Now will they just focus?!
Here’s what Trump’s got going for him that appeals to many voters:
- Strong economy. (That’s huge. It is.) Consumer confidence is really good.
- Kills terrorists. A big theme at all the rallies. This helped President Obama get elected to a second term too.
Everything else: “the wall”, banning a lot people from Central America, the Mideast and Africa from coming into the country, bringing prayer into public schools, the “unfairness” of his impeachment, etc., mainly appeals to people who are already his devotees and who won’t not vote for him pretty much no matter what.
But here’s what he just handed Democrats that almost all voters care about:
- Cutting Medicaid: this is the program that will be impacted the most directly. $920-billion in the next 10 years. The White House argues it can accomplish these cuts with “nothing that touches” recipients (very deliberately borrowing Trump’s word): the result of “better care or lower costs”. But doesn’t say how either of those objectives will be achieved. No hint, no clue.
- Cutting Medicare and Social Security: these are more subtle changes. There’s no actual direct chop to Medicare (yet). But Trump’s proposal pursues a strategy of removing certain programs from Medicare, and then cutting them. It would make it harder for some seniors to qualify for long term care, resulting in a de facto cut for them. With Social Security, most of the initial proposed changes would be in Social Security Disability Insurance.
Still, we believe all the obvious obfuscation on display can be used to draw inferences of where this would all go should Trump get a Republican majority in the House and Senate again come 2021. Especially since Trump’s more than hinted at the same thing, telling CNBC just about a week ago: “At the right time, we will take a look at that.” Going on to imply that Americans are now making so much money, they can probably afford to pay more out of pocket. That might be a good argument for bipartisan budget-cutting reform (although why do it when the President keeps giving billions in tax breaks to the richest corporations and people)? But it’s not a reason to destroy or deeply damage a safety net, in case all the newfound prosperity suddenly reverses.
And all that in the face of repeated, repeated promises during his 2016 campaign (and since), that he wouldn’t “touch” any of that. His new budget touches all of it.
We pointed out last week that his pledge to not touch Medicaid also mysteriously disappeared without mention at his State of the Union address.
If you read our column regularly, we’ve never been in agreement with those who think Trump’s unintelligent. (Although he did seem to confuse Concord, Massachusetts with Concord, New Hampshire during his rally last night: misidentifying the New Hampshire capital as where the famous battle in the American Revolution took place.) Still, we wondered did the President not realize Medicaid’s the one for poor people when he first set out to defend it? (A lot of people don’t know the difference between Medicate and Medicaid). Because frankly, when he first made that promise about not touching Medicaid specifically, we were surprised. Especially since he was already going after other programs for families at or near the poverty line with gusto: like food stamps.
What Trump’s baldfacedly trying to take away from many Americans, and maybe eventually all Americans, is what all Democratic candidates should be hammering on right now. Especially since the President keeps denying he’s doing exactly what he’s doing and insists he’s doing the opposite.
But now he’s presented all his worst intentions on paper. Especially since the President’s budget proposal is a wish list more than anything.
In addition to that, the huge budget deficits Trump continues to run, his new budget doesn’t do much to fix. Trump’s admitted as much, telling a gathering of Governors his campaign promise to balance the budget in an astonishingly short period of time, will now happen in “not that long a period of time“, Trump now tells a gathering of Governors. Try 2035, according to his own budget estimates. At best. Which might as well be never.
And that makes cuts to those cornerstone social programs almost inevitable if federal spending and tax cuts are unabated. (Which is why, as we’ve pointed out, Trump’s policies are kind of a win-win for Republicans, because they’ve wanted to slash this stuff for years). Trump can’t really argue his budget’s trying to reverse those deficits, because it doesn’t, much. And that’s only if you believe the White House’s current projections for economic growth will be any more accurate than they’ve been in the past. In addition, Trump’s adding money to the military, and also NASA, which he hadn’t been a huge fan of before, but now thinks it’d be a good idea to get a person back on the moon by the end of his 2nd term.
Some or even a lot of the reason Democrats did so well in the Midterms is they were able to put a message out there that Republicans were coming for many of people’s most important benefits. Especially health benefits. And when Republican candidates denied this (aka lied about it) nobody believed them.
And it kind of resoundingly answered the question: who’d you rather having looking out for your Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and Obamacare? So run with that. Focus on keeping and even improving what Trump’s going to take away, and keeping the American economy sound in the process.
- Forget, for now, about whether Medicare for All is the way to go: because no way you can talk about it without scaring people it’s going to blow a hole in the economy and take insurance they like away and raise their taxes. Also, Trump can now say, as he did last night in New Hampshire: “The Democrat party wants to run your healthcare, but they can’t even run a caucus in Iowa“, and it’s legit.
- Forget, for now, about the environment. Even though Trump’s also proposing taking a hatchet to the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Forget huge cuts to foreign aid, even though we believe that may be a catastrophic misjudgment just as China and Russia are ramping it up.
- Forget, for now, Trump crowing about how his wall’s working and how immigrants are staying out, yet he’s asking for more ICE jail beds than ever in his budget: 60,000.
- Even forget, for now, about those trillion dollar budget deficits, because people don’t really care about that either as long as they have jobs. Just like no one cared about the ridiculous levels of lending in real estate a little over a decade ago, until those loans–and the economy–collapsed.
We’re not saying those issues aren’t real and important. Just that talking about those things won’t convert one single vote to Democrat. Everybody who cares or doesn’t care about those things already have their positions on those issues staked out and that ain’t gonna change. Yeah, maybe you can get them fired up a little, and more likely to vote, but if it comes at the expense of losing others that you might otherwise have a chance of convincing, it may not be worth it.
We’re not even arguing Democrats necessarily need to nominate a centrist candidate. Give the party someone who inspires more than just a return to boring politics, fine. Just debate Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and all that good stuff after you get imto office. And of course the likelihood of getting a lot of that stuff done, or not, will depend on which party controls the House and Senate, which no one’s going to know until after the election anyway.
It’s better to move forward with one central message. If nothing else, Trump has proven people care about protection from real or perceived threats above all else. All else.
Now is the chance for Democrats to step up as the protectors of Social Security, and Medicate, and Obamacare (which the Trump Administration is trying to use the Supreme Court to dismantle since it didn’t work out for them in Congress), and Medicaid, and all those things that mean so much to so many.
But whomever the chosen Democrat ends up being, they can’t let that message get muddled. And preserving core values (and maximizing the possibility of winning) can’t become an exercise in herding cats.