November 21, 2022

Questions Answered

Ask a Conservative:

What specific things for the economy did Donald Trump accomplish as president that helped ‘Make America Great Again’? - Holly, FL

Trump cut tax rates, both for corporations and all income brackets, while limiting the regressive SALT deduction. Prior to the pandemic, he oversaw a successful economy including strong wage growth, particularly for those in lower income brackets. The USMCA improved upon NAFTA to protect American workers. The unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and those without a high school diploma all hit record lows pre-pandemic.

Why do white workers without college degrees love Trump so much? Aside from the typical “own the libs” rhetoric, what specific policies did he implement to help them? - Anonymous

While there are likely many different reasons for Trump’s support among white workers without college degrees, analysis has shown that his rhetoric was designed to appeal to such voters. Researchers found “that the word ‘workers’ appeared more frequently in Trump’s stump speeches than references to any other social category (except ‘donors’), and that these references were overwhelmingly positive.” He also “repeatedly blamed globalization for deindustrialization, thus supporting workers’ self-concepts as responsible, hard-working people who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own.” Finally, he “leaned heavily on shared working-class values in his campaign speeches, often in the context of a threatened America… Thus, he made salient the masculinity of white male workers and their role as providers and protectors, one of the lynchpins of their self-worth.”

As one commentator presciently noted back in 2016, “Trump also grasped what Republican élites are still struggling to fathom: the ideology that has gripped their Party since the late nineteen-seventies—anti-government, pro-business, nominally pious—has little appeal for millions of ordinary Republicans. The base of the Party, the middle-aged white working class, has suffered at least as much as any demographic group because of globalization, low-wage immigrant labor, and free trade. Trump sensed the rage that flared from this pain and made it the fuel of his campaign.” He bucked GOP orthodoxy and came out strongly in favor of unions and against cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Finally, the left also did its part in alienating white workers without college degrees. As one liberal commentator noted, “College-educated Americans need to increase our cultural competence and treat non-elites with the respect that is due to coalition partners whose lives and values often differ from our own. Progressives need to listen more and demand less—not because we’re moderates but because we’re progressives.”

One of our contributors adds: I have never considered myself a “Trump supporter,” but I did vote for him the first time around for the simple reason that he represented the best possibility for change. As far as I’m concerned, career politicians and the institutions behind them (parties and partisan media) are the greatest obstacles to truly representative democracy and change. They are irredeemably corrupt, self-serving, and ineffective, and they have no reason to change because their power is so entrenched. Voting for Trump was my way of throwing a wrench into the gears of power. They give us the illusion of choice by presenting candidates who all answer to the same bosses. Trump was the only candidate they didn’t own; the only candidate who did not guarantee more of the same kind of governance that has caused all of our problems. It is said that insanity is repeating an action and expecting different results. I voted for Trump because it was the only possibility for something different.

Why are Republicans enamored with Donald Trump? The man is rude, obnoxious, and extremely arrogant.  As a lifelong Republican and more importantly a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings, I don’t understand Mr Trump’s draw or hold on conservatives, Republicans, and especially Christians. - Michael, PA

How do Christians rationalize supporting Trump? He's clearly a sinner all the way down the line with no indication of mending his ways. - Andrea, VA

In addition to the white working class (see above), many social conservatives have been enthusiastic Trump supporters. While he is undoubtedly a flawed messenger, his results are undeniable. For decades, social conservatives have voted for pro-life candidates, only to be generally ignored once those candidates were in office. In 1992, a Supreme Court with eight of its nine members nominated by Republican presidents reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. Trump almost certainly is not strongly opposed to abortion himself (he was “very pro-choice” at one time), yet it was his nominees that finally struck down Roe.

Trump is often compared to the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. According to the bible, Cyrus (who was not Jewish) conquered Babylon, freeing the Jews who had been imprisoned there for 50 years. The Jews were then able to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. “Cyrus is the model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful.” Trump may not be a true believer, but he’s not afraid of criticism from the New York Times editorial board, and neither are his nominees.

Many Republicans also have a perception that elites in the media/Hollywood/etc are working to create a society in which those holding traditional beliefs/values are ostracized or at the very least forced to hide their views. In many cases, views that were widespread less than a decade ago (and in some cases remain widespread) are now deemed bigoted and worthy of firing or worse.

Much of Trump’s rhetoric that has been condemned as racist/bigoted/etc is essentially indistinguishable from Democratic rhetoric in the 1990s. The Opinion Editor of the New York Times was forced to resign for publishing an op-ed by a sitting Senator advocating a policy supported by a majority of the country. As recently as 2010 Barack Obama opposed same-sex marriage; now photographers unwilling to work at such weddings are prosecuted and fined. Trump, unlike other Republican politicians, was willing to push back.

One of our contributors adds: Trump never pretends to be anything other than what he is. Trump, in a ten-thousand dollar suit, could more easily connect with working-class Christians than the religious and gentle-spoken Mitt Romney in ironed jeans or the well-educated and urbane Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — who themselves, as self-avowed champions of the party of the American working class, change accents and messages from audience to audience while denigrating the very people they claim to champion in select company.

Trump said he was going to bring back American energy production. He said it to New Yorkers as well as to Texans and North Dakotans. As president, he aggressively pursued policies to deliver on the message. This in turn boosted the economy, created jobs, and diminished American reliance on foreign energy production, making the US energy independent. Or contrast the Trump and Biden approaches to the border. Both presidents said illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and human trafficking comprised a critical issue that needs to be addressed. Trump’s efforts at wall-building, increased funding, additional manpower, and cooperation with border states/countries led to a sharp decline in illegal immigration. Biden’s reversal of Trump’s policies has resulted in a huge, record-setting influx of migrants that shows no sign of letting up.

When conservatives (and other Americans) see skyrocketing murder rates, high inflation, riots, calls to defund the police, the negation of parental rights, and biological males being allowed to compete in women’s sports they are not so concerned about the president’s manner or his marital status. They are much more concerned with their own safety, the affordability of food and gas, and their children’s future.

What’s your take on the Jan. 6 attack on Congress? - Anonymous

What happened on Jan. 6, 2021, was terrible. Political violence is not acceptable, and those involved should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That said, it was not an organized “coup” in any meaningful way. It was a bunch of clowns in viking hats. There was never any prospect of stopping the electoral count, let alone overthrowing the government. An actual coup would have been something along the lines of Trump mobilizing the military to go in and block Congress from counting electoral votes at gunpoint (something that happened not too long ago in El Salvador).

It’s also worth noting that had Capitol Police been sufficiently prepared with adequate manpower, none of it would have happened. There was similar violence at Trump’s inauguration in 2017 (according to CNN, six officers were injured and over 200 were arrested), but police were far better prepared. And don’t forget efforts to deny Trump the presidency through the electoral college, arguments amplified in the New York Times that would fit the definition of a coup.

Finally, it’s important to highlight the double standard being employed against the Jan. 6 rioters compared to those arrested in the riots following the killing of George Floyd earlier that summer. These riots were the most expensive in US history, causing up to $2 billion in property damage, injuries to 700 police officers, and numerous deaths. On Jan. 6, the deaths were all protesters with the exception of one officer who died from natural causes. A federal judge explicitly called out the double standard, stating: “It does feel like the government has had two standards here, and I can’t abide by that… The government’s sentencing recommendation here is just so disproportionate to other sentences for people who have engaged in similar conduct.”

Is there anything Donald Trump can do that will break the loyalty of his base? - Reena, MA

Republicans are unlikely to reject Trumpism in general. As noted above, they are for the most part satisfied with his performance in office. The GOP has become much more of a populist party and that will almost certainly continue. However, that change is precisely why Republicans may move on; having remade the party in his own image, Trump is no longer unique. It’s thus quite possible that Republicans will embrace someone offering Trump’s policies and even style but without the ongoing drama that alienates so many swing voters.

Ask a Liberal:

How is Biden doing as president? - Katie

Liberals are quite happy with Biden’s performance so far. Despite a 50-50 Senate and slim House majority he’s been able to pass several pieces of major legislation. The Covid relief bill reduced the number of people in poverty by 12 million and reduced child poverty by 56 percent. The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides needed investments in highways, electric vehicle charging, broadband access, and even clean drinking water. The Inflation Reduction Act will ease supply chain issues and make long-term investments in clean energy and transport, establishing the US as a leader in the fight against climate change. Young college grads widely lauded student loan forgiveness, and overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in the recent midterm elections.

In addition to domestic policy wins, the Biden administration has been instrumental in keeping NATO allies together in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine. We’re also investing in semiconductor production and pushing back against Chinese aggression; the administration has accused the Chinese government of “genocide and crimes against humanity” and imposed sanctions. That said, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was shameful, and it’s frustrating that there has not been more accountability for such a clear failure.

How can you agree that the country is worse off since Joe Biden took office and still vote Democrat? How can you look at places like San Francisco and Los Angeles (run entirely by Democrats) and want that for the country? - Savannah, CA

We do not agree that the country is worse off since Biden took office (see above). Covid deaths are a fraction of what they were two years ago. The economy continues to grow at a steady pace, recently exceeding expectations. Job growth remains strong, with 261,000 jobs added last month. Manufacturing jobs have also increased. Unfortunately inflation remains high, but it is comparable to other wealthy countries.

Crime has also unfortunately risen across the country, not just in cities run by Democrats. But research indicates that “homicides over recent years increased less rapidly in cities with progressive prosecutors than in those with more traditional district attorneys.” Claims that bail reform has caused an increase in violent crime are not supported by the data.

The per capita murder rate is actually 40 percent higher in states that Trump won than in states won by Biden. Overall, the recent elevated crime rates are very much a purple problem afflicting both red and blue states and cities. It’s worth noting that reporters largely live in (and thus report from) blue coastal cities. For every city block in SF and LA that’s been featured a dozen times, there are towns in rural America with rampant poverty and/or high crime rates that do not receive any media coverage.

What are your primary issues (complaints) about Ron DeSantis? - Anonymous

The left views DeSantis as a bully who attempts to wield the power of the state to fight the culture war. He attempted to punish Disney for endorsing views he dislikes. He signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to restrict teaching about gender and sexual orientation in public schools. The “Stop WOKE Act” limited discussion of racism in schools and was recently struck down by a federal judge for violating the First Amendment. He claims to fight for freedom but instead works to restrict the freedoms of businesses and schools.

He’s also made it harder to register to vote and restricted voting by mail. In some ways DeSantis may be worse than Trump, because his policies are just as bad and he’s far more capable of actually enacting them into law.

Do you think there are any examples of election fraud? - Anonymous

Voting fraud does exist (and was quite common in the past), but is now vanishingly rare. Numerous studies back this up. In fact, “most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices.” For example, “A comprehensive 2014 study published in The Washington Post found 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.” A group of prominent conservative lawyers undertook a detailed examination of every fraud claim advanced by Trump and his supporters following the 2020 election, and found that every single one failed to hold up. A Republican-backed recount in Maricopa County, Arizona, actually showed a slightly increased margin for Biden.

There have been some local cases of fraud, but these were small scale; the fact that they were nevertheless detected shows how unlikely it is that fraud might tip the results of an election. Democrats in Congress have also worked to provide states with funding to improve election security.

Why do votes take so long to count after the election? - Anonymous

The main reason that counting takes so long is precisely because of security measures designed to detect fraud. With the expansion of mail-in voting, it’s important that each ballot is verified before it gets counted. In some states, ballots can arrive as many as 10 days after election day. Some states also don’t allow mail-in ballots to be processed and counted until election day.

It’s worth noting that changes that might speed up counting could disenfranchise potential voters. Some delays are worthwhile if they allow more people to vote. As one California lawmaker explained, “Democracies are not meant to be efficient. They’re built on a foundation that every person’s vote matters.”

That said, there are reforms that could speed up the process. The Bipartisan Policy Center recommends that states process mail-in ballots prior to election day. In Florida, counties have scanners that can process mail-in ballots directly. By contrast, in Arizona the ballots have to be transported to a separate facility, scanned, and then returned; this process can take hours and delays the results. As noted above, Democrats generally support spending more to upgrade our election infrastructure and make it more efficient.

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