Columns, Opinions

Secondo ’16 GS: Four more years

By
Staff Columnist
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

We are currently only a little over 18 months away from the reckoning of the 2020 election, and the chances of kicking the Flaming Dorito out of the White House are already dwindling. Let’s go through a quick checklist.

First, as always, “it’s the economy, stupid.” For the exhaustive laundry list of reasons that the president should not currently occupy the Oval Office, the economy is his trump card. The well-documented phenomenon that a president’s incumbency advantage rests on the state of economic affairs is Trump’s greatest political asset. Strong market returns, robust job growth and affordable energy prices keep the nation’s sentiment rosy and bullish as it continues to experience almost the largest period of economic expansion in history. While this economic miracle is the outcome of prudent leadership and policy decisions from the Federal Reserve (thank you former Chair Janet Yellen ’67), along with the economic recovery headed by the Obama administration, the current president conveniently claims credit and the general public happily allows it. However, key signals — a slowing pace of global growth, declining small-business sentiment and the bond yield curve officially inverting for the first time since 2007 — indicate a possible recession brewing on the horizon. But for now, the president may blissfully glide through reelection on the back of the Dow.

Second, Teflon Don strikes again. When Attorney General William Barr shared his March 24 letter to Congress on the conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the clouds parted and the sun bore down on Mar-A-Lago once more. Instantly, the toxic gloom of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice were lifted from the Trump presidency. MSNBC disciples, HuffPo junkies and impeachment hounds wallowed and raged. But to the majority of the country, the end of the Mueller investigation landed with the fanfare of indifference.

Matters of national security, election integrity and criminality associated with the President of the United States should, theoretically, be of universal concern. In reality, they are not. Washington intrigue and a nebulous two-year investigation on Russian trolls and Trump personnel are far from the kitchen table concerns of health care bills and immigration. While we have yet to see the actual report, the president and his political machine have seized control of the letter as proof of their “no collusion, no obstruction” narrative, marking another victory in their perpetual campaign to discredit the mainstream media, the intelligence community and collusion-crazed Democrats. Depending on whether there is enough evidence of obstruction of justice for House committees to wade deeper into their oversight inquiries, the Mueller report is effectively a moot point going into this election cycle. Even with investigators from the Southern District of New York closing in on Trump and his capos for possible election fraud and financial crimes, his affirmed legitimacy as president has emboldened his base and assuaged wandering Republicans heading into 2020.

Third, the Republican Party has been officially remade in the president’s image. On a national scale, old GOP tenets of limited government, fiscal constraint, free trade, global leadership and principled ethics are dead. Born out of the party’s fringes, proto-ethnonationalism and fear-mongering divisiveness along the lines of race, nationality and sexuality define the Republican Party of today. The Republican National Committee and broader party apparatus are plugged with Trumpists, while many old-guard “establishment” members have been purged, pacified or co-opted. Yet the donor class maintains its grip on the party’s economic agenda by leveraging red-meat politics to have the base vote against its own interests. Regardless of who is funding the operation, the president enjoys almost monolithic approval among Republican voters, and party officials intends to keep it that way. Primary challenges from have-been moderates like former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld will not divide the Republican electorate or weaken the president’s position among self-identifying Republicans. By virtue of his office, the president is the face of the new Republican establishment, even as he picks fights with the deceased Senator John McCain and cries victim against his own government’s actions. In the Trumpified GOP, it is no longer the passage of conservative policies that animates the base, which is mobilized instead by the president’s fiery rhetoric. As long as Trump’s twitter continues to reflect the base’s animus toward liberals, he will unquestionably hold his party and supporters come next November.

And finally,  the Democratic Party’s self-immolation is about to begin. Despite the factors in favor of Trump’s second term, the White House is ripe for the Democrats’ taking in 2020. If Democrats ran on a platform of access to health care, an economy that works for everyone, sensible immigration reform and restoring bipartisanship and trust in our institutions, they would effectively pit the expressed desires of the majority of Americans against the tribal demands of a wall-obsessed minority. However, the burgeoning progressive wing of the party could very well upend any chance of victory next year by its own demands for symbolic policies. On Capitol Hill, some progressive Democrats are launching intra-caucus warfare over pipe-dream proposals, while funding primary challenges against their more moderate colleagues. Taking their case to the public, these Democrats are deepening fissures among the party’s factions and forcing the now 20 candidates that are vying for the nomination to either support their ideas or face the wrath of the vocal progressive Twittersphere. Demands for zealous adherence to policies like the “Green New Deal” are not viable solutions, they are sloganized proposals intended to rev up the base; in this context, calls to “build the wall” are no different than the politically and practically impossible call to “abolish ICE.” Beyond forcing candidates to take sides, many progressives focus on the supposed essence of the candidates’ identities as tests of their liberal purity. For left-wingers who are obsessed with identity politics and inclusion, asking if Kamala Harris is black enough or if Pete Buttigieg is gay enough is the icing on the cake of political correctness hypocrisy. Even the former president and Democratic standard-bearer recently put progressives on notice for starting a “circular firing squad.”  With the most diverse pool of candidates in the history of our country, leave it to progressives to massacre anyone who fails their liberal litmus test. If the status quo extends and Democrats continue to eat their own, we may as well start mentally prepping for another season of Trump Takes Washington.

 

Reid Secondo ’16 GS can be reached at reid_secondo@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com