Talking Points

You think Joe Biden's approval rating is bad now? Just wait till Christmas.

If you think President Biden's approval ratings are bad now, just watch what happens if Christmas turns out to be a huge national bummer.

The chances are pretty high. For weeks now, retailers have been warning that pandemic-related supply chain snarls will probably make some sought-after items hard to find during the shopping rush. Even local bookstores are sounding the alarm. And after this weekend's mass cancelation of flights by Southwest Airlines, some experts are warning holiday travel will be difficult, too. Another complicating factor: JetBlue, Southwest, and American have all told their employees they must comply with vaccine mandates by Dec. 8 — smack dab in the middle of peak travel season. 

I agree with my colleague Jeva Lange that this is an ideal time for Americans to reconsider our relationship to our buy-buy-buy consumerist society. But that's probably not going to happen. Instead, if Americans find themselves unable to celebrate the holidays in the manner to which they've become accustomed — with lots of stuff, and big trips to visit family — they're probably going to be angry. (Or perhaps we should say angrier: Nearly two-thirds of Americans already think the country is on the wrong track.) And they're probably going to blame the president.

It's clear Biden understands the political danger. The president plans to announce Wednesday that the Port of Los Angeles will expand to round-the-clock scheduling to clear up the backlog of container ships lingering with deliveries offshore. But as The New York Times notes, "it is unclear how much the White House's efforts can realistically help." The supply chain issues are global, and American ports are just one choke point among many.

That complicated reality won't help Biden avoid blame if the holidays go bad. The persistence of COVID-19 has helped tank his ratings, even though the continuing pandemic is fueled by factors largely outside White House control, like the emergence of the Delta variant and the persistence of vaccine hesitancy. That means Biden must do everything in his limited power to save Christmas —  if only to save his still-young presidency.