On the surface Donald Trump appears to be both hugely unpopular and unproductive as President. The problem is that neither of these is as true as they appear at first glance. That is both dangerous and cause for progressives to stay vigilant. Let’s explore.
Trump’s popularity/job approval numbers seem to be hovering in the mid- thirties. That is abysmal for a president this early in his first term! I suggest that the numbers are actually a bit higher. There appears to be a Trump Effect; it is like the Bradley Effect except in reverse. I contend that Trump’s true support is about 5 percent higher than the polls indicate. Just as there was a portion of the electorate that would not admit to a pollster that they planned on voting against Tom Bradley because they didn’t want to admit their racism; there is a similar portion that will not admit to a pollster that they support Trump because they do not want to appear to be stupid, racist, homophobia, xenophobic, economically ignorant or some combination thereof.
This is why it is so important to consider the margin of error when analyzing polls. The pollsters haven’t been inaccurate as much as the public has chosen to ignore the margin of error. In close elections what the polls are really telling us is that they cannot accurately predict the outcome except to say it will be close. If you think that the Trump Effect doesn’t matter because he still isn’t reaching 50%, remember that he won the election while losing the popular vote but was still within the margin of error.
While headlines are dominated by Russiagate and Trump’s insane tweets, and Trump has yet to get any major legislation passed in Congress it doesn’t mean he is not doing any evil. In fact he is and he is laying the groundwork for more.
Trump’s budget/tax plan is dead on arrival on Capitol Hill but that doesn’t mean it won’t influence legislation that will reach his desk or the debate that will precede it. From a tax perspective Stephen Moore and Arthur Laffer are two of the plan’s primary architects. Both were also primary architects of Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s tax plan which ended up being such a disaster that the very conservative Republican Kansas Legislature recently overrode a Brownback veto to scrap it. Brownback, like Trump, Moore and Laffer, will never admit error.
Staying in Kansas for a moment (figuratively speaking) there is news on the voter suppression front. A while back Trump authorized a commission to study voter fraud. He nominally put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of it and named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as its Vice Chair. Day job aside, Kobach spends most of his time writing voter suppression and anti-immigrant laws. Fortunately for America they have a habit of ending up in court where they lose. (Unfortunately the taxpayers are picking up the legal bills in most cases but at least our democracy is not hurt by unconstitutional laws.) Last week Kobach asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia for an incredible amount of information on all their registered voters. As of this writing 27 states have said they cannot or will not fully comply including Kansas. In case you weren’t aware, in Kansas, as in most states, the Secretary of State is the state’s chief election officer. That’s correct; Kobach can’t comply with his own request.
This begs the question: Why would Trump and the Republicans want to compile this information? Trump has one unique and one shared goal with the rest of the Republicans. The unique goal is that his ego cannot accept that he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. He somehow feels he can prove that there were millions of illegal votes cast and that accounts for the margin. Quick note: in person voter fraud does exist but it has been proven to be so small that it has not decided an election in at least the last several decades.
The shared goal (assuming Trump is considering running for reelection in 2020) is that the Republicans want to suppress the votes of demographics that disproportionately vote Democratic. Also to this mutual end Trump recently nominated known voter suppressionist Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
This is getting a little “inside baseball” but if Kobach were to succeed he would amass the greatest voter file in the history of American politics. Both political parties have spent decades and millions of dollars trying to amass comprehensive databases of voters in order to run more effective campaigns. In fact one of the first pieces of advice people like me give a candidate for office is to purchase (yes, it costs candidates money) the voter file that their state Party has available. Trump and Kobach would control this file, not either Party. They would be free to use it as they chose and would likely pass it along to friendly voter suppression groups.
Another danger in assembling a master database is that it would make it easier for someone with bad intentions to interfere with our elections. The decentralization of our system appears to have presented Vladimir Putin with an (in the short run) insurmountable obstacle in 2016. A comprehensive national database would make hacking easier.
To reinforce the distractions Trump calls anything that portrays him unfavorably fake news. In reality the vast majority of what Trump and team call fake news is in fact accurate coverage. The idea that the term fake news is so frequently used by Trump and his spokespersons is humorous. David Farenthold of the Washington Post recently disclosed that Trump had a fake Time magazine cover hanging in several of his facilities around the world. You have to wonder about a guy who would have fake Time magazine covers produced featuring his picture along with fake complimentary headlines and a date that Time didn’t even publish on.
Last week his Assistant Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders while in the process of admonishing the White House Press Corp for their false coverage of Trump encouraged them to watch a piece recently produced by James O’Keeffe. If the name is familiar it is because O’Keeffe has a reputation for “creative editing” of his video productions to the point that they are as fake as Trump’s Time magazine cover.
Don’t be lulled into inactivity by polls or legislative failures. Trump is still a factor and an evil one at that!
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