All the portents are that 2022 will be a summer to remember — and not in a good way.
It will be a summer of shortages, high prices, possible electric blackouts, and severe and unpredictable storms. It also promises to be a summer of political ugliness, where civility and facts are missing.
National unity and cohesion, which usually can be expected in times of crisis, isn’t in sight. We are gracelessly at each other’s throats.
Also missing will be any sense that there is strong leadership anywhere; not in the White House, Congress or among our allies.
Given these tribulations, caused by a dangerous war in Ukraine following the COVID-19 pandemic, and you are entitled to be despondent. All this wasn’t in the playbook — the events that shape the world never are.
But don’t reach for the arsenic. For most of us, glorious summer, so important to the North American lifestyle, will be as it always is with crowded beaches, jammed highways, chaotic airports and painful sunburn. We will have summer; and summer will have its joys, its rituals and its happiness.
For Americans, these aren’t the worst of times. They are just very trying times. We will feel them directly in the wallet, painfully so. Gasoline and other fuels will be very expensive, and heating oil will be a big-ticket item next winter. House prices are still stratospheric, and rents are going up. The markets are shaky.
Americans are feeling that all isn’t well and that things are coming unstuck — reliable, everyday things.
In democracies, we seek relief by changing the government. All the indications are that we will do that in the midterm elections just months away.
The Democrats are likely to take a drubbing. The Republicans will joyfully seize victory — and they won’t know any better what to do about the great stresses that are shaking the nation and the world.
Instead, they will be tempted to double down on social issues and a raft of things that will exacerbate the divisions in the country, further curb the rights of women, mess with education curricula, seek to influence social media platforms and keep the government firmly in gridlock.
President Biden and his unlucky administration will get the blame if the Democrats are routed in the midterms. Indeed, it should, even though the alternative may not be better.
Certainly, a Democratic White House and Republican Congress suggests just one thing: crippling inaction.
Biden hasn’t been a proactive president but a reactive one. He has waited for the water to rise before he has acknowledged that it is happening, and it is time to start bailing.
Take, for example, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. When Biden tried to get ahead of the news, to identify an issue and resolve it before it mugged him, he got it terribly wrong. It was a foreign policy calamity of Biden’s making, and it seems to have curbed his enthusiasm for pre-empting issues.
Mostly, Biden has sought to balance things. His reaction to outrageousness is a sedate, genteel sense of horror. You expect him to say to the Supreme Court, or the gun lobby, or Russian Vladimir Putin, “Look what you have done!”
One gets the feeling that Biden doesn’t have a grip on much except his decency. Everyone who knows him will tell you what a decent man he is. Decency supports, but it doesn’t lead. Decency isn’t a policy. It isn’t a way forward. It isn’t a solution.
After the midterms, Congress likely will be in the hands of two ruinous vacillators, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the even more wobbly Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. They aren’t exemplars of the Republican ideal. They aren’t in the previously worshipped Ronald Reagan tradition. Both have shown themselves captive to former President Donald Trump’s vengeful malevolence and have twisted the truth in their servitude to him.
Politics are sour, prices high, the future bumpy, but summer is glorious. Revel in it, celebrate it, and bask in its untroubled rays. I plan to do just that. Thoughts of politics are worse than sunburn.