Start smaller: How Democrats can win big on small business

Start smaller: How Democrats can win big on small business
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The polling gods have not been smiling on the Biden administration lately. Since the summer’s rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan, there have been few high points for Biden & Co to cling to. By almost every important metric to the American public, President BidenJoe BidenCDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Manchin seeks 'adjustments' to spending plan MORE is under water.

The president’s job approval hovers in the low 40s in the RealClear Politics average. The drop is fueled predominantly by losses among two important groups for the Democratic coalition. Sixty percent of independents now disapprove of the job the president is doing and among Hispanics, a demographic Biden won handily in 2020, only 43 percent currently approve of his performance. 

It doesn’t look much better on individual issues. Biden is getting less than 40 percent positive marks on his handling of the economy, his job as commander in chief, foreign policy and immigration. While he boasted over 60 percent approval on handling the COVID-19 pandemic just a couple months ago, that figure is below 50 percent and falls along party lines, with 85 percent Democratic approval and only 19 percent of Republicans. 

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To go along with the numbers on the economy, there’s a widespread pessimism problem. As politics writer G. Elliott Morris of The Economist notes, the latest Economist/YouGov poll shows that aggregate economic pessimism is at its highest level since the summer of 2020, during the height of the pandemic and lockdowns. Over 60 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and blame Biden for rising inflation. CNBC found that inflation is tied with COVID-19 as the most important issue facing Americans. And with Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Schumer eyeing Build Back Better vote as soon as week of Dec. 13 Trump: McConnell must use debt limit to crush Biden agenda MORE offering that her expectation that inflation will get back to the 2 percent range “by the middle to end of next year,” there isn’t much hope for a better economic message for the midterm elections.

What can the administration do? They must lean into — and amplify — the stories of American companies and industries that are doing well and benefitting from the economy. They’re out there. 

Take America’s more than 30 million small businesses, for example. New data from the Data Catalyst Institute (DCI) reveal a much rosier outlook on the American economy by those who own businesses with 500 or fewer employees and sell goods online and offline across a range of industries, including food and beverage, construction, clothing and fashion, and home goods, among others. DCI found that 59 percent of small business owners rate the state of the economy as either “excellent” or “good,” and 41 percent rate it as “fair” or “poor.” Compared to other industries, 77 percent of these owners describe the state of their industry as “excellent” or “good,” compared to only 23 percent who see it as “fair” or “poor.” 

A majority of small businesses still face challenges such as finding new customers and hiring staff. But despite that, DCI found that 76 percent of small business sellers are optimistic that their businesses will grow in the next three to five years.  In fact, the researchers found that sellers who diversified their sales methods more — using a greater number of methods such as brick-and-mortar stores, wholesaling and online marketplaces — were one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half  times more optimistic about their business, industry and the U.S. economy than sellers using just one or two ways of selling. This may stem from running a more stable business with diversified revenue streams.   

That’s a pretty great story — especially considering all the negativity swirling around inflation, the supply chain, COVID-19 and other issues right now.

Another group that is seeing positive benefits since Biden came into office is farmers — and specifically, Black farmers, a demographic too often ignored. The American Rescue Plan granted over $10 billion to support agriculture, half of which goes to disadvantaged farmers, a quarter of whom are Black, according to the Farm Bureau. The money has been used for debt relief, training and education. And considering that Black farmers have lost more than 12 million acres in farmland since the 1950s, the American Rescue Plan could be considered the most significant legislation for these farmers since the Civil Rights Act.

That seems like a pretty great story, too. This is the kind of material that needs far more amplification — not only to tell the story of the past 10 months, but also to combat the deluge of negativity surrounding the first year of the Biden administration. This is especially important because the impact of economic policies may not be felt immediately.  

Further, it goes without saying that passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and reconciliation package would mean millions more Americans stand to benefit from the administration’s aggressive action in the wake of the pandemic. But, in the meantime, the import of leaning into optimism opportunities cannot be overstated. The fate of the midterms may rest on it.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.