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Trapped in a Pandemic Funk: Millions of Americans Can’t Shake a Gloomy Outlook

Trapped in a Pandemic Funk: Millions of Americans Can’t Shake a Gloomy Outlook

A year ago, Michael Macey, a barber who lives in the suburbs outside Atlanta, was thrilled to help propel President Biden to victory

hopeful that Democrats would move swiftly to tackle policing laws and other big issues.

But then he watched his hopes for sweeping changes wither in Washington.

Now, Mr. Macey’s sense of optimism — like that of millions of Americans — has been dashed.

“I don’t like the division,” Mr. Macey, 63, said. “I don’t like the standstill. We need something to get accomplished.”

For so many voters in this November of discontent, the state of the union is just … blech.

Despite many signals that things are improving — the stock market is hitting record highs, hiring is accelerating sharply

Country is Heading:

More than 60 percent of voters in opinion surveys say that the country is heading in the wrong direction — a national funk that has pummeled Mr.

Biden’s approval ratings and fueled a backlash against Democrats that could cost them control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.

The complaints are not just coming from conservatives.

Voters who supported Mr. Biden said they had grown dispirited about his ability to muscle through campaign pledges to address climate change,

voting rights and economic fairness while also confronting rising prices and other disruptions to daily life exacerbated by the pandemic.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Daniel Sanchez,
who lost his teaching contract at a community college in suburban Phoenix when enrollment plunged during the pandemic.

Now, he is making minimum wage at an organic market and searching for full-time teaching work.

Mr. Sanchez, 36, said he still supported Mr. Biden,

echoing many Democratic voters who said they believed the president was being unfairly blamed by Republicans and the news media for problems beyond his control,

Covid spikes:

such as the price of gasoline or Covid spikes among Americans who refuse to get vaccinated.

But Mr. Sanchez has grown exasperated with the endless melodrama in Washington as a Democratic effort to confront climate change and strengthen the social safety net has stalled amid intraparty disputes.

He is particularly frustrated with two moderate Democratic senators — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mr. Sanchez’s own senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“It seems like the answers are right in front of them, and people are willing to do nothing about it,” he said.

It is not just the federal government they blame. Trash is piling up on city streets because of a dearth of garbage haulers.

a 65-year-old swimming instructor who has yet to receive about 14 weeks of unemployment benefits from the State of Florida that she applied for in May 2020.

“I don’t see it getting better at all.”

With the global supply chain gummed up, voters around the Phoenix metro area said they were paying the price in lost money and wasted time.

A restaurant chef in Phoenix is once again struggling to buy paper plates and napkins.

A plumbing supplier in Tempe is losing commissions because he cannot fill orders.

And at gas stations across the country, drivers cringe at paying an average of $3.40 a gallon — prices that have risen by more than $1 a gallon from a year ago.

“Everything goes up, and pay pretty much stays the same,” said Brandon Hendrix, 39, of Athens, Ga., who works in security for an auto plant.

Even with the unemployment rate at 4.6 percent, falling but still above its prepandemic levels, Mr. Hendrix,

said job security is not his top concern.Instead, it is the rising of prices for “gas, grocery stores,

rent — just about everything you can think of” that worry him. Still, he blames much of the country’s grim state on the pandemic,

Republicans’ obstruction and relentless criticism of the Biden administration.

“They instigated too much division,” Mr. Hendrix said of Republicans. “Basically, they’ve kind of boiled it down to politics and power play.

They’re not really solving issues. They’re just keeping you divided so they can do whatever they want.”

“Every day or so, my younger one will say, ‘Dad, there’s no bus.

Can you come get me?’” said John Radanovich, 58, the father of an eighth-grader and an 11th-grader in Lake Worth, Fla., near West Palm Beach.

Takeaways From the 2021 Elections:

A G.O.P. pathway in Virginia. The win by Glenn Youngkin,

who campaigned heavily in the governor’s race on education and who evaded the shadow of Donald Trump, could serve as a blueprint for Republicans in the midterms.

A rightward shift emerges. Mr. Youngkin outperformed Mr.

Trump’s 2020 results across Virginia, while a surprisingly strong showing in the New Jersey governor’s race by the G.O.P. candidate unsettled Democrats.

Democratic panic is rising. Less than a year after taking power in Washington, the party faces a grim immediate future as it struggles to energize voters and continues to lose messaging wars to Republicans.

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