It's not the economy, stupid

It's not the economy, stupid

by digby

I didn't enjoy reading the following screed from Hugh Hewitt and you probably won't either. But it's the best case scenario for Trump winning re-election. And it's chilling.

The 2020 election isn’t going to be close.

The first-quarter gross domestic product growth rate of 3.2 percent sets up the first reality that will be noted in November 2020 because it telegraphs where the economy will be then: not in recession. Recessions are charted when GDP growth is negative for two consecutive quarters or more. That can and has occurred in sudden fashion — financial panics don’t send “save the date” cards. But the economy over which President Trump is presiding is strong and getting stronger. Innovation is accelerating, not declining. A recession before Election Day looks less and less likely by the day.

Small wonder then that Trump dominates the GOP with an approval rating above 80 percent. His administration’s deregulatory push is accelerating. More and more rule-of-law judges, disinclined to accept bureaucrats’ excuses for overregulation, are being confirmed to the bench. Readiness levels in the U.S. military have been renewed. Our relationship with our strongest ally, Israel, is at its closest in decades.

Meanwhile, the Dems are facing a Hobbesian choice of Sens. Bernie Sanders or Kamala D. Harris, or former vice president Joe Biden. Sanders and Harris are too far to the left, Sanders by a lot. Biden is far past his best years. The nice folk lower down are looking for other rewards. The nomination going to someone such as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is possible, I suppose, but what happens when the dog chasing the car catches it? What was an entertaining and amusing aside suddenly becomes a commitment and, with that, well, comes a barrage of attacks. Where Trump deflects incoming with ease, the Democrats scatter, some limping away, some blown out of the picture.

This will come as news to #Resistance liberals, who are certain Trump will lose, because they dislike him so much. They still haven’t figured out that 40 percent of the country love him and at least another 10 percent are very much committed to considering the alternative in comparison to Trump, not reflexively voting against him. That decile is doing very well in this economy. Unemployment remains incredibly low. The markets are soaring. That’s not a given for the fall of 2020, but better to be soaring than falling 18 months out.

On immigration, border security has always been a legitimate concern (and Immigration and Customs Enforcement a legitimate agency). People don’t talk much about it as they decline to state anything that will earn them the label racist, but the reality of open borders is understood to be an unqualified disaster by most of the country, and most of the country understands the Democrats to be arguing for a de facto open-border system, if not a de jure one.

The Green New Deal sounds like a bad science-fair project where the smart kids got the colors to combine via an elaborate device and make all the “lava” flow black down the volcanoes’ sides and the village is destroyed. Medicare-for-all is a Professor Harold Hill production, headed for Iowa as was the Music Man. There’s not a lot of serious thinking or talking among the Ds about the People’s Republic of China and the “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea (which many may think is some sort of shorthand for their marks on the debate stage), or Huawei, which is just too complicated to try to debate in five-minute exchanges. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s turn as Madame Defarge may even wake up some of the wealthy-woke to their peril. It’s a circus coming to a cable-news network near you soon.

Last week’s message from a booming economy should have rocked the Democratic field. Alas, the party seems collectively intent on poring over the Mueller report yet again in the hope that, somehow, someway, there’s something there. But the probe is over. No collusion. No obstruction. Democrats have to campaign on something else besides a great economy, rising values of savings, low unemployment across every demographic, clarity about allies and enemies abroad, and a rebuilding military. It’s a tough needle to thread, condemning everything about Trump except all that he has accomplished that President Barack Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t. Not just tough — it’s practically impossible.

I think he's probably wrong about what the majority of people think about this current political situation but I do think Democrats need to consider whether an economic doom and gloom message is going to resonate as fully as they think it is. Of course a lot of people are still unhappy with their financial situation and are trying to handle debt and lack of upward mobility. But it's also not true that the country is massively unhappy economically.

Here's the latest polling on the subject:

CNN poll:

Overall, 71% say the nation's economy is in good shape, the highest share to say so since February 2001, and the best rating during Trump's presidency by two points. A majority give the President positive reviews for his handling of the nation's economy (51% approve.)

He's much more unpopular than that. But it's not because of the economy.


Understandably, Republicans and Democrats have differing perspectives on which problem is most important, but the starkest difference is seen for immigration. This month, 41% of Republicans consider immigration to be the top problem facing the country, contrasted with 18% of political independents and 5% of Democrats who say the same.

Conversely, by a narrower gap of 32% to 19%, Democrats are more likely than Republicans this month to see government as the top problem.

As Gallup has discussed previously, both parties have reason to consider the government the top problem, with a disproportionate share of Democrats citing Trump, while Republicans cite the Democrats or liberals in Congress. But a fair number of both party groups cite broader concerns about political corruption or gridlock.

Of the other top five problems mentioned as most important, healthcare and race relations/racism are more likely to be named by Democrats than Republicans. Combined economy or unemployment mentions are more likely to come from political independents than from either party group.

I get that for Democrats economics are the single most important issue. It always is. But they may find themselves running on a slightly discordant message if they aren't carefully considering how to frame their economic message.

It's the corruption and the cruelty that will resonate, IMO. And while that certainly connects to "kitchen table issues" it's a bigger story than that.

BTW: Hewitt is definitely wrong about one thing. It could definitely be close. And when that happens it puts the Republicans and their "friends" in a position to steal it.