The Trouble With Incumbency

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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54 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Sure Trump could win. I haven’t’ seen an attempt at analyzing the election deny that. Are people yaking back and forth saying different things. Well yeah but so what. Trump could eek out another narrow, improbable win or he could get crushed or anything in between. It seems unlikely Mr. Unpopular could do more then a narrow popular vote win at best. Who knows. We’ll see.Report

  2. pillsy says:

    It’s also demonstrated in the leftward drift of the platform with even mainstream candidates running on issues — marijuana decriminalization, medicare for all, etc. — that would have been rejected in 2016. That’s a sign of a party that thinks the debate is over how far left they can set the agenda, not how far left they can go and still be elected.

    I think this misreads the reason for the Leftward swing.

    In the case of marijuana legalization, sure, maybe that’s a belief that the debate is over. Of course, given the was states have been pushing to legalize it, maybe the debate really is over.

    But on other issues? I think a lot of the agenda is being set by the idea that the Dems won’t get a single Republican vote in the Senate (or House, but the Senate matters much more for this analysis) no matter what they try to do on healthcare, the climate, or immigration. Since they can’t build their coalition to the Right, they’ll naturally skew to the Left to pick up as much of their base and get it energized as possible for passage.

    That means nuking the legislative filibuster, but I think we all know if the Dems win a trifecta in 2020, it’s dead anyway.Report

    • North in reply to pillsy says:

      Agreed. Pot is not some left wing hobby horse. When you look at how pot legalization is advancing in a lot of states it’s being held back legislatively only by entrenched interests (Police, Prisons, drug companies etc) and only by the skin of their teeth. The voter constituency against legalization seems smaller, demotivated, elderly and entirely focused on other matters.

      As for the rest? There’s a lot of lefty ideas being hurtled around, sure, it’s primary season. How many times did the Republicans toss around the idea of privatizing social security and closing entire departments of the federal government during their primaries. A lot. But in terms of policies that actual Democratic political actors in power are pushing for? It’s centrist city and has been since Obama got elected.
      There’s a reason all the “Socialists are coming” botherers have to depend so heavily on the universities, student bodies and twitter.Report

  3. Pinky says:

    You’re right that Bush Sr. didn’t lose in 1992 because of the state of the economy. But he lost because of what people thought the state of the economy was. And in terms of analysis, I think that’s pretty much the same as losing because of the economy.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    I see an attitude out there that says, paraphrased, “I don’t see how Trump could possibly win 2020.”

    Given that I have experience with people saying “I don’t see how Trump could possibly win 2016”, I find myself mentally preparing for Trump being president approximately forever.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      And if you want to get snapshots of where everybody’s head was in 2016, you can read here for August 1st and here for the night before Election Day Itself.

      Good times.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      I agree that there’s something of that attitude out there, but a great many of us learned a lesson from 2016 and see Trump in office, pretty cravenly but not ineffectively using the advantages of incumbency. He’s been holding campaign rallies nonstop and while the big rallies as principle campaign efforts are unorthodox in the modern era, they seem to attract free media and are therefore effective for him.

      Intelligent-enough Democrats, and I’m going to say that all 20 of the prominent political figures running against one another for the nomination count as intelligent-enough, realize full well that the economy is doing pretty well and they can’t root for or be seen as catalyzing a crash; that the scandals don’t seem to have eroded Trump’s support; that Trump is an incumbent; and that Trump has ways to appeal to persuadable voters in key states. Trump don’t care if he gets re-elected with another minority because he’ll just keep on lying (to himself, too) that whatever coalition of voters voted for him represents a stunning and overwhelming mandate again.

      So yes, online, there’s some Democrats, particularly of the more progressive bent, who refuse to take off their Rose-Colored Glasses by Pauline Kael ™, but I think most Democrats in the rank-and-file realize that they’ve got their work cut out for them. Thus we see Nancy Pelosi pushing impeachment to the back burner — not taking it off the stove entirely but not pushing it — and focusing on healthcare, which is a big winner of an issue; thus we see Kamala Harris try to stretch out to the left on certain issues (voting rights) while stretching out to the center on others (using about every fifth breath to remind people she was a prosecutor), thus we see economic appeals to middle-class voters (college tuition relief or student loan forgiveness) from many quarters. These are bids to crack into Trump’s coalition, to outbuild it. Thus we see as mainstream, pedestrian, and safe a choice as Joe Biden leap from wait-and-assess mode for months to front-runner in less than a week (not entirely fair of me, he’d been leading in pre-announcement polls too, for several months).

      So I sort of disagree with the OP’s premise that Democrats are, as a whole, jumping to the left based upon a foolhardy presumption of inevitable victory. I see the Democrats splitting, just as Republicans did during Obama’s administration, into two factions: one that thinks the road to victory is to further polarize away from the incumbent, and the other which thinks that the road to victory is to push towards the center. In the Republicans’ case, it’s hard to say who was really right in 2016 because Hillary Clinton had fairly unique negatives that Democrats mostly overlooked (and note that for those interested in re-litigating the 2016 Democratic primary, wearing Rose-Colored Glasses by Pauline Kael ™ makes Bernie’s unique negatives appear insignificant in hindsight) but it’s worth noting that for most of the primary, Trump won primaries by plurality votes rather than majority votes so most Republicans would have preferred someone with more traditional conservative ideology than Trump’s nativism and Trump’s abrasive brand of id-driven charisma.

      Democrats as a whole are not as liberal their progressive wing, so I predict that the more progressive-popular candidates will do better in smaller primaries and we’ll see the more broader-appeal sorts of candidate — Biden, Harris, Beto — tier up from the rest. It’s still a fundamentally small-d-democratic system, and the center of voters who want to identify as “moderate” for all sorts of reasons will pull candidates toward themselves with an inexorable gravity that will frustrate many but ultimately, more or less, wind up within spitting distance of the middle of the overall spectrum.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’d be interested in a thought experiment where liberals imagine that Trump has just won reelection and provide a one sentence response. Just to get that ball rolling, I was on a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard after Bush best Kerry in 2004 and heard someone say, “How could the rest of the country be so stupid?!” I suspect we’ll hear a lot more creative stuff in 2020.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I don’t think Democrats think Trump’s defeat is a foregone conclusion. Paul Campos at LGM posts regular doom and gloom essays regarding the not unreasonable idea that Trump could get reelected in 2020. Lots of people on the left realize that Trump is really popular with the GOP base.

    That being said:

    1. Trump has remained consistently unpopular through out his Presidency;

    2. Trump lost the popular vote by 2-3 million people and that is significant. He also won the electoral college by small margin victories in three key states. Is there a possibility this happens again? Yes. Is it probable? I don’t know.

    3. Is it possible for Trump to win the popular vote in 2020? I suppose but it seems unlikely. Really unlikely.

    I get that Anti Anti Trump contrarianism is all the rage with online pundits but I am still kind of amazed at how many people refuse to acknowledge how massively unpopular Trump is in the United States. How loathed he is by substantial parts of the population? What gives? In 2018, I saw lots of people, including smart anti-Trumpers predict that the GOP will make gains in the House. Instead, they lost 41 seats. Democrats also gained 7 governor spots.

    Yet lots of people just don’t want to admit that Trump is unpopular and loathsome because that means agreeing with Democrats and that is just icky. Instead we get mental gymnastics about how Trump won thee popular vote once you discount all those people who live on the coasts.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      While it would be foolish to underestimate the Democrats’ ability to f**k things up, I keep mulling over a couple of questions:
      1. What state is Trump likely to take that he didn’t in 2016?
      2. What constituency that Trump didn’t do well with in 2016 is likely to show increased support for him in 2020?
      3. Is there a reservoir of Trump-leaning voters that didn’t turn out for him in 2016 and will be motivated to come out in 2020, or did Trump get essentially all of his supporters?
      4. Will voters of color turn out better than they did in 2016?

      I think the answers are: None, none, no, yes. Unless the Democrats f**k up, which they well might.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

        1. The only ones that are even conceivably on the table are New Hampshire and Nevada. The list of states that he won in 2016 that he is likely to lose includes, but is not limited to, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Maybe Ohio. Maybe Arizona. Maybe Georgia. Maybe Florida.

        2. Depends on the Democratic Nominee

        3. Depends on the Democratic Nominee.

        4. Depends on the Democratic nominee.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

          Nevada has been trending blue for some time.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

          Given the thumping Republicans took in Nevada in 2016 and 2018 (lost two US House seats, one US Senate seat, both houses of the state legislature, and the governor’s office — -6 in my scoring scheme), and Trump’s general enmity towards urban areas in the West, Nevada is unlikely to even make “battleground” status.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

            New Hampshire it is, then.

            Now we just have to make sure that the Democrats not nominate someone holy crap awful.

            I’d suggest avoiding a Northeastern Liberal. Those seem to be the only Democrats that Republicans know how to beat.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to CJColucci says:

        I suppose it turns out how bad the primary infighting is and how bad the Extremely Online screw things over.

        My not-so confident bet is that Kamala Harris will be the Presidential nominee because he can unite the liberal and moderate factions.* Beto or Mayor Pete as VP.

        *I like Warren a lot but I think Harris has a professional manner which sells better to suburban moderates that switched to the Democratic Party recently. Plus her DA experience helps.Report

      • Pinky in reply to CJColucci says:

        1. Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire, Nevada, and Minnesota, along with 2 at-large Maine electoral votes.
        2-3. Half the Republicans I know didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, or at least don’t admit to having done so. I’d guess that only one of them wouldn’t be voting for him in 2020. I’d also guess that a lot of libertarians, Jews, and wealthy white people who might have been scared by him last time would be less nervous next time.
        4. The black voter turnout rate is lower than that of whites for every election since 1980, and I assume before that as well. There are only two exceptions.Report

    • It’s hard for me to see how Trump wins as well. But that was equally the case in 2016.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        If it were anybody but Trump I’d say they were an overwhelming favorite.

        But this whole “everything you know is wrong” thing cuts in every direction.Report

      • North in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        Well he’s unlikely to get Comey the idiot, or some equivalent, to bust all protocol and drop an email investigation opening announcement a week or two ahead of the election.

        I don’t see how any of his opponents can be expected to take any of their states for granted. Certainly Trumps unique connection with white populist voters is now quite well known.

        That same popularity is now an open question. Trump ran on some very specific promises and has broken or flat out reversed almost all of them. None of the promised economic improvements for those specific voters have really come through.

        There was a presumption, even in 2016, that the right held concrete principles and would punish Trump for violating them. Personal morality, social conservatism, respect for established norms, fiscal conservatism (yes I know, somehow in 2016 they still could claim that one with a straight face). I believe that delusion is pretty well dispensed with.

        There was a fondness for narrative that was clung to despite the actual numbers returning a more mixed message. 538’s polling said the race was going to be close and it was but their narrative assumptions made them tilt towards assuming things would turn out differently.

        The right wing media apparatus simply will not have 25 years to smear the candidate Trump runs against. It is chronologically impossible. We know for a fact that the electorate is inured against these methods to a significant degree. Obama never was successfully branded negatively with anyone outside the right wing media ecosystem. Admissibly Obama also has stuck much closer to the straight and narrow on matters of optics and principle.

        The purity itch that Democrats get after a two term Democratic Presidency should be thoroughly scratched. I saw it with Gore and I saw it with HRC. I am skeptical that it will arise in 2020. An incumbent Republican focuses the priorities a lot- even on the further left.

        Could he win? 538 thinks it’s 50/50 right now. But right now is Trump at the best he can expect to be at. The economy is chugging along the same way it has since the middle of Obama’s term. There aren’t any unusual foreign blow ups. I mean other than fallout from the Mueller report this appears to be the upper bound of Trumps popularity and that… ain’t… very impressive. If any of those factors change in the next year and some the odds are they won’t do so in a way that strengthens Trump.

        So personally I’d say 51/49 in favor of the Dems. And I knock on wood because 2016 seemed so obviously in the bag. Sigh.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          The purity itch that Democrats get after a two term Democratic Presidency should be thoroughly scratched.

          I agree with “should”.

          But there is a lot of purity jockeying going on online and the most centrist of the nominees are not doing particularly well.

          It’s early, of course.Report

  6. Doctor Jay says:

    As for 1972, the Democratic Party would have nominated Edmund Muskie if it were not for the interference of the Nixon Campaign, which engaged in, for instance, sending out letters on Muskie letterhead that were insulting to key Democratic power brokers. I saw a copy of such a letter in roughly 1974 in Time Magazine.

    It’s stuff like this that Nixon was impeached, and would have been convicted for. All kinds of illegal acts during campaigns, plus illegal wiretaps of the opposition, pick your favorite abuse of power, and Nixon did it.

    I don’t buy that this was because “McGovern was too liberal”.Report

  7. PD Shaw says:

    I think a dynamic that supports the OP’s concern is that George W. Bush had a 46% approval rating (51% disapproval) in May of 2004 (per Gallup). Kerry’s general election campaign appears to have improved people’s opinions pf Bush II and willingness to vote for him.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to PD Shaw says:

      I think this is a good point. Trump is super good at activating peoples resentment and hatred, and presenting himself as the best vehicle for that. This is probably why Trump thinks that Biden would be his toughest opponent – because it’s super hard to get people to dislike Biden.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        The fact that the whole world doesn’t hate Joe Biden is a testament to how hard it is to hate Joe Biden.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Trump things his best chance of winning 2020 is against a policy wonk nerd like Warren. He believes he can get under such a candidates skin like he did with Hillary Clinton, putting that candidate on the defensive. A much more vulgar version of Reagan’s “There you go again.” I think Trump perceives Warren as the idea candidate to run against because he can go after her for being a nerd and the Native American thing. Biden is not a nerd, he is a hail-well-met sort of guy. Trump fears that.Report

    • pillsy in reply to PD Shaw says:

      W ran a very competent campaign the second time around.Report

    • North in reply to PD Shaw says:

      It’s true, but gay marriage won’t be a wedge in 2020 like it was in 2004.Report

  8. Chip Daniels says:

    It should be sobering that even if Trump is defeated, there isn’t any plausible scenario by which it is a landslide. A win for us would almost certainly be a narrow one.

    Which isn’t defeatism so much as a cautious reckoning that Trump isn’t some aberration. He really and truly is the face and beating heart of the Republican Party and contemporary conservative movement and yeah, this movement can claim about 40% of the electorate.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    I would also add LBJ on this list, who quit before he got fired. He had a decent enough economy, but a terrible horrible no good very bad war.

    (Incumbent guys getting pulled by their own party and replaced with a different nominee in the next election also happened at least twice in the 19th century)Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to Kolohe says:

      We never got see LBJ vs. Nixon. But I think his own party might have tossed him in any case. That won’t happen with Trump.

      We had multiple incumbents get tossed aside in the 19th century. The run from 1844 to 1868 is quite amazing.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        In the 19th century, incumbency got rolled several times because the actual person elected died in office, so I would argue that there was not an incumbent running for office in 1844 (Tyler); 1852 (Fillmore); 1868 (Johnson) and 1880 (Arthur). The first three were particularly bad historically, since Tyler probably wasn’t really a Whig in the first place, Johnson certainly wasn’t a Republican, and Fillmore arguably was most responsible for the destruction of the Whig party.

        Several 19th century Presidents promised before their inauguration to serve only one term: Harrison, Polk, Buchanan; Hayes, though two died in office anyway.

        Pierce (1856) was the first President who failed to get renominated by his party, but if he had, he probably would have won the election anyway. And by some accounts (the Buchanan people’s), Pierce had promised to serve only one term.

        So there is almost a 50 year stretch there where there were only two incumbents in the general election (Lincoln and Grant) and both won.Report

  10. Just to be clear: if I were a betting man, I would bet on Trump losing. But is he is thrown out, it will be a historic event: an incumbent thrown own despite a good economy.

    But … Trump has already made history that way. Dan McLaughlin pointed out that Trump’s performance in a post-incumbency election was historically bad. The fundamentals favored the GOP by six point in the last election and Trump underperformed by eight points. Losing an incumbent election would just drive home the point of how much people dislike him.

    A lot will come down to who the Dem nominee is.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      But that underperformance was because the walls were closing in on him in the Mueller probe, as everyone was being told every day of the 2018 campaign. Trump was going to be frog marched out of the White House for colluding with Russia.

      The backdrop for the coming campaign is not unlikely to be a drip drip of indictments of top Obama officials for numerous and extremely serious crimes. That means the Democrat candidates will have trouble controlling the narrative and might constantly find themselves on defense due to circumstances only Trump, AG Barr, and IG Horowitz control.Report

      • North in reply to George Turner says:

        Yeah, why didn’t I see that before. I mean child trafficking will be an electoral killer. Once Trump has his very honest and principled team blow the lid off Comet Ping Pong and Vince Foster’s murder the Dems will be between a rock and a hard place.

        Seriously, if you’re looking for drip drops of investigations I’d suggest the congressional investigations into Trump will probably be the more likely source. The GOP managed to drag out Benghazi for years and that “scandal” was nothing but pixie dust and right wing imagination. Compared to that spinning Trumps literal law breaking into a series of negative stories should be child’s play.Report

        • George Turner in reply to North says:

          Here’s the problem. Mueller didn’t find that Trump broke a law. Not a single one. Alan Derschowitz is pretty adamant on that point. However, Barr is indicating that the FBI, CIA, and numerous top Obama officials broke a ton of laws. It’s going to get very bad, and include such things as unmasking US persons mentioned in NSA intelligence sweeps, lying to Congress, lying to the FISA court, lying to the FBI, countless violations of the rules of federal procedure, and on and on.

          Up to now, the media has been able to maintain a separate narrative where Trump is guilty and all the evidence points to it, but that framing collapsed. Now they’re in the denial phase, and that won’t hold out for very long.

          What happened makes Watergate look like a simple burglary. Weaponizing the national intelligence apparatus of the United States to sabotage a political campaign is, without doubt, the biggest political scandal in United States history. Not even Nixon went that far.

          And then, to cover up what they did,, they launched the Mueller investigation, buying them two years and a midterm election even though Mueller knew probably within a few weeks that there was no collusion to investigate.

          What this means is that people, such as yourself, who are inclined to think Trump lied and nothing improper was done by the Obama Administration, will have that “drip drip” of indictments and trials that will keep harshing your mellow. Even CNN will have to take time out to explain why Bruce Ohr or James Clapper were just indicted, and then try to dismiss all the evidence that everyone is hearing about, etc.

          As the Watergate hearings dragged out for months, they convinced even Nixon’s most ardent supporters that yeah, he really did so a bunch of bad things to try and cover up his attempt at underhanded tricks. They kept having to hear stories about the latest in the trial of Liddy,, Haldemann, Erlichmann, Colson, etc.

          Yet all Nixon did was try to bug a hotel room. Obama’s people were doing wiretaps on Trump with abandon, entrapping people like Carter Page, and colluding with pro-Russian Ukrainians and, indirectly, with Soviet intelligence agents via the wildly discredited Steele dossier.

          That kind of thing really rattles people, especially ones in the center, and it’s something that the Democratic candidates won’t be in control of. All the counter-investigations that are now in process had been kept in check because they would interfere with the Mueller probe, whose results were considered critically important by both parties. There were lots of actions that Trump and his AG’s and acting AG’s didn’t take because such would be seen as undermining or interfering with Mueller’s probe. Well, no longer. They can go all out and press forward with indictments, and likely will once IG Horowitzes report comes out.

          That could make it a very bad time to be campaigning for the party under the legal microscope.Report

          • Michael Siegrl in reply to George Turner says:

            George, what color is the sky in your world?Report

          • Nixon did a hell of a lot more than try to bug a hotel room. Ask John Dean’s wife what else he did.Report

          • North in reply to George Turner says:

            This is utterly delightful George, you’re a great conduit to the conservative tinfoil ID.

            This fabrication is so amusing because it’s so easily falsifiable. We know it didn’t happen for many reasons but some of the simple ones are rather obvious:
            -The idea that the GOP congress in 2017 and 2018 would hold off hearings on this Obama conspiracy out of a concern for procedure and the integrity of the Mueller investigation is so utterly ludicrous that it invites shrieks of laughter. I just burst out laughing from typing it. The party that spun out Benghazi from 2012 to 2016 based on nothing but desperate mania worrying about the integrity of investigations. Giggle-snort!
            -And even more obviously- Comey, then the FBI director, sent a letter to Congress announcing the reopening of the email probe on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the Nov. 8 election. Now you can certainly weave a tail of endless black helicopter conspiracies intending to undermine Trump and just look like a Tom Clancy wannabe, fine. But the idea that these diabolical mustache twirlers never thought to say “Ya know maybe we shouldn’t undermine our eeevil plot by letting the FBI director walk out and shoot a torpedo into HRC’s campaign” again prompts gales of laughter. Especially considering that, on further investigation, the new info they’d found ending up being absolutely nothing. There was definitely a law enforcement agency that broke protocol and put their thumb on the scales in the 2016 election. Unfortunately for your chem-trail theories it’s public record that the agency was the FBI and they ended up putting their thumbs on the scale for Trump.

            Ah man, never change George.Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:


            Nunes, Lindsey Graham, Trump, Trump’s lawyers, and Justice Dept officials have said they put off or limited their investigations because they would compromise the ongoing Mueller probe. And they also say now they can go full bore to find out the level of corruption that had been going on.

            The reason Comey had to come out 11 days before the election to reopen the probe is that FBI agents found Hillary’s e-mails on Huma Abedin’s laptop, right there in Anthony Weiner’s crib, and this revelation had leaked. There was nothing Comey could do to stop it.

            Do you know where else the FBI found Hillary’s e-mails, according to a recently revealed information from a Judicial Watch lawsuit? A: The White House.

            Washington Examiner story from four days ago.

            Clapper, Comey, and the rest of the heads of US intelligence said their agencies had reached a unanimous consensus that Trump had colluded with Russia. They were all lying. They’d manufactured evidence, wiretapped, lied to the FISA court, and leaked classified information to try to subvert the integrity of a US election, and then to overturn the results, and then to undermine the government of the United States. As Barr said recently, to the shock of the Democrats interviewing him, clearly spying was going on.Report

            • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

              Employee’s e-mails found at….dun dun DUNNNNN….her employer. Slick work there Clouseau.Report

            • North in reply to George Turner says:

              Ya know I bet they probably found some emails in other places too. The recipients computers perhaps.

              And yeah the tin foil just keeps wrapping. The GOP House held off because Senator Graham and White House officials told them to do so? Comey HAD to come out and blow the legs out from under the supposed vast intelligence apparatus conspiracy because some of Rudy Giuliani’s operatives in FBI drag were leaking? I suppose Elvis and the ghost of John F Kennedy put out the order from their antarctic command bunker too.

              But now I can expect that Billy Barrs justice department is going to start issuing indictments for evil crimes against the principled GOP and the principled Trump? You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.Report

  11. J_A says:

    From the OP

    ” I also think the Democrats dramatically overestimate how popular their policies are outside of liberal circles”

    I’d like it if we could unpack what these popular policies are. So far as I can see, there’s been only four (perhaps five) clear policies from the Trump administration:

    1. Tax cuts heavily tilted towards corporations and high earners
    2. Repeal Obamacare
    3. Unconditional support of Saudi Arabia and of (the current) Israeli Government.
    4. Immigrants (not really Immigration)

    And perhaps…

    5. Trying to increase coal demand.

    I’m happy to consider any additions.

    1-The tax cuts do have a positive impact (via the Qualified Business Income provisions that nobody talks about) on that significant portion of Trump voters, the about $100k/yr business owners, that also no one talks about. They will come back in force for Trump. They do, however, very little for the rally attending base. And with the deficit exploding before our eyes, I doubt ANOTHER tax cut will be in the Trump 2020 platform.

    2- The repeal Obamacare efforts are not popular. Had the GOP succeeded, my guess is that the backlash from their own base would have been something to behold, but Senate Republicans will not even consider talking about it, and even Trump has announced that the Health Care Unicorn will only be unveiled in 2021, after the election. To the extent this is an issue, health care is a big Democratic plus.

    3- The Middle East. The Trump campaign will milk hundreds of millions of dollars out of these policies, but very few votes, and no electoral votes. The base might be mildly supportive of pro Israeli Government policies, but definitely does not want any new wars, nor probably likes Saudi Arabia very much. The few. votes these policies will bring will be in places like NY, NJ, or CA. They might flip a House seat or two, but won’t flip the state.

    5- Going for coal, now, to take it out of the way. The coal policy is mostly for show, because it has zero impact. Economics, not politics or SJWism, is killing the coal industry. The stupid ideas floated to support coal have been killed by reality. I see this as a toss: Trump needs to continue to appear supporting coal, but, as the election comes and coal production keeps shutting down, Will the PA and WV voters reward his support, or punish his failure? If I were the Dem candidate, I would point out that in this key issue, Trump has failed his base.

    And now for the popular policy

    4- Immigrants

    The Trump administration hasn’t proposed an Immigration policy. All it’s done is proposed “Immigration Enforcement” policies: the Wall, family separations, deportations, the end of the Dreamers waivers, the so-called Muslim ban, etc.. Yes, these are very popular with his base, and quite unpopular outside of it. At this point, it seems to me, the immigrants’ policies include a lot of red meat, and appealing to the worst instincts of the base. So, yes, they are popular, but they are neither good, nor solve in any real way the Immigration issue, no matter what side of the issue you are.

    I tried honestly to identify the areas where this Administration has focused its efforts. There are obviously several other (Transgender rights, for instance) that seem to be more red meat (irrespective of the actual impact to real people) than a serious political efforts, and others (environmental regulations, for profit education) that are just quid pro quo to special interests in exchange for campaign money, but neither of those seem to me a real effort to change the system.

    So, question for the room, other than Immigrants, what other Trump policies are popular?Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to J_A says:

      Assuming the Appalachian coal miners are who Trump’s playing to, the administration has actually been working against them. Open more federal land for surface mining in the West? Any increased production is going to look to be shipped east and displace more expensive Eastern coal (at least for electricity production). Encourage domestic oil production? There’s such a glut of associated natural gas in the Permian Basin that wellhead prices are starting to go negative on a regular basis. Yes, the oil drillers will literally pay you to take the natural gas off their hands.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to J_A says:

      …”what other Trump policies are popular?”

      “White Christian men should run things” is number one with a bullet.Report