Update 468: GOP’s Harsh Reality TV Show
Feat. a Spinning Stage without a Platform
Amid the various Hatch Act violations and lots of Fauci-pas, speakers at the GOP Convention this week warned about events that would happen under a Biden administration that are already happening now under Trump. With various hyperbolic and denialist accounts of and prescriptions for the nation’s ills, the president hardly paid attention to the pandemic or its resulting economic devastation. Plans for a second term were scarce. The main idea was to scare.
The appeal is identical to Trump’s past playbooks. It’s 2016 2.0 this year, only this time the GOP is portraying honorary incumbent Biden (in office for 47 years) as captured by Socialists bent on torching the Suburbs like Gen. Sherman. Trump is pushing for another change vote even though he is in charge.
Good weekends, all…
President Trump concluded the RNC last night in an acceptance speech devoid of a policy agenda. Although he attacked the Democratic convention for focusing on character over policy, his own acceptance speech was light on plans for a second term. Unmentioned was Trump’s own response to the disasters unfolding on his watch. Today, we review the economic policies raised at the RNC — in the first-ever absence of a formal platform — inspect Trump’s sparse second term agenda, and analyze the GOP economic policy election pitch.
A CONvention to Forget
The convention offered a dismal view of America’s future without Trump’s re-election and prominently featured Fox News pundits, Republican politicians, and small business owners.
- Sen. Tim Scott closed the first night of the RNC by praising the economic gains achieved during Trump’s first term in office, touting the pre-COVID economy as the most inclusive ever. Sen. Scott highlighted his Opportunity Zones program as evidence of Trump’s commitment to addressing wealth inequality. Per an Urban Institute study, Opportunity Zones have primarily benefited the richest real estate developers and expedited gentrification.
- The ‘Land of Opportunity,’ highlighted on the second night, presented Trump’s deregulatory record on small businesses. Several small business owners praised Trump’s protectionist trade policies and deregulation of environmental protections as job creators and industry savers. Others thanked Trump for the Paycheck Protection Program, crediting him for a bipartisan congressional program.
- Night three was headlined by Vice President Mike Pence. In his acceptance speech for the vice presidential nomination, Pence hailed the administration’s response to the virus. Speaking to a maskless audience, Pence promised that “no miracle” would save us from the coronavirus epidemic and that a cure was on the way. Sen. Joni Ernst also cited Trump’s policies and trade agreements as benefiting farmers and rural Americans.
- Trump spun the stage on the fourth and final night of the convention. In a long and garbled speech, Trump oscillated between praising himself and attacking Biden. The President praised his response to the pandemic, declaring himself the leader of the greatest mobilization since World War II. Without specifics, Trump painted a faint picture of a coronavirus recovery driven by tax cuts and featuring the magical creation of 10 million new jobs – “or probably more.”
The Trump Economic Agenda
In every presidential election year since 1856, the Republican Party has released its political platform, a document which outlines the party’s positions and allows it to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet earlier this week, the Republican Party eschewed the creation of a new platform, repurposing its 2016 one and instead stating complete support for President Trump’s unpublished agenda.
The Trump campaign published a list of priorities for a second Trump term. The list is short and largely devoid of detail.
- In its first section, entitled “Jobs,” the list states that Trump would create 10 million new jobs in 10 months and one million new small businesses but mentions no policies to achieve these goals. The list also vaguely gestures towards future income tax cuts, expanding the Opportunity Zone program, and energy sector deregulation.
- The COVID-19 section is even vaguer, again portraying Trump and the GOP as unsure how or whether to protect Americans from a major disaster. Although Trump’s second term could not start until January 2021, the section begins with Trump’s intention to develop a COVID vaccine by the end of 2020. The four-bullet-point section also includes “returning to normal,” manufacturing healthcare supplies in the US, and refilling national stockpiles.
- Other sections on China, innovation, and healthcare allude to tax credits for companies that relocate back to the US from China, refusing federal contracts for companies that outsource to China, improving national infrastructure, and protecting Medicare and Social Security. The most specific priority refers to allowing pharmaceutical and robotics companies 100 percent expensing deductions for relocating their manufacturing from China to the US.
The RNC was light on economic policy, although the economy is in its worst condition in decades. No president has won a second term with the unemployment rate in the double digits since the mid-1900s. But even with millions unemployed, Trump’s economic approval rating has held.
Trump’s speech yesterday referred to COVID only to praise his handling of the virus. While the 2020 Democratic platform centered discussion of the coronavirus in its introduction, Republicans have lost any final opportunity to present their case for how to handle natural disasters.
The GOP controls the presidency and the Senate, and President Trump has appointed two judges to the Supreme Court in his first term. Republicans argue as if it were 2016 — as an opposition party. Trump appears not so much as the national figurehead but as a powerless bystander unprepared to govern, this time in crisis.