DANIEL VAUGHAN: Inflation is increasing political instability everywhere

Politico reports that Democrats hired a focus group poller to get a grasp on why voters are so unhappy at the moment. The exact line used by Politico is, “Democrats are desperately trying to understand what’s roiling the electorate.” If Democrats don’t understand why voters are upset right now, they deserve to lose the 2022 midterm elections.

Democratic pollsters said the party should be concerned because voters showed a “preoccupation with inflation and crime” and “exhaustion with pandemic restrictions.” In short, if you’ve had to walk into a grocery store in the last few months, you’ve likely experienced all these emotions.

What I’ve just described was news to Democrats. Why? Because “A cottage industry of White House officials and left-wing media critics who talk to each other on Twitter has convinced themselves that the media is responsible for the public’s overwhelming focus on the bad news of inflation rather than the good news of low unemployment and rising wages.”

In other words, Democrats have chosen to lie to themselves to say inflation isn’t an issue. It’s possible the bubble is popping now, but it’s shocking it took a focus group to tell them inflation and crime are bad.

It shouldn’t take a focus group.

The more significant problem, however? It’s far worse than the focus group is telling them.

In May of 2021, I wrote a column detailing how increasing inflation correlated with higher political instability. One key takeaway was, “The late-60s and most of the 1970s were marked by considerable political upheaval. That was also a time of increasing inflation. The peace and love hippies turned into violent domestic terrorists. Assassinations were the norm.”

Whatever unrest lurks beneath the surface of domestic politics rises to the top when inflation runs high. It’s arguable which one is the chicken or egg, but it’s inarguable that inflation shows up without political instability.

You don’t have to look in the past to find evidence of this point. It’s happening right now.

Global protests erupting over inflation.

Mass protests are erupting across Peru as people blame the government for high prices and low wages. Reuters reports that “Inflation in Peru has reached its highest level in a quarter of a century.”

Reuters adds, “Peruvians in poor rural towns around the country have taken to the streets, sometimes violently, to demand lower prices, putting socialist President Pedro Castillo’s already-wobbly administration on edge. The former teacher survived a second impeachment attempt on March 28 following allegations of graft.”

Six people have died from those protests, and more have been injured. Roads are blocked due to the crowds, and the military is moving in to regain control.

There’s a similar story in Greece. A nationwide strike has begun with 2.5 million people walking out in that country. People complain of not being able to afford rent, electricity, or food.

In France, President Immanuel Macron’s re-election bid faces strong headwinds as the far-right Marine Le-Pen closes the gap in the polls. What was once a guaranteed victory for Macron has shifted to a statistically tied race.

Inflation pushes extremism.

As inflation rages globally, people turn to violent protests and extreme politicians and ideologies.

We know, from the past, that America is not immune to these pressures. The Great Recession from 2007 to 2008 gave birth to the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements, which roiled both parties. The Tea Party culminated in the election of Donald Trump. The Occupy movement elevated Bernie Sanders, democratic socialism, and elected Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and others.

It’s eminently possible for people in the United States to produce new political factions that sweep out the old. When people experience the increasing pressures and high costs of inflation, they look at alternatives in a new light.

There’s an old adage among preppers that everyone is nine meals from being crazy. That means if you miss nine meals in a row, you’re more likely to turn crazy. And while that’s true in general, that number is lower for parents. There are only so many meals kids can miss before parents go crazy.

We’re witnessing the beginnings of these rumblings now. People in Greece and Peru are snapping now. Other countries may follow. We don’t know where America is on this list. Still, it’s obvious that voters are already extremely unhappy with Democrats.

If inflation and its progeny continue past the midterm elections, voters will continue to stew. Inflation is hot water that can reach a full boil. Where it leads is anyone’s guess, but the result is increased instability across all governments.

It’s unclear how far we are from crazy. Some people are already there; others are growing to that point. Democrats and Republicans are thinking about the midterms, but larger stakes are involved. Inflation can pose a systemic shock that brings down entire governments.

Democrats are only just now waking up to those possibilities.