense pressure from some in its own base to engage in retribution politics, to follow Democrats into the fever swamps of nonstop drama.

Democracy isn’t on the ballot this year, but America does have a lot of economic and domestic problems that need solutions. Republicans have two years before the 2024 presidential election to prove they have a plan, that they can be better trusted. A tip: Don’t waste this opportunity.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Whether the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi or the shooting of Steve Scalise in 2017, one of the root causes of escalating attacks on lawmakers today is the inflammatory rhetoric from politicians and media personalities on both the left and right sides of the aisle. Images: AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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