“It’s the economy, stupid!” It’s an old political adage I remember first hearing in 1992 during the unsuccessful reelection campaign of George H. W. Bush, an election that William J. Clinton won handily, thanks to working class discontent over an economic slow down caused largely by spiking crude oil prices.
I saw this political wisdom play out again at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, with the economy tanking after the mortgage crisis, and Barack H. Obama swept easily into victory over John S. McCain. Obama managed to win reelection over Willard M. Romney in 2012 thanks to Bush’s poor economic legacy.
Finally, after years of a jobless recovery and with household income still down, working class voters were looking for a change in leadership. Donald J. Trump blamed the poor recovery on Obama’s policies and nebulous foreign economic adversaries, and that was enough for the working voter to vote him in.
Two years into Trump’s first term, labor force participation, a labor statistic the Republicans seemingly only became interested in while it was useful for criticizing Obama, is only 0.3 points above where it was when Trump took office in January 2017, and the unemployment rate has climbed with it.
While increasing labor force participation indicates workers are reentering the work force, which is a positive sign, increasing unemployment rates indicate those workers aren’t necessarily finding employment, so it’s clear that the economy isn’t significantly improving, at least for those working class voters.
This is crucial to understand, because the working class voters ultimately choose presidents. As already stated, many of the same disgruntled voters who voted for Obama both in 2008 and 2012 also voted for Trump in 2016. They don’t have sophisticated ideological opinions. They only care about paying bills.
If they believe their comfort can be ensured by redistribution wealth, then they will be for that. If they believe their comfort can be ensured by the free enterprise system, then they will be for that. They don’t care about socialism versus capitalism, tyranny versus liberty, or progressivism versus conservatism.
So what does this mean for the cause of conservatism? It means that conservatism will never be wholly embraced by the working class electorate, mostly because they don’t care or are simply unable to understand that recessions are a fact of life. They don’t care that there aren’t quick and easy solutions.
I realize none of this is particularly politically correct, but it’s still true. If there is a recession in the next couple of years, even just a mild one that causes any level of discomfort among working voters, they will abandon Trump as quickly as they flocked to him. This is simply an objective, nonpartisan fact.
Liberty is For The Win!