In 1992, James Carville coined a phrase that has become famous over the last three decades: “It’s about the economy, stupid.” Then governor Bill Clinton rode that phrase all the way to a landslide win over George H.W. Bush that year, and Carville became something of a legend among pundits on both sides of the political aisle. Ostensibly all Carville did was repackage what Ronald Reagan had done in 1980 when he asked voters if they were better off now than they were four years ago. Unfortunately for incumbent Jimmy Carter, the answer was no.
Suffice to say, ever since Clinton’s win, “the economy, stupid” has been the number one rated issue that pollsters concern themselves with when they conduct their polls. From Clinton’s reelection to both Bush 43’s and Obama’s wins, the economy was rated the most important issue for voters by far. And then Trump came along.
To be fair, Trump did talk about the economy, but not the way most presidential candidates in the past had done. Trump’s modus operandi was to appeal to a specific type of voter, the one who had been left behind in this new multicultural, pro-growth economy, whose wages were stagnant and whose jobs had been lost due to cheap imports, primarily from China, his favorite target, that is when he’s not going after the EU.
But Trump piggy-backed that with an all-out cultural assault against people – mostly brown – whom he claimed were stealing jobs from “real” Americans. His rhetoric struck a chord with people who were already suspicious of America’s changing demographics and acutely aware that by the middle part of the century they would no longer be a majority in their own country. Accusing Mexicans of being rapists and calling third-world countries “shit-holes” was the perfect tonic for the closet racists who now had a champion in the White House that wasn’t afraid to say out loud what most of them had been been thinking their whole decrepit lives.
His failed 2018 effort at turning the migrant caravans into the worst threat facing the United States since the British burned down the White House in 1814, and his current inexplicable defense of the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments is all designed to appeal to the same voter base that actually believes Deputy Barney Fife can set the way back machine to 1959. They can’t stand the ’60s anymore than classic rock fans can stand punk rock.
If you really want to know why Trump is so far behind in the polls, it’s not because they’re fake, it’s because Trump has run out of villains to blame for his own ineptitude. You can only yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater so many times before even the most gullible movie goer goes back to watching the flick. You didn’t really think the poor attendance at his Tulsa rally had anything to do with his supporters being afraid of catching a virus they fervently believe is a hoax anyway, did you?
The fact is Trump looks more and more like Captain Edward J. Smith with each passing day, only in Trump’s case, instead of ordering the boats to be loaded with the women and children, he wants those same women and children to head back down to the dining room and wait for breakfast to be served. And his crew, if you can call them that, seems perfectly willing to go down with the ship.
So now that he’s blamed the Chinese government, the WHO, Obama, Biden, the Democrats, the f@#king man in the moon – don’t laugh, he probably thinks there is one – for the catastrophe he alone created, he’s trying a new line of attack. He unveiled it in an interview he did with Chris Wallace that aired this past Sunday on Fox News. To sum up, he built the greatest economy in the history of all mankind before the Coronavirus struck and he’ll do it again.
There, see, problem solved. So what if 200,000 people end up dying? To a man who thinks that World Wars I and II were “beautiful,” that’s just collateral damage. To quote the late, great Archie Bunker, another one of his heroes right up there with Andrew Jackson and Jefferson Davis, you can’t fight a war without that.
Of course, there are just two problems with Trump’s new line of attack. The first is that it’s not new. On more than one occasion old motormouth has bragged about how great his economy was compared to Obama’s. In the days before he grudgingly decided to shut down the country, all he did was moan about what this would do to his beloved stock market. Never mind that the stock market was already cratering weeks before the shutdown. With Trump, it’s always about him.
The second is far more problematic for Trump. Put succinctly, his voters never gave a shit about the economy, stupid. If they had – indeed, if a majority of voters had given a shit about the economy, stupid – Hillary Clinton would’ve won the presidency in 2016. That’s because in spite of what Trump keeps telling people, the Obama economy, at least on a macro level, was pretty damn good. In fact, it was better than Trump’s in just about every measurable statistic except wages. Just click on this link and see for yourself. Hell, if you subtract the last two quarters of 2008, even Bush 43 had better economic numbers than Trump.
About the best thing you can say about Trump is that for the first three years of his presidency he managed not to f@#k things up too much. I say “too much” because his trade war with China was responsible for a quarter point drop in GDP and hundreds of thousands of job losses. Imagine that: were it not for the tariffs shit-for-brains insisted on imposing, he might’ve gotten the economy he actually thinks he has. Of course we know what happened next. The iceberg hit and the good ship U.S.S. Trump started taking on water.
But just because Trump’s economy wasn’t as good as he claims it was, that won’t stop Pinocchio from lying his a$$ off every chance he gets. As Michael Tomasky correctly points out, Joe Biden will need to “be ready” during the debates when Trump starts shoveling that shit. The moderators won’t have the time, nor the strength, to fact check Trump in real time. My fear is that those low information voters that Trump is counting on and whose knowledge of the economy could fit on the back of a napkin might get distracted and that could turn a potential rout into a nail-biter.
And that is the only way, short of cheating – which I truly believe he will attempt to do – that Trump can win this election. His decision to send federal agents into Portland – and now, according to CNN, Chicago – is nothing more than a stunt designed to intimidate Democratic voters come November. Trump is no more concerned with rising crime rates than I am going vegan. Biden and the Democrats cannot let Trump get away with this. They must be proactive and call him out when he deflects and lies, the latter happens every time he opens his mouth. Don’t let him change the subject away from his own gross incompetence. Keep the focus squarely on him.
There are three and half months to go until America hands Trump his pink slip. Nothing, absolutely nothing, must be allowed to stand in the way of that happening.