Friday, January 19, 2018

To Beat Trump, Focus on the Issues

Matt Yglesias:
Trump’s opponents should note that the past couple of weeks of intense debate over the president’s “fitness” for office, concluding in a new round of “Trump is a bigot” takes, have corresponded with his approval ratings getting steadily better.

He bottomed out in mid-December at the height of the debate over the Republican tax bill, and has edged up by 4 or 5 points since then.

And it actually makes perfect sense. Being a racist (or totally uninformed about policy issues) may be in some sense a graver sin than favoring tax policy tilted in favor of the very rich. But in political terms, most Americans are white but few Americans are very rich, so a focus on the idea that Trump is excessively cruel to nonwhites moves fewer votes than the idea that Trump is excessively focused on the whims of plutocrats. . . .

To students of nativist demagogues abroad, like Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, this is no surprise. In the wake of Trump’s win, the Italian-born economist Luigi Zingales reflected on the lessons of the two Italian politicians who’d managed to beat Berlusconi, observing, “Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character.”

Trump’s opponents would be wise to do the same — Trump’s brand of white identity politics has real consequences, but the overall Trump Show is basically a con that masks an agenda that’s bad for almost everyone.
This is what I think. In 2016 Trump's opponents spent too much time sputtering about how impossible he is and not enough pounding him on the issues. Hillary tried, but too many voters tuned her out. The Democrats need a candidate who is woke enough on race and immigration issues to get the nomination but will focus much more on the economy and health care.


Unknown said...

I think this is basically right. To a large extent it describes the basic path of any presidential candidate--appealing to the base for the nomination, and then changing the message to win the election. In this sense, Trump is something of a fluke.

That said, I think that a successful Dem candidate can profit by still hitting the Trump-is-evil button with specific audiences. I think there are votes to be gained from drawing away cautious Republican suburbanites who like their property and security. For these voters, "Trump is still Bannon" and "Trump is too, too vulgar" may be effective messages (along with things like "Trump didn't actually cut your taxes" and "Trump made it more expensive for your kids to go to college," etc.).

There are also votes to be gained from parlaying some targeted wokeness into the mobilizing of populations that haven't voted so much in the past, like minority women and Hispanics in general.

But I don't see any realistic path to a Dem winning a lot of votes in the Trump heartland, in places like central Pennsylvania, unless the economy tanks.

pithom said...

"Hillary tried"
She absolutely did not.