Could Trump Destroy the Democrats for a Generation?

One of the lessons of the New Deal is that the failure of its loony economic policies actually created more political opportunities for FDR and the Democratic Party. Amity Shlaes explains this perverse dynamic very well in her terrific revisionist history of the New Deal, The Forgotten Man.

I wonder if Trump is, willy-nilly, about to steal this script from the Democrats, just as he has stolen so many other Democratic appeals. His trade ideas are likely unsound; well-paying manufacturing jobs are not going to come back in large numbers. His immigration policies may not work well in the long term (though the short term is spectacular: illegal border crossings are down by 60 to 80 percent). We’ll just have to see about health care and tax reform. Both seem on a knife edge right now.

Assume that Trump’s economic policies are not very effective, and we continue to experience slow growth or even a recession. (Actually we’re overdue for one.) He has one big thing going for him: the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post reported today on the surveys and focus groups the Democrats have conducted to understand why they lost. You would think the answer is simple: you idiots nominated Hillary Clinton. But the surveys reveal the problems of the Democrats go deeper than Hillary. For example:

One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. . .

In one [focus group], Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:

“The one percent.”

“The status quo.”

“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”

One woman, asked whether the Democratic Party is for people like her, flatly declared: “Nope.”

I’m sure the Obamas getting a $60 million book deal and giving $400,000 speeches to Wall Street banks will help with this.


The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems. Among the findings:

  • 50 percent of Obama-Trump voters said their incomes are falling behind the cost of living, and another 31 percent said their incomes are merely keeping pace with the cost of living.

  • A sizable chunk of Obama-Trump voters — 30 percent — said their vote for Trump was more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Remember, these voters backed Obama four years earlier.

  • 42 percent of Obama-Trump voters said congressional Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy, vs. only 21 percent of them who said the same about Trump. (Forty percent say that about congressional Republicans.) A total of 77 percent of Obama-Trump voters said Trump’s policies will favor some mix of all other classes (middle class, poor, all equally), while a total of 58 percent said that about congressional Democrats.

I’m sure if new party chairman Tom Perez keeps talking about abortion and doubles down on identity group politics it will all turn around. Or maybe Trump will roll over them.


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