Even amid recession warning, 2020 will hinge on the culture war


President Trump arrives at a campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., on July 17, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

It is often argued by those on the left that Democratic candidates are proposing ideas that would actually better serve the working-class and middle-class Americans who are backing President Trump. But this argument assumes that it is the president’s economic policies that draw his supporters to him. Data doesn’t suggest that was the case in 2016. And that idea will be put to the test as Trump heads into 2020 facing uncertainties about the economy.

“It’s the economy, stupid” is a popular saying in political circles, intended to suggest that Americans vote based on how well the economy is doing. And part of the 2016 narrative suggested that was true. Economic anxiety was regularly touted as one of the main reasons Trump supporters chose him over Hillary Clinton.

As a result, Trump regularly points to what many economists have labeled a good economy when trying to convince voters that they are doing much better under his administration than they were before his election.

But the realities about the economy aren’t in Trump’s favor as much as he might hope. Fears about a recession are growing inside and outside the White House. And it does not appear that the president is offering any clear solutions.

The Washington Post reported: “The government is expected to spend roughly $1 trillion more than it brings in through revenue this year, creating a ballooning deficit. Business investment has begun to contract — largely due to the uncertainty surrounding President Trump’s trade war — and manufacturing jobs have begun to slide. The big hiring and investment announcements that piled up at the beginning of the Trump administration have ceased, as have the announcements of bonuses and pay increases that came after a tax cut law was passed in 2017.”

These facts are concerning for some economists. But for many of the president’s most loyal supporters, these details are not of primary concern. Because despite some Trump backers citing economic anxiety as a top reason for supporting him, his willingness to respond to his supporters’ cultural anxiety is the hallmark of his reelection campaign.

As long as Trump attacks liberals who view his purported attempts to make America great again as a return to some of this country’s darker days when it comes to equality for people of color, women, the LGBT community and other historically marginalized communities, his most die-hard supporters will stand by him.

The Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker wrote:

“From straws to wind turbines to socially conservative issues, Trump is deliberately amplifying public tensions by seizing on divisive topics to energize his base, according to campaign aides and White House advisers. The president is following much the same strategy he pursued in 2016 — inserting himself into the very issues that his supporters are already discussing and using blunt us-against-them language without regard to nuance or political correctness.

“As Democrats debate policy, Trump has sought to force his potential rivals to defend the most far-reaching cultural ideas circulating within their party.”

And it is effective. Trump’s support among Republicans is at 89 percent, according to Gallup. And for a politician who has repeatedly suggested that the only voters who matter to him are those already with him, that is music to his ears. Obviously, the question is: “Will this support be enough to win a general election?” Time will tell, but as of now, that seems secondary. The battle that the president and his supporters are most focused on appears to be the culture war.

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