by Barkley Rosser (originally published at Econospeak)
I know, I know, it is way too early to talk about the presidential election of 2020, so maybe this is more relevant to midterms, and more likely it is just something merely momentary. Nevertheless, it occurs to me that the increasingly apparent incompetence of our current president could possibly play into helping him get reelected in 2020.
His incompetence is manifesting itself substantially in his inability to achieve many of the things that he campaigned on most loudly, including repealing and replacing Obamacare, introducing massive trade protectionism, sharply cutting taxes for the rich, and sharply stopping immigration. Of course his new administration, which included probably the most incompetent, insane, and corrupt set of cabinet secretaries and other officials in US history, are doing and will be doing things that will be terribly damaging to American society on many fronts, including the environment, education, womens’ rights, the arts, financial market stability, minority rights, and a long list of others, with many of these very important. The Trump administration is doing and will do a great deal of damage. But none of these were really red meat headline issues in his campaign. They were not the items that got his angry mobs at rallies chanting and yelling and more generally making public fools of themselves while scaring much of the rest of the population. Those issues were the ones I mentioned up front, the ones that Trump seems so far not to be actually doing much about after all the ranting and raving.
So how could this incompetence-fueled failure aid his possible reelection? At least two reasons. The first is that succeeding with some of these could really seriously hurt lots of people, including in some cases especially his own supporters, who might then become unhappy with him if this happened, even though so far polls show most of his supporters supposedly sticking with him even when they hear that he might do something that might hurt them personally. They either do not believe that he will or think that his policies will hurt others they do not like more. In any case the poster boy for this is certainly the health care issue. Trumpcare has proven to be unpopular and Obamacare now finally has a majority supporting it. Lots of people have figured it out that they might get hurt if that campaign promise were kept to repeal and replace. So the upshot is that people do not get hurt and become angry at him.
On immigration and trade policy, these would have mixed effects, but there certainly would be economic damages from seriously enforcing either of them, especially immigration policy, and there already appears to be some damage coming from some of that even indirectly, such as the likely fall in foreign tourists coming to visit the US and also an apparent likely decline in smart foreigners applying to attend US universities, with probably fewer of them than sticking around later to be innovative and job-creating entrepreneurs. But for the moment the attention is on all those judges knocking down Trump’s efforts to simply ban people from certain countries entering the US. But probably these damages will not be noticed that much by the majority of Trump supporters.
So, assuming that all this would continue, which it may not as he may get his way on some issues where he has not so far, with cutting taxes for the rich the most likely to get through at least in part, how does this help his reelection campaign? Because he can run again on these same old issues, complaining about all those judges and Democrats and bad Republicans who did not help him get them passed. Maybe he will drop pounding on Obamacare if it gets even more popular, but, heck, on immigration and trade for sure he could get back to ranting his red meat and getting those angry mobbing troops chanting and screaming again. Hate the terrorist foreigners who are taking away our jobs! It could well work again, especially given that a lot of his supporters seem not to be able to add two and two and avoid getting five.