Thursday, January 02, 2020


Writing for the Financial Times, Janan Ganesh argues that President Trump has a good chance of being reelected because it was impossible for him to let down his base over the past three years:
It is almost impossible for Mr Trump to disappoint people. They never had hopes to dash. In 2016, it was forgivable to characterise his voters as innocents who believed that he would repatriate factories to Ohio and clean up politics. Logic implied that when he failed in these endeavours their support would melt. In retrospect, this was only ever true of some.

Many others never believed that he or anyone else could, in that tellingly vague aspiration, make America great again. Their vote was more a howl against perceived national decline than a calculated attempt to arrest it. They are not standing over his shoulder with clipboards that set out key performance indicators. That would imply some hope in the first place.

It is hard to overstate the fatalism of the country that elected him and stands to do so again. By a gap of around 20 points, voters believe the US to be moving in the wrong direction. (The margin has been in the double digits for a decade now.) According to Pew, super-majorities expect it to become weaker in the world, less equal at home and more politically divided over the next 30 years. Declinism is no longer just a trope of current affairs non-fiction. It is the national mood, and it predates Mr Trump....

It follows that, if voters are resigned to the unimprovability of things, the performance of the president is neither here nor there. It is impossible to disillusion the never-illusioned.
I think the right feels about Trump the way the left felt about Barack Obama. During Obama's term, we wanted the economic recovery to be stronger, we wanted truly universal and affordable healthcare coverage, we wanted a real end to George W. Bush's two wars -- and we seemed to make some progress on all of these fronts, though not enough. We wanted more, but at least we felt that Obama was moving us in the right direction. We accepted the notion that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Trump fans accept that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward revenge, as long as he's president. They don't have all the coal jobs back, they haven't rid the country of all immigrants, they haven't crushed CNN or The New York Times or the "Democrat Party," but they're confident that Trump wants fossil fuels to reign supreme and wants liberalism to be left bleeding in an alley. They might not hold it against Trump that the manufacturing economy hasn't truly returned and that opioids still ravage their hometowns, but they would certainly hold it against him if he renewed DACA, or signed an infrastructure bill in a joint ceremony with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

He'll disappoint his base if he ever cooperates with us. He may never makes his voters' lives better, but as long as he makes them angry, they're happy, and not disappointed at all.

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