Donald Dossier: Weathering the Storm
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Donald Trump is about to be impeached, and he's only getting stronger.
By Daniel Malloy
In moments of stress, President Donald Trump’s Twitter account tends to go into overdrive. Twice this week, the president topped the 100-tweet barrier in a single day, setting new marks for prolific thumbing. He promoted his Mar-a-Lago resort and attacked climate activist Greta Thunberg, but the main topic, of course, was his own impeachment. The process barreled its way along as the House Judiciary Committee cleared two articles of impeachment on Friday, setting up a vote likely this coming Wednesday in the full House of Representatives to etch Trump’s name into the history books, alongside Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.
Yet Trump has never looked stronger in his bid for a second term. There’s a constant storm around him, but his hair and his iPhone have stayed dry.
Start with the polls. As usual, he’s underwater with the nation at large, but Trump’s numbers have remained steady in the states he needs most in 2020 — even ticking up in critical Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to recent data. The Democrats remain perilously far from settling on a candidate, and their entire top tier seems to have glaring general election flaws, while Trump is stocking a reelection war machine with unprecedented financial resources.
Then you’ve got the economy continuing to go gangbusters. In November, unemployment sank to 3.5 percent with wages up 3.1 percent year-on-year. The Dow Jones index is up 20 percent this year. And this past week, global markets got a huge sigh of relief on trade. Democrats and the White House cemented a deal to ratify a replacement for NAFTA and, most importantly, Trump struck a Phase One trade deal with China that will reduce some tariffs. Trump’s yearslong standoff with the Chinese on trade is far from over, and these negotiations have seen more rallies and swings than a Rafael Nadal–Roger Federer tennis match, but the signs are unquestionably positive for the economy, and thus, Trump’s reelection chances.
Meanwhile, the U.K. election triumph for the Conservatives gave the GOP some cheer on this side of the Atlantic. The parallels are not exact — as Washington Post reporter David Weigel astutely pointed out, the Tories’ carbon emissions targets are the same as Joe Biden’s, but the Labour Party’s wipeout in rural areas shows that there’s room for Democrats to continue their decline outside metro areas.
Trump’s reelection is hardly certain. He continues to have an incredibly narrow path to winning. He faces a roaring opposition that is off-the-charts motivated to vote him out (or jail him). And Dems have been pulling off significant wins from the 2018 midterms to 2019’s governors races in Kentucky and Louisiana.
But we’ve learned in recent weeks that even as seismic an event as impeachment will not shake the fundamental 50-50 divide in the country. The proceedings helped expose bad behavior as Trump tried to strong-arm an opposing government into helping him politically, but it hardly seemed shocking to anyone who’s been watching the president operate on the national political scene for the past few years. More troubling for Democrats: So far the ball has been entirely in their hands, with a Senate trial coming in January that’s designed to paint Trump in the best possible light before his certain acquittal — which could net him a nice polling bump.
There’s oodles of time for Democrats to put together a compelling message about corruption in order to accelerate Republicans’ suburban struggles faster than their own rural decline. And once their nominee emerges from the primary crucible and the party unites behind her or him, things will look much different.
But if you’re Donald Trump in December 2019, impeachment never felt so good.
- Daniel Malloy, OZY AuthorContact Daniel Malloy