The Post-2022 Liberal Defection, continued

I saw this going viral Trading trust, by Seth Godin.

True, Americans have lost trust in its institutions, as can be confirmed by polls and sentiment online, but this does not establish the causality: is it due to Americans being more pessimistic, or have the institutions gotten worse? Likely both. I posit it was a multi-stage process. The rise of Trump, in 2015, coincided with a sharp decline of confidence by the Right of such institutions, compared to the Left, who were optimistic. Obama’s two-term presidency made liberals more optimistic, and such optimism, although diminished during Trump’s surprise win, carried over to 2020.

The final stage was liberals and centrists turning against Biden starting in 2022, as I discuss in The Left-Wing Defection. It was not Covid policy (e.g. the lockdowns, vaccines, or masks) that caused the defection, as commonly assumed, but a combination of high inflation and ‘narrative collapse’ in 2022, two years after the pandemic began. This is when Biden’s poll numbers began to crater from 50-53% approval shortly after inauguration, to 43-45% just 6-10 months later, a decline of 8-10%:

Biden had been polling well for the first half of 2021. The memory of Jan 6th spurred-on the left and liberals alike to rally behind the administration. The 2020-2021 stock market and real estate boom and stimulus created a wealth effect that made Americans, on either side of the aisle, more optimistic in spite of the overly-onerous Covid restrictions that failed to ‘flatten the curve’, or the failure of the vaccines to contain Covid and the subsequent variants despite assurances in 2020 and that Covid would be contained in months, not years.

In early 2022 the bill came due in the form of rapidly rising inflation and interest rates, along with a bear market in equites and the shutting off of the stimulus spigot. The 2022-2023 layoffs in tech, which are still ongoing, disproportionately hurt upper-class, educated Democratic voters. High interest rates makes home ownership less attainable due to rising mortgage rates, which effectively pulled up the ladder on home ownership, disproportionately affecting young Biden voters.

Musk’s buyout of Twitter (which saw the left forfeit a major organ of propaganda), in addition to negative media coverage of the Biden economy (e.g. inflation, shortages of eggs, baby formula, supply chain problems, etc.) and reversals of landmark cases (the overturn of Roe V. Wade in 2022, and in 2023 the overturn of Grutter V. Bollinger), were additional setbacks for the left and indicative of a loss of control of the narrative, after otherwise minimal opposition in 2020-2021 during Covid. Additionally, the 2023-2024 DEI-plagiarism scandals, following the October 7th Gaza attacks, further eroded confidence in the left by liberals and centrists alike (such as Bill Ackman), not just ‘MAGA people’.

Viral videos on Elon-owned Twitter, like of looting, shoplifting or other urban decay/disorder, further helped create the perception of Biden, and Democrats in general, being on the side of lawlessness or siding with criminals. As Dukakis can attest, being seen as soft on crime factors heavily in the mind of voters and can also explain why Biden’s approval ratings have not recovered in 2023 despite the economy and stock market recovering, inflation on the down-swing again, and unemployment the lowest in decades. Losing the perception game means losing the election.

From my own vantage point on center or left-leaning communities and forums (e.g. Hacker News, Reddit, and Twitter) saw a major change in the narrative and sentiment since 2022, that being turning against the left. In 2020-2021, comments that criticized masks, vaccines, lockdowns or other covid restrictions and policy would have been swiftly met with downvotes and rebuke, but now such comments are upvoted or even praised.

This is symptomatic of growing distrust of experts and mainstream narratives, whether about the economy or Covid, seen on either side of the aisle, not just by the right. If the experts are wrong, or at least are as clueless as anyone else, when do we stop putting our faith blindly in them–or at least step back and ask for second opinions?

For a major medical procedure or diagnosis, it’s not uncommon to seek a second opinion. Given the stakes, it’s essential to get the best possible treatment. Why does the same not apply to whose expertise to trust or the consumption of the news? If the category of what constitutes hate speech or racism or misinformation becomes so broad that such terms become meaningless, or only applied to one side, at what point do we call into doubt the intellectual legitimacy or impartiality of these institutions, let alone entrust them as self-appointed arbiters of truth or what discourse ought to be permissible or not.

All too often it seems like the label of mis/disinformation is thrown around to discredit a source which goes against a mainstream narrative, not that it’s wrong. If something is indeterminate, then disagreeing with it, such as the alleged but empirically unproven efficacy of social distancing, masks, or lockdowns, does not make it disinformation. For example, in 2020 the possibility of a lab leak was categorically dismissed as misinformation, but in 2022-2023 was entertained as a real possibly by even mainstream publications, such as the WSJ. Why does one side get to have their views enshrined as correct information.