Believe it or not...it’s Donald Trump.
While the Republican Party in Washington continues its search for a solution to “the Donald problem,” a number of analysts have offered insight into how Donald Trump has continued to convince voters that he’s qualified to be President. In the immortal words of James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s iconic campaign advisor: “It’s (still) the economy, stupid.”
“...the Republicans were so busy fighting Obamacare, pushing to cut taxes and the size of government, and fighting culture wars that they didn’t see that their party had changed and along with it their base’s needs. Much of what Republicans were talking about didn’t resonate with working-class people who didn’t have the luxury to weigh abstract issues when they had to worry about how to feed, clothe, and house their kids, and how to make it to the next paycheck.”...Charlie Cook, National Journal Political Analyst
The New York Times also describes how the GOP elite lost its voters to Donald Trump:
“...the story is also one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade as the party’s donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered. From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security disability payments, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.
In dozens of interviews, Republican lawmakers, donors, activists and others described — some with resignation, some with anger — a party that paved the way for a Trump-like figure to steal its base, as it lost touch with less affluent voters and misunderstood their growing anguish.
While wages declined and workers grew anxious about retirement, Republicans offered an economic program still centered on tax cuts for the affluent and the curtailing of popular entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.”
We all remember the incongruence of Tea Party protestors bashing the federal government while also holding signs in support of America’s most successful federal programs, Social Security and Medicare. However, that conflicting message isn’t hard to understand once you acknowledge the fact that while wealthy GOP donors remain the nation’s most vociferous supporters of privatizing and cutting these programs (they have the most to gain financially) average Americans of all political persuasions do not support destroying our nation’s retirement and healthcare safety net.
“In Washington, Republicans read Tea Party anger over Mr. Obama’s health care law as a principled rejection of social welfare programs, despite evidence that those voters broadly supported spending they believed they deserved, like Social Security and Medicare. Amid intense anger at Wall Street, Republicans urged voters to blame the recession on excessively generous federal home-lending policies, while moving to roll back regulation of one of their biggest sources of campaign money, the financial industry.”
“During a recent interview with CNBC, Mr. Ryan was asked if Republicans needed to respond to less-affluent voters who believed that Republicans were tending only to the interests of those at the top. Mr. Ryan, who during the same interview called again for the overhaul of entitlements and the reduction of debt, rejected that idea. “People don’t think like that,” he said. “People want to know the deck is fair. Bernie Sanders talks about that stuff. That’s not who we are.”...The New York Times.
Paul Ryan is right, that’s not who the modern Republican Party is – and that’s where Donald Trump comes in. Unlike the GOP leadership in Washington, he recognized the massive disconnect between conservative elites and voters. He even warned conservatives at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference:
"As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen," Mr. Trump said, adding that polls show that tea partyers are among those who don't want their entitlements changed." ...Donald Trump, 2013 CPAC speech, Washington Times
However, let’s not confuse political astuteness with policy conviction. Donald Trump version 2.0 is very different than the Donald Trump who’s called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” advocated for raising the retirement age to 70 and privatizing Social Security. Even this newly-minted candidate Trump has yet to offer a plan for Social Security other than the classic conservative canard of getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is very small:
- Since 1989, SSA’s annual administrative costs have been about 1%
- Fraud in SSI is less than 1% with underpayments more likely than overpayments.
- There are Social Security numbers linked to people that should have been closed; however, it has not led to significant overpayments
It’s no wonder the Republican Party is in a panic. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt on MSNBC’s Morning Joe called the Republican Party, “disconnected and decapitated” as they, to this day, continue to ignore the economic reality (and the effect of their trickle-down economic policies) on average Americans.
“The Republican establishment in Washington has a case of affluenza. You have six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the country surround D.C. You have a real-estate market that took a narrow downturn but rebounded very quickly. You have a city that’s insulated from economic distress; it’s recession-proof to some degree. So this Republican establishment, the consulting class in Washington, these are not living-wage jobs. And at the end of the day, I think they totally miss the psychic impact, the economic impact of the Great Recession, of the economic collapse.
It was such a seismic event in the modern history of the country that even eight years later it's the defining issue of the 2016 campaign as it was the defining issue of the 2008 fall campaign. And they just don't get it. They don't understand the impact for blue-collar wage workers in this country over a 20 year basis and you're seeing this now all play out in this general election.”
Not surprisingly, all of the GOP’s preferred candidates for President (those already gone and still remaining) support cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Proving, once again, they still don’t get it.