♫♫ “Popular!” ♪♪♪ (from Wicked)

I know unpopular: I arrived 6th grade, fat, friendless, bookish, stuttering and new. (My 9th school since first grade). The word on election night this year was that the president was so unpopular, the fascists and bluestockings would take over in a red wave.

The murmurs: 

History shows,

Every time they fill the tank…baby formula shortage,

Dobbs hit too early, people’s memories are short,

It’s the economy, stupid,

Voter fraud, 

Masks, bah! 

40% approval, 60% think the country’s in the wrong direction,

Old, stuttering, senile, decent, corrupt!

He’s just not popular, the candidates aren’t even inviting him to their state to campaign

But Joe is an Uncle, Joe is Dark. Joe is a verb, he builds bridges, he brings back jobs, he supports freedom abroad, he protects the rights of voters, he restores the right to plan parenthood, he stands up for civil rights, he enacts major legislation, he gets back to averting global climate catastrophe, he cuts the deficit, he puts government back together, he gets to the bottom of armed insurrection. Joe’s not popular because milk went up.

♫♫ “Pop Musik” ♪♪♪ (M, 1979)

My head spins and I have to look the word up. “Popular.” Biden is a known quantity, been around since 1972. Won in a landslide. Isn’t he popular with the populace?

I’m a social scientist so I look at the numbers—40% approval, not good. Was that a yes/no question? Is there an area you’d rate Biden 80%, like for lowering the deficit $1.5 trillion? If he kidnapped families with children and left them stranded, would you approve his job performance? Which books would you like him to burn?

I try to not obsess and MSNBC is on break so I watch Young Sheldon and Magpie Murders as I check Twitter and the Times and 538. I know that the votes are already cast and nobody was shot while voting and the count will be slow. I only wake once, at 4, to check Twitter.

♫♫ “Me No Pop I” ♪♪♪ (Coati Mundi, 1980)

By morning NPR lets us know that Pennsylvania will have a Democratic governor and Senator and it begins to be clear that the Red Wave was a handy catch phrase based on nothing. Democrats with 3% chance end up winning, despite the leader of their party. People’s memories are not really short when it comes to fundamentals like the right of a woman to have an abortion. Turnout is high.

Somehow the President’s low job approval didn’t harm his party. Voters can measure his accomplishments without being distracted by the pains of a post-Trump, post-pandemic economy. As for popularity, define it. After all, we’re adults here, old enough to vote. If it has no impact, does it carry any meaning?