Do the American people want a bold overhaul of our economy while it seems to be doing reasonably well?  If so, is there a Franklin Roosevelt among the many Democratic contenders who has the confidence of the voters to carry it out?

Those and related questions are raised by the so-called “progressive” wing of the Party, especially Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the answers from them are “yes” and “me”.

Most of the other candidates are either in the “moderate” wing of the Party, offering policy-by-policy solutions to economic and social problems such as unemployment, homelessness, stagnant wages, fragmented health care, and a range of domestic social issues.

There does seem to be unanimity on the climate crisis and need for dramatic action before a tipping point is past, a more humane immigration policy, the need to protect public lands and resources, and mainstream policies on much else.

But on tax increases and major redistribution proposals put forward by Warren and Sanders, a major groundswell in favor has yet to form, and there is confusion where the details of redistribution are vague.

And there is little evidence of significant movement of the independent center voters toward the Democratic left, at least while markets expand, GDP stays in a favorable range, and unemployment stays low.

Though the Trumpian chaos provides more than ample grist for the chattering pundit class, most voters, even in early primary States, haven’t sorted it all out yet.  Much can happen one way or another.

On the primary question—do a majority of American voters want another New Deal, green or otherwise–there is little if any historic evidence in favor.  There is something to the old, and conservative, adage: if there is not a need to change, there is a need not to change…at least in massive ways.

Democratic voters are divided between those who want dramatic action on vital economic issues and those who want to make policy improvements issue by issue, that is to say between progressives and moderates.  A major economic downturn would shift this balance dramatically.  But what if that does not occur?

While we watch the economic indicators for hiccups or earthquakes, the real struggle seems to be one of character.  There is evidence that a slight majority of Americans think Trump is, or may be, unfit for office and has become an embarrassment to our nation.  But they have yet to conclude that any Democrat is preferable.  This will not begin to sort itself out until there is a Democratic nominee and then the real race begins.  But that is next summer.

The fear many of us have is that anger at Trump will translate into a nominee proposing a major economic make-over that the average independent American voter is not yet ready to accept.

So far, there is little evidence that enthusiastic Warren and Sanders rally supporters are composed of independent swing voters necessary to win a national election.  Turning out Democratic voters is necessary but not sufficient to win.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to create smaller forums of independent voters to listen to and respond to presentations by Warren and Sanders?

Most independents will not make up their minds until after the Democratic nominating convention and even then possibly not until the final days of the 2020 campaigns.  By then it will be a little late if they don’t buy the massive overhaul story and decide either to stick with Trump or stay home.

Of at least equal concern it the possibility of Warren and Sanders supporters staying home if one or the other of them is not nominated.  Hopefully, their loathing of the incumbent will not permit that to happen.

But we should not assume that loathing of Trump necessarily leads to support for a massive overhaul of the national economy.

9 Responses to “Does Dismay With Trump Equate to Another New Deal”

  1. Jim Says:

    That’s the same thinking that led to the nomination of Mondale in 1984. HRC didn’t lose because there was no support for her from the middle. She lost because there was no excitement for her middle of the road, maintain the current plutocratic power structure.

  2. Michael Says:

    I may have written this before, but I don’t think the most profound change in the electorate is between the standard definitions of liberals, moderates and conservatives; I think it is generational. In 2018, a major and underreported milestone was reached when Millennial and younger generations outvoted all previous generations combined, with two-thirds of them voting for the Democrats. Young people have no fear of a reorganization of the economy that would make it more equitable and environmentally sustainable. In fact, they would overwhelmingly welcome it. If they keep voting in large numbers, with more and more reaching voting age every year, what’s coming may already be a forgone conclusion. What actually becomes law depends on the size mandate the new president gets, and how effective she is in exploiting it.

  3. Neil McCarthy Says:

    I think it’s a stretch to claim, as Jim appears to, that Gary Hart is thinking in the same way that led to the nomination of Mondale in 1984. As I recall 1984, Sen. Hart was a “new ideas” alternative to Mondale, and those ideas did not involve a large move to the left. But he is the host and can speak to the accuracy of the comparison. Sen. Hart?

  4. Gary Hart Says:

    GH says: the thesis of the essay is that a large scale overhaul of our tax and wealth distribution systems while the economy continues to expand, and more importantly when the elephant in the room is impeachment of a corrupt president, makes little sense. Impeachment first and then dramatic new economic proposals second. Our current situation is much different from 1972 and 1984, elections I know something about. Hubert Humphrey, a legatee of the New Deal, derided George McGovern as being too far to the left and that badly undermined McGovern in the fall, especially as Nixon proclaimed economic growth. Walter Mondale, heir to Humphrey, had strong labor support and put forward left of center policies, but once again Reagan was bringing the nation out of a recession for which he was partly responsible. Neither involved impeachment. Most of us do not want a dramatic economic reorganization that could endanger alienating independent swing voters necessary for a Trump defeat.

  5. Michael Says:

    I don’t think the McGovern experience has much relevance today. By 1972, the country was already lurching sharply to the Right for various reasons. In the early 1980s, we were a deep recession initiated by the Fed when it jacked up rates in order to wring double-digit inflation out of the economy (and arguably ended the Carter presidency). By the time Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, those rates were quickly coming down, with pent-up demand causing a rapid recovery. The Republicans effectively propagandized that Reagan’s economic program was responsible for it, and the result, a generation later, is that gross income inequality – what I would urge Democrats to call income injustice, because that’s exactly what it is – is the worst in a century. It has become the economic imperative that dealing with stagflation was in the late 1970s. People generally know that all the economic gains have been unfairly funneled upward for decades. It’s the reason so many are so angry. My feeling is that someone on the left of the Democratic Party who can effectively articulate a program that corrects the imbalances in the economy would win. Bernie Sanders is very good at identifying the economic problems. He doesn’t do as well providing solutions, however. Even economists on the Left criticized his plans in 2016, saying his number didn’t add up. Elizabeth Warren seems much more able to develop coherent, workable plans. Funding Medicare-for-all without raising taxes on the middle class seems to be her biggest problem, but she said recently that she’ll be addressing that soon. As far as not offending people “in the middle,” Democrats tried that in 2016 and lost. Again, my feeling is nominating a candidate who excites young people and turns them out is the recipe for wining.

  6. Michael Says:

    By the way, concerning impeachment: the polling shows surprisingly strong support, not only for the inquiry, but also for removal. That whole ball of wax is a big problem for Republicans. I don’t think Democrats need to be afraid of it. In the end, people are just sick of Trump’s daily freak show.

  7. Gary Hart Says:

    As a longtime advocate of generational politics, I’m with Michael. I question whether millenials or GenXrs are necessarily drawn to large government programs simply because they are young, though. Young people are definitely more experimental and willing to try new things. Part of my partial success in 84 had to do with notions like military reform, greater environmental focus, attention to the good and the bad of globalization, and so on. Interestingly, the so-called “front runners” are all in their 70s. We need more sophisticated polling before assuming either that Warren or Sanders will bring out young people or, my assumption, that swing voters might stay home. We will know in just over a year. GH

  8. Neil McCarthy Says:

    If you combine Michael’s and Sen. hart’s insights, someone like Sen. Klobuchar would be well advised to highlight whatever is in her program, or come up with one, that deals significantly with income inequality. Right now, Klobuchar sounds like Clinton and Obama. She offers lots of incremental ideas tot ackle inequality — free two-year community college, increased Pell grants, and refinancing to deal with student debt; a public Medicare option but not Medicare for all; increases in the minimum wage, more rigorous anti-trust enforcement, closing the carried interest loophole. The problem, it seems to me, is that legislatively Klobuchar is right to be incremental but politically she is being lapped by Warren. Maybe she should pick at least one issue and go big, e.g., say she is for eliminating student debt.

    The genius of Hart 1984 was his ability to sound innovative and fresh without sounding crazy or left wing. That’s what’s missing today. I think if I were advising a candidate today, I’d tell them to propose a 100 day plan — these are the five bills they are going to get passed in their first hundred days — and I’d tell them to have one on climate change, one on public option that also allows the government to compete as a bulk pharmaceutical buyer, one on radically reducing college debt and increasing the minimum wage, one on eliminating the carried interest rule, and one on reforming corporate governance to require a focus not just on shareholder value. These are incremental reforms but marketing them as a 100 day package could provide the candidate a way to marry Michael’s and Sen. Hart’s advice

    We’ve had Square Deal (TR), New Deal (FDR), and Fair Deal (Truman).

    This one should be called the Real Deal.

  9. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    >>>>>This one should be called the Real Deal.

    Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!

    And, the current Democratic field doesn’t have to expand to find the candidate who fits that bill. Literally!

    And, I mean that sincerely, I’m not trying to be facetious here, folks!

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.