September 2, 2016


Was It a Mistake for Trump to Focus on the Economy? (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 9/02/16, The Atlantic)

These sorts of warnings tend to ring a little bit false when the economy continues to grow, if more slowly than anyone would like. But this has a been a consistent theme for Trump. He has centered his campaign around doomsday predictions about the economy. He paints the country as cratering, with offshoring accelerating, jobs disappearing, and growth cratering. The problem is that there's little to support the idea of accelerating offshoring; job creation is up; and the economy is growing.

Tom Edsall noted this week that Trump's bleak message doesn't make a great deal of sense in swing states like New Hampshire, "where the unemployment rate in July was 2.9 percent, well below the 4.9 percent national rate. Nor does it ring true in other battleground states where Trump is behind. In North Carolina, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent; according to RealClearPolitics, Clinton has a 1.7 point lead. In Colorado, the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent; Clinton leads Trump by 11.8 points. In Virginia, unemployment is 3.7 percent; Clinton is ahead by 12.8 points."

There have been darker currents to Trump's approach to the economy. His immigration stance, which has frequently taken on a racist cast, is centered around the supposed threat that undocumented immigrants pose to the American economy. It has also led him to wild conspiracy theories. Arguing that the most commonly used top-line unemployment rate paints too rosy a picture, he has called it "one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics," while his son Donald Jr. has asserted without proof that the rate is manipulated for political purposes.

One can see why Trump would want to focus on the economy. As a businessman, he sees commerce as one of his major selling points (Mitt Romney also arguably fell into this trap, stung by bad timing), and besides, voters tell pollsters over and over that the economy is the most important issue to them in this election. But the fact is that the indicators that helped Barack Obama so much in 2012 appear to be helping his party and its nominee, Hillary Clinton, this year. As John Sides and Lynn Vavreck wrote in The Gamble, "Candidates disadvantaged by the economy ... must find an issue on which their position is more popular than their opponent's and on which the opponent is committed to an unpopular position." Trump has not done that.

Posted by at September 2, 2016 3:29 PM