I know what you are thinking, I’m about to launch into a political diatribe bashing Trump and promoting the liberal/left agenda. The truth is I abhor the use of liberal/conservative/left/right/democrat/republican language when speaking about politics. Putting people into those buckets is akin to putting us in street gangs, good for only divisiveness. I actually believe voting along party lines should be looked at suspiciously as it doesn’t seem to suggest our representatives are voting for their constituents but rather for the success of their party. But I digress, what I want to look at are the main arguments I have observed and the psychology behind the support of a figure who has become, whether you like it or not, a divisive figure with a questionable past.
This starts with the strength of Trumps base. For whatever reason, it is rock solid. No amount of science, logic or ethics can penetrate it. His approval ratings have not moved much relative to Obama or George W Bush. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that many people don’t trust the news anymore as channels are biased. So we need to look at the data and what comes directly out of the candidate’s mouth.
Myth #1 Trump voters are mostly working class people.
They generally are not. the American National Election Study — the longest-running election survey in the United States — released its 2016 survey data. And it showed that in November 2016, the Trump coalition were mostly affluent Republicans. It showed that a third of Trump supporters had household incomes at or below the national median of about $50,000. Another third made $50,000 to $100,000, and another third made $100,000 or more and that was true even when the study was limited to only non-Hispanic whites. Working class communities are generally not the reason Trump was elected.
Myth#2 The Presidency impacts the economy
It largely does not. Both sides love to point out that the “economy” prospered under the watch of their respective leader. When the economy is doing well near the election, history shows it boosts the vote for the incumbent party. The truth is, the Presidency gets way too much credit when the economy does well and too much blame when it slumps. When the economy is hitting peaks and valleys, the task flattening the line depends mainly on the actions of the Federal Reserve. The chair of the Fed and the members of the board of governors, who are chosen by the president, has a large impact on how monetary policy is conducted. If this board is unified, they can set the policy agenda. Otherwise it is difficult, and no President can appoint more than the chair plus two members of the seven member board.
The President alone can’t determine fiscal policy. That requires the cooperation of Congress. We all know how voting along party lines inhibits progress due to the fiscal policy of the left and right. When Democrats are able to set the agenda, fiscal policy is likely to involve spending initiatives such as rebuilding infrastructure or enhancing social insurance programs. When Republicans are in control, tax cuts for the wealthy are the likely outcome.
A better way to look at this is that “elections do matter for the economy”. Who is elected in November (for a multitude of offices) could make a big difference in how the economy performs because, it could allow the right combination of votes along Republican or Democratic lines to pass certain bills and policies. Inversely, when the president and Congress are at odds, as they are now, very little is likely to get done at all.
Who does better, Democratic or Republican Presidents?. History shows Democratic Presidents produce a higher GDP.
there is a systematic and large gap between the US economy’s performance when a Democrat is President of the United States versus when a Republican is. Democrats do better on almost every criteria. Using real GDP growth over the full sample, the gap is 1.79 percentage points–which is stunningly large relative to the sample mean. The partisan growth advantage is correlated with Democratic control of the White House, not with Democratic control of Congress..
These are interesting statistics but one has to wonder how much of it is timing against tech booms, oil prices and other innovations that produce jobs because of innovation that has nothing to do with government.
Myth#3 The Stock Market Is Booming, Thus The Economy Is Thriving
In theory, expansion floats large company boats. In practice, many factors affect whether an economy’s success reaches companies’ bottom lines. Companies can make poor investment decisions. Workers may collect the gains instead, through wage inflation. Or governments may enjoy the benefits, through corruption or excessive taxes. The economy is not the stock market. In another example, Is it economic growth if we produce guns and cigarettes vs cars and computers? Furthermore the richest 10% of Americans hold 84% of the value in the stock market DESPITE the fact that about half of households own some stock. The bottom 90% own 16% of all stocks. The stock market helps the rich get richer and creates a wider gap between the poor/middle class and the rich.
It is not fair, however to say that the stock market and the economy are disconnected. They are related and there are a number of things that push both of them one way or the other. The relationship between the two can be so complicated that their relationship can be defined as “checking in on each other every once in a while”.
Myth #4 The Best Presidents Are Highly Educated And Have Government Experience
It turns out, there is no proven ideal preparation for the presidency. Experience in state and public affairs helps but, historically, is far from determining a lock as a good President. We’ve had only one PhD president, Woodrow Wilson. Life experience, usually with hard knocks along the way — provide more intellectual horsepower for being president. Emotional IQ can be more valuable than intellect: Can you stay in control in tough situations, is your temperament conducive to the office, can you exercise good judgment, can you read people and situations accurately? Experience helps but in many ways is akin to being book smart when you step out onto the street.
Myth #5 Business Leaders Are Good at Politics
Theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, in his essay “Perils of American Power,” published in The Atlantic Magazine in 1932, wrote of the relationship in the United States of economic strength and political incompetence. At the root of his statement was:
“Both our wealth and our political ignorance derive from the fact that we are a nation of businessmen and engineers…. We gave ourselves to business efficiency and technological achievement with greater abandon than any other people.”
He expands upon this with a quote that is almost chilling in its application to present day politics:
“Our businessmen and engineers suffer from the same kind of exaggerated self-esteem that characterizes any class or group which has come into sudden and obvious success. The successful man always assumes that success in his field gives him a warrant to speak with an air of omniscience on every human and social problem.”
Basically, if you place a businessman into the office of the Presidency , they will walk in like they own the place whether they know what they are doing or not. This does not even touch on the dynamic that the larger the empire of the “business man” the easier it is to use the office of the Presidency for personal and or business gain.
Still not convinced? In an article by Olivia B. Waxman published after the 2016 election in Time magazine, she writes of Trump joining 20th-century presidents Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, and the two George Bushes as a Businessman Come to the Oval Office:
- Herbert Hoover (Republican; president, 1929-33), mining magnate. An engineer and then businessman, he owned silver mines in Burma. Before the presidency, Hoover never held any elective office, though he had more than ably served as head of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and then as director of U.S. Food Administration during the First World War. Before the presidency, he also served with distinction in the Harding administration as secretary of commerce. Presidential historians generally rank him in the bottom half of presidents.
- George Herbert Walker Bush (Republican; president, 1989-93), oilman. Much experience in public service before the presidency — U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President. Had some trouble with “the vision thing.” Presidential historians generally rank him in the lower regions of the top half of presidents. (H.W. also became even more popular late in life for fabulous socks, some awesome leaps from airplanes, and for working collegially with ex-president Bill Clinton.)
- George W. Bush (Republican; served as president, 2001-9): oilman and baseball team owner. Handed much of the day-to-day work of the presidency off to his VP (leading to this deftly written joke deftly delivered by President Obama at the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner: “Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime. Which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president in my lifetime.”) Experience in public service before the presidency: Governor of Texas. Generally ranked in the 3rd or 4th quartile of presidents. (Accomplished painter in later life.)
- Donald John Trump (Republican; president 2017-god help us): ersatz businessman at best, he famously was handed a vast sum by his father to kickstart his career in real estate development. A bankrupt casino empire, endless lawsuits, reneging on payments for work done, and a perpetual fight to not reveal any financial information to the public are the hallmarks of his business career. Last year, three reporters for the New York Times won a Pulitzer for reporting on the origins of the Trump family’s fortunes and on Donald Trump’s shady business practices and lack of business acumen: “His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.” Only president in U.S. history without either public service or military experience. In fact, not a bit of experience in public service, even as president.
The sample is statistically short, but the examples stand on their own. Perhaps the most worrying angle here is how many super successful business people value cold hard capitalism and business efficiency over the human factor. This should not be a trait of the President of the United States. Case in point: ignoring and downplaying the COVID epidemic because it hurts the economy especially right before an election.
In reading this I can only hope that it can shed some light on some of the myths behind what defines progress and success with the office of the Presidency. It is easy to be led astray by the media. I feel Americans became fed up with politics as usual and wanted to try something different in electing a different kind of candidate (Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor, Trump for President). I get that, but keep in mind the character of the person matters most, because behind the character of the person lies their drive to do the right thing, to do the research, to represent our country rightfully, and do what’s best for the people first, and their wallets second. Money doesn’t buy happiness.