Take 50-year-old Gloria Longuren, who stood without a smile as she finished refueling 3.2 gallons in her car over the weekend, and the budget had enough petrol to get to her teaching job at an elementary school in Del Mar where refueling is cheaper.
“I hope to win the lottery to afford Tesla,” she said, joking about buying an electric car. “It’s so hard to know what to do and who to blame.”
In Washington and in congressional districts across the country, a game of guilt over high fuel prices is unfolding, as people like Longuren decide who deserve the bulk of their anger because of a sudden blow to their wallets. A Conservative Democrat who is now leaning toward Republicans because of economic concerns, Languren is the voter who will help determine whether Democrats will be able to retain their fragile majority in Congress in November.
Meanwhile, Democrats such as Levin, who represents the state with some of the highest gas prices in the country, are struggling to find quick solutions or even long-term solutions to the gas price problem along with record inflation overall. The question tests the mantra that the Democrats are a “delivering” party.
Biden acknowledged the problem by telling Americans in his speech last week, “I know how painful it is.” Aiming to lower prices, Biden announced the release of 1 million barrels of oil daily for the next six months from strategic oil reserves, which were approved by many members of the House of Representatives. Biden and other Democrats have repeatedly pointed to an economy that has grown significantly since the pandemic, referring to the lowest unemployment rate in recent years.
What is a strategic oil reserve?
“It’s not just automatic, it’s not just magical,” House Speaker Hakim Jeffries (DN.Y.) said Tuesday. “This is due to the presidential leadership and partnership with the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
But over the past few weeks, in an interview on Capitol Hill, House of Representatives MPs involved in swing districts and their aides have privately acknowledged that such a message is deaf to many voters who are experiencing the consequences of a higher cost of living.
They are also worried that an emotional appeal to Americans over gas prices – when Biden and others say paying more for pumps – is a small sacrifice to show solidarity with Ukrainians fighting Russia’s invasion – may not support an increasingly irritating electorate.
“Our task is just to talk to people truthfully. We will not pretend that economic pressure due to inflation is not real, ”said spokesman Daniel Kildi (D-Mich.). “This is a difficult conversation and it requires more thoughtful communication. What I’ve found is simple, be direct with people and don’t try to twist or sweeten it. Just say, “Look, this is the result of an unprecedented world pandemic and a war started by lunatics, and we have to find a way through it.”
Recent polls suggest Democrats’ messages are still weakening. An An Associated Press-NORC poll conducted March 17-21 found that while 55 percent of Americans believe the rapid rise in prices is beyond Biden’s control, most independents attribute the rise to the president. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that Americans are likely to blame the Biden administration’s economic policies for high gas prices, while 24 percent said it was the result of the war in Ukraine.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are clearly still looking for answers. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (California) last week repeatedly encouraged her brawl to brainstorm decisions to reduce oil prices, according to many Democrats who attended last week’s meeting. Members urged Democrats to quickly embark on efforts such as suspending federal action a tax on gas by the end of the year and exploring tax breaks to help ease the burden on low-income Americans.
MP Angie Craig (D-Min) wants to prioritize domestic renewable biofuels to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. She took the lead in a bipartisan letter sent to Biden last week outlining two paths do so through the order of the executive.
Democrats have largely agreed that the other part of the formula blames oil companies if the price of oil drops to $ 100 a barrel. They will get their chance to commit a crime on Wednesday when the heads of six oil companies testify before the House Energy Committee.
“We need to understand from them why the hell gas prices don’t go down when a barrel of oil… [is] I’m going down, “said Craig, who is sitting on the committee.” If they don’t [explain], then we know exactly who was responsible. These are the oil executives who are more concerned with profits than the American people. ”
In a half-dozen interviews in Washington, the Vulnerable Democrats presented two common strategies they use in talking to voters: acknowledging that they feel the pain of voters because of rising prices, and proposing solutions through action in Congress or Biden’s unilateral move, for example. as an order of the executive
“I’m trying to listen,” spokeswoman Susan Wilde (D-Pa.) Said. “Most people don’t want an explanation for inflation. They know it, and it hurts them. The explanations are just deaf. It looks like you’re making excuses. “
MP Elisa Slotkina (Michanin), who faces a particularly tough re-election contest, has admitted that while some factors remain out of the party’s control when it comes to gas prices, she prefers to “catch trying to help” rather than sit there. and complain about the problem if we don’t work on it ”.
“I can’t rewrite anything for people to believe that things are getting better until the damn price falls.” She declared.
In California, Levin tried to sell more subtle gas price protection by talking about three P.
But his message is challenged not only by a handful of Republicans running against him, but also by many of his constituents. His district, which runs along the coastline from southern Orange County to San Diego County, has long been a stronghold of Republicans until Levin revoked his seat in the 2018 by-elections, fueled by anger at President Donald Trump and Republicans.
Many of these Republicans now point out that with Biden in office, gas prices are higher than when Trump was president.
“Gas was cheaper when he was president,” said Joshua Jessler, a 23-year-old plumbing student, wearing a wet suit to surf.
“Biden is to blame all the way,” said 39-year-old Bobby Ott, an Army veteran working on a contractor’s license. had a bumper sticker against Biden on his jeep. “The first thing he and his comrades did was kill the Keystone pipeline. Now they want to blame Putin for the price of gas. Do they think we are idiots? ”
And Republicans in the House of Representatives debuted a new slogan earlier this month, hoping candidates will unfold in the campaign, asking voters if they can “allow” more years of democratic leadership. These attacks have disappointed many Democrats, who often try to find the same sharp answer.
“It’s awful. I hear a lot of people blame our president and our governor. People are evil, ”said Heather Henry, 35, a real estate agent and fitness club employee who considers herself politically independent. “Politicians take whose side. One party says it will reduce the gas tax. The other side wants green change. Nobody wants to work with each other, and voters stay between them. “
Even more confusing Democrat reports, Republicans are again urged to continue drilling on state lands as they push Biden to rebuild the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Some Democrats agree that more drilling may offer a temporary solution, but that argument comes from counter-liberals who believe the war in Ukraine and the U.S. ban on Russian oil should accelerate the long-awaited transition to renewable energy.
During a weekly meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Liberals cautiously warned more tolerant colleagues not to go for the “full reel” of drill, baby, drill, urging them to consider combining such a strategy with long-term renewable energy-based solutions. up to three people in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
“Interestingly, there is a very real now – in our democracy, in the substitution of other people, in national security – an argument for the transition, which, I think, we would never be able to express so clearly,” – said the rapper. This was announced on Monday by Promila Jayapal (D-Vash.), Who heads the Progressive Group of Congress.
Julia Bodie, 35, who drives a Tesla car in the Levin area, reiterated her argument for moving to the production of domestic energy alternatives.
“Perhaps this gas problem will convince people that we need to move away from oil,” she said. “This is such a difficult question. There is a lot of tension in society – some people accuse Biden of what I think is unfair. He does a good job, not with a plus, but better than the last guy.
If Democrat voters stay in place, it may not be because of any devotion to Levin, but because his two main rivals in most matters look far-right.
Levin last month sent out a questionnaire asking voters to describe the issues that were most important to them. On Saturday he was followed by Fr. tweet assuring the public that he is also “feeling the pain of high gas prices” and “committed to focusing on solutions that bring real results”. He referred to his article on a local news site in which he blamed high prices on three P.
The pressure on whether the voters he speaks to perceives his message, Levin said, “will continue to tell the truth.”
“Ultimately, I hope people understand what causes prices to rise,” he said on Capitol Hill.
Perry reported from Encinitas, California. Emily Guskin in Washington contributed to this report.