Art of the Deal: 2020
No matter who becomes Speaker of the House next year, the President enjoys a remarkable political opportunity.
By James Freeman of WSJ
Nov. 16, 2018
Last week Democrats took the U.S. House and thereby captured the subpoena power they’ve been craving to torment President Donald Trump for at least the next two years. But voters declined to deliver a full-throated repudiation of Mr. Trump and appear to have expanded the Republican majority in the Senate. Voters have also shown Mr. Trump the path to a 2020 re-election. And he’s about to gain a nearly perfect adversary.
Amid the celebrations surrounding dozens of new House seats, Democrats have also been expressing their ongoing concern that the people who have been instructed by the media to hate Mr. Trump and his party aren’t falling into leftist line.
“One Lesson From The Midterms: The ‘Latino Vote’ Is Up For Grabs,” says the headline on a commentary published by Boston public broadcaster WBUR. The author is Josiane Martinez, a political consultant who this year helped progressive leftist Ayanna Pressley win a House seat which used to belong to a more centrist Democrat.
Ms. Martinez discusses Florida, “where 44 percent of Latinos voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who famously appeared in a campaign ad helping his young child build President Trump’s border wall out of play bricks.” She adds:
In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker won re-election in a 34-point landslide, winning diverse voters who usually turn out for Democrats in our blue state. Baker tied Democratic opponent Jay Gonzalez with 48 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls.
Nearby at the Boston Globe, Renee Graham recently drafted a “Memo to black men: Stop voting Republican.” Ms. Graham writes:
Brothers, we need to talk.
In the midterm elections, about 17 percent of black men voted to give Texas Republican Ted Cruz another term in the Senate. Around 11 percent supported Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp…
These aren’t huge percentages, but enough to disrupt Democratic strategies that have been premised for years on overwhelming support among African-Americans. Ms. Graham is particularly concerned that younger black men are more open to voting Republican than their elders.
The point is that Mr. Trump has room to grow his support among minority voters. And regardless of color, there are plenty of voters who already like his program but aren’t sold on him. This column noted last month that Mr. Trump appears to be setting a modern record in the share of the electorate saying that they don’t like the President personally, but approve of most of his policies. This category of voters currently stands at 20% of the electorate, according to a recent WSJ/NBC survey. For most recent Presidents such readings were generally in the low-to-mid single digits, though Bill Clinton’s share did climb into the teens.
Whether or not voters like Mr. Trump personally, the big policy area where Democrats enjoyed a huge edge last week was health care.
To summarize, Mr. Trump is not doomed to a shrinking demographic and his policies are generally popular, but he has what might be called a likability gap and his party needs to give voters better answers on health care. Fortunately for the President, he now has an outstanding opportunity to address his key weaknesses.
Congressional investigations will no doubt be taxing, but Mr. Trump will now have a political foil virtually guaranteed to present policies that are anathema to large swaths of the electorate. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal who helps elect Republicans all over Middle America. Her emerging rival for the Speaker’s gavel, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D., Ohio) stands even further to the left. The 2018 Almanac of American Politics rates the Fudge record on social issues in the last Congress as 100% liberal. On economics she scored 98% liberal and just 2% conservative.
Joshua Jamerson and Natalie Andrews note in the Journal that Ms. Fudge is “a member of the progressive caucus, which represents the Democratic Party’s left wing.” More moderate rivals may emerge. But given that most Democrats in the current Congress have already endorsed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ government-run health care plan that ends private insurance, what are the odds that a centrist can collect 218 votes and claim the gavel?
A Democratic majority means that the party cannot simply accuse Republicans of wanting to take away benefits. Democrats must now put their plans on the floor and vote on them. This creates new opportunities for Republicans to point out the flaws in Democratic plans to enlarge the bureaucracies already stifling American medicine.
For example, ObamaCare requires that insurance plans include various benefits that consumers may not want, driving up costs. And consumers would welcome the chance to customize their coverage. Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes today:
Seventy-eight percent (78%) of voters favor letting each worker choose how much health insurance they are willing to pay for. They could have less expensive insurance and more take home pay or more expensive insurance and less take-home pay. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that just 21% oppose giving workers that choice.
If they had the choice, two-thirds of workers (65%) would opt for less-expensive insurance and more take home pay. Black and Hispanic voters who receive insurance from their employer are even more likely to prefer a higher paycheck. So are workers earning less than $75,000 a year.
President Trump can now present himself as the architect of successful economic policies protecting consumers against a Democratic House bent on raising their costs and limiting their choices. Voters may decide that’s a very good reason to like him.