by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
James Carville was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager during the 1992 presidential election. Carville and his staff had an uphill battle against sitting president George H. W. Bush for two reasons. 1). Incumbents rarely lose reelection. 2). President Bush’s approval rating was over 80 percent after the United States triumphantly ejected Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. But the Clinton campaign had one thing in their favor, the U.S. economy was in recession.
At Clinton’s campaign headquarters Carville posted three points on a board as a reminder to his staff on how to sell their candidate to the public. 1). Change vs. more of the same. 2). The economy, stupid. 3). Don’t forget health care.
The second reminder became a rebuttal to critics that insinuated Clinton was unfit for the presidency because of “dodging the draft” and extramarital affairs. When Clinton’s character was questioned the response was, “It’s the economy, stupid!” followed by, “Do you want more of the same?” Of course, people didn’t want more of an economic recession, and voters became convinced Clinton’s personal failings had nothing to do with his ability to set an agenda and restore American prosperity.
On Election Day, Clinton flipped 22 states and won the presidency.
Let’s fast forward to the current president.
Donald Trump’s personal failings are abundant and his character is scrutinized by a lot of Republican voters. But President Trump has in his favor what President Bush Sr. did not—a good economic record.
During the State of the Union address, President Trump said, “From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy, slashing a number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements…Since my election we have created 7 million new jobs, 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration. The unemployment rate is the lowest in over half a century…Under the last administration, more than 10 million people were added to the food stamp rolls. Under my administration, 7 million Americans have come off food stamps and 10 million have been lifted off welfare.”
President Trump continued down a list of economic success that he labeled a “blue collar boom.” Then he said, “Since my election, United States stock markets have soared 70 percent, adding more than $12 trillion to our nation’s wealth…Millions of people with 401(k)s and pensions are doing far better…Jobs and investments are pouring into 9,000 previously-neglected neighborhoods thanks to opportunity zones…In other words, wealthy people and companies are pouring money into poor neighborhoods or areas that have not seen investment in many decades.”
This wasn’t just a State of the Union address, it was the launch of President Trump’s re-election campaign. During the address the Republicans stood and cheered after each of the president’s economic boasts, but the Democrats remained seated with stoned-faces to mask their fear as they realized the normal uphill battle to defeat an incumbent was now a mountain climb.
Following the State of the Union, James Carville, now 75, told MSNBC that he was scared to death because the Democrats are about to blow an opportunity to oust an unpopular incumbent through poorly run campaigns, an ill-chosen presidential nominee with a progressive agenda that will turn the Democratic party into the British Labour Party, or by talking about non-essential issues like decriminalizing illegal immigration and letting prisoners vote. Carville stated the Democratic Party needs to wake up and talk about things that are relevant to the people and become a majority party again.
Carville also said, “There’s only one moral imperative in this country right now and that is to beat Donald Trump.” But if morality didn’t matter in 1992 when the economy was bad, wouldn’t it matter less when the economy is good, especially when voters want more of the same?
After Carville’s rant on MSNBC, he penned an op-ed for the Financial Times called: “Hey Democrats, it’s the winning, stupid!” But right now, the rebuttal is: Trump’s stupid, but it’s the economy, dammit.