With recent polling showing some significant vulnerabilities in President Trump’s popularity, the prospects of an easy road back to the White House just became much more complicated.
While Trump’s deep base of loyalists will remain at full volume right up until election night, there is a rattling even among ardent supporters that should make most conservative pundits nervous.
There are certainly concrete achievements that can be pointed to in order to bolster the image of the President as a “doer and accomplisher”; these are the things that most Trump supporters point to quickly as a shield against frontal attacks.
There are, however, some possible dark clouds on the horizon.
For one, economic indicators, not just in the US but especially in Europe, are showing some troubling symptoms. Inverted yield curves in the bond market has many investors on edge. This is perhaps one of the leading indicators that precede a recession. Does it mean that the US economy is definitely heading that way? No, not necessarily. But it is enough to scare the American people in to thinking that it just might, and that may be enough to turn the tide when 2020 arrives. Bankruptcies have also spiked, along with the average American’s long-term debt. Additionally, consumer confidence has taken a downward turn.
Traditionally, voters have held Presidents responsible for these bad omens.
But there are other, less tangible factors that Republican strategists will have to contend with.
Many voters who in 2016 pulled the lever for Trump may be mulling over their position. There were certainly voters who went for the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” However, these may be the very people who see Trump’s “over the top” repartee as a bit too much. This combined with what is perceived as a turbulent White House may make those on the fence see the Democratic challengers—even with their sometimes extreme left wing ideas—seem more palatable.
It is not so much that many voters will turn against Trump’s policies, but rather the way these policies are presented. For lack of a better term, they may be suffering from a case of “Trump Weariness” linked to his social behavior, rather than not approving of the things that they originally voted for him for.
It is not that Trump isn’t right, it is the way he comes across about his “rightness.” Many of Trump’s opponents have still not fully disengaged from the “Russian Collusion” debacle that turned out to be a big nothing burger. The circus atmosphere, however, that still seems to follow Trump like a stray dog, may end up being a ball and chain heading into the 2020 election.
It should not be assumed that because Trump pulled off a great election night victory in 2016, that history will repeat itself. This is an electorate that is certainly on edge. It is also an electorate that voted Democratic Presidents Obama and Clinton into the White House—for two terms each!
Trump was elected as a “Non-politician” President to shake up Washington and the Beltway. But that shaking may have knocked the moderate voters off their perch; they still could be puzzling about what is really best for the country.
Republicans need to seriously consider that Americans are a people who invite change. Indeed, the 2020 election may be one of “change for change sake”; there are times when the American electorate likes novelty. There is no guarantee that voters will settle for the conservative choice. Indeed, with the country as volatile as it is right now, they may swing the pendulum to the other side and elect a far-left candidate. Yes, change for change sake.
Suddenly, “Medicare for All” and forgiving college debt may seem like a really good idea. Let us not forget, also, that many Millennials will be voting for the first time. By all indications, many of them have embraced Socialism and believe that it is time for the American system to change—a 21st Century echo of the 1960’s—and perhaps a potent one.
There is no doubt that the 2020 election may be the bellwether of America’s future. There may be naiveté on both sides of the aisle, and we could see an election that will surprise all Americans, regardless of political stripe.
The issue for Trump and the Republican party is to clear their minds of the idea that the President will crush any Democratic contender; that none of them have the political finesse to be a real threat. Instead, they must look at the historical trends in voter swings and the idea that, deep down inside, Americans like change, like challengers—and root for the underdog.
The White House needs to take a deep breath and get down to the sober realities it is facing, or face some surprises of its own.
Joseph M Bianchi is an independent journalist and guest columnist for the Jerusalem Post and USAtoday. His latest book is, Unnecessary Noises.