By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/8/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Let’s be optimistic and call the news and polls a mixed bag.
You likely heard that Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has announced he is now (I-MI) after leaving the GOP. Here he is announcing in a Washington Post Opinion piece:
“I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.”
We lead with this for two reasons. First, Amash has acted consistently with his stated values. His flavor of Libertarianism will never catch on with Progressives, his recent actions may not even win over Republicans, but he stood up for his values.
The second reason this is worth noting, Amash is considering a run for president. Amash’s criticisms of Trump, including calling for his impeachment, could be a factor in a Trump path to reelection given the importance of Michigan electoral votes.
One final observation about Amash. If you read his Opinion piece, he constructed his rationale for leaving the GOP around comments made by George Washington regarding concerns of partisan politics offering this quote:
“The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …”
I encourage you to read the rest as Washington goes on to warn “it agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another foments occasionally riot and insurrection … opens the door to foreign influence and corruption… thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
Justin Amash was born to Arab Christian parents who had immigrated to the United States. A final fact that seems worthy of note.
Trump’s Red Square, Costly Trade Wars and Iran’s Pending Uranium Enrichment
The rest of the news is not so good.
Channeling the spirit of George Washington, Edward Luce writing for the Financial Times offers a headline of “Donald Trump creates ‘Red Square on the Potomac’” with a sub-head of “Fourth of July event was long on military and short on unity.” Unfortunately the article is behind a pay wall.
Writing for the New York Times Paul Krugman’s recent column carried the headline, “Trump is Losing His Trade Wars” with a sub-head of, “The pain is real, but the coercion isn’t”. Krugman predicts Trump’s “trade wars are good, and easy to win” will be remembered much like former VP Cheney’s, “we will, in fact, be welcomed as liberators”.
In a nutshell, Krugman notes that everyone, including US consumers, are losing. Trump’s new trade treaty with Mexico and Canada is “so similar to the old one that you need a magnifying glass to see the differences”. Of his trade tussle with China, Krugman observes that Trump “is less able to sustain than China’s leadership”. Krugman predicts “long-lasting scars on the world economy”.
More importantly, Trump’s authoritarian ineptness has Iran on the brink of increasing their enrichment of uranium with confirmation expected today [7/8]. It’s predictable that Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will decry the act as a violation of a promise made to the UN Security Council while failing to note any provocation by Trump, like his re-imposition of “a near-total embargo on the Iranian economy” after withdrawing from an accord to “curb the country’s (Iran) nuclear energy activities”.
Fox News Poll: Tariffs hurt economy, Trump has gone too far on immigration
Tired of so much winning?
A Fox News poll offers mixed messages for/or against Trump. 57% of respondents feel “optimistic” about the economy – which is wind in the sails for Trump reelection. But with “Trump’s economic policies” only 31% feel “everyone” has benefitted while 48% see the benefits accruing to “people with more money”.
More concerning to Trump, regarding immigration, 50% feel he’s “gone too far” while only 24% feel he’s “not gone far enough” while 73% want Trump to “allow Dreamers to Stay” and only 42% want Trump to “build a wall”.
You might see some daylight for Democrats with those polling results but…
A more detailed poll by Washington Post-ABC offers a more detailed view. The full results can be found here.
The Washington Post poll article leads with noting that Trump’s approval rating is up to 44% which doesn’t seem out of the high-low norm, but also note, “among registered votes, 47% say they approve of Trump while 50% disapprove.”
It is the 51% that cite approval of the economy as the factor that buoys Trump. Similar to the Fox poll, 57% disapprove of Trump’s handling of immigration (40% approve) while approval for taxes (42%), health care (38%), issues of special concern to women including abortion (32%), gun violence (36%) foreign policy (40%) and global warming (29%) all reflect low support as well.
But the most troubling part of this poll for many may be that Biden leads the Democratic field of candidates, but most concerning – Biden holds the only significant margin for victory over Trump at +10%. Bernie is at +1%, Harris at +2%, Warren and Buttigieg are Eeen. Here’s a final poll question reflective of the GOP message – “a Democratic candidate who you regard as a socialist” loses to Trump with <->6%.
Polls are fluid. I offer these only as a reflection of this point in time. These are interesting observations about opportunities and challenges for any Democratic candidate.
We are now only just over a week away from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before House committees, and the current outlook for impeachment remains ‘against’. The Washington Post-ABC poll shows a 59% majority say “the House should not begin such proceedings, including 46 percent who strongly oppose such a move.”
How will this change after the hearings? What will impeachment or non-impeachment mean for a Dem candidate?
Is Trump Above the Law?
Meanwhile, Trump is attempting to defy the final law in the land by ignoring a Supreme Court ruling searching for a way to cram a citizenship question into the 2020 census. The census forms are supposedly already being printed while Trump struggles with ideas like an executive order to printing an addendum.
Should Trump ignore the courts, including the ruling against his 2020 census question for citizenship, what will happen? There is no higher court to appeal to, so what is the recourse, if any? Will Trump’s disdain for any law he doesn’t like finally demonstrate, that effectively, he can operate above the law?
One final poll from the Pew Research Center to consider: Public Highly Critical of State of Political Discourse in the U.S.
Most Americans (85%) say political debate move divisive. Also, 78% say “‘heated’ rhetoric by politicians raises risk of violence”.
You may be tempted to find encouragement in those remarks. But consider that while 92% of Dem respondents were concerned with Trump statements; only 59% of Republicans said the same. More importantly, 78% of Reps were ‘entertained’ by Trump statements (compared to 35% for Dems).
Polls will change, but our partisan views are substantially hardened. Rhetoric will continue to degrade, less over policy and more over attitudes. The Pew Research Center poll shows 68% of respondents feel it is unacceptable to say an opponent’s positions are evil; 72% say the same about saying anti-American; 77% feel the same about ridiculing an opponent and 81% disapprove of shouting over an opponent.
Hasn’t Trump already obliterated all of these norms? If anyone is undecided on this point, I predict you won’t be a year from now – we can only imagine how far Trump will blow past any norms of conduct or civility as the campaigns rocket forward.
The harder thing to predict – who will win? We know Republicans always vote.
How do we feel about Washington’s warning about partisan politics? What will our election process look like over the next year… and who will win?