MORICI: Why Trump’s Appeal Endures & Represents, Despite Liberal's Massive Misread

Moderate Americans – and more Blacks & Hispanics than liberals like to admit – view "Establishment” Democrats & Republicans, the Legal System as unfair

By Peter Morici

Progressives are aghast that former President Donald Trump may recapture the White House. Some even lament that President Biden should step aside for someone younger – like California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota. Mr. Biden’s age is not the primary problem. Rather, his remaking America and "our democracy" programs are incorrectly focused – and most importantly, hurts the interests of Independents and Swing Voters.

Mr. Biden, 81, and Mr. Trump, 77, both eschew the old Washington consensus that economic growth and prosperity are best served by fiscal prudence, monetary discipline and free trade. Mr. Trump, with tax cuts and excessive pandemic spending, and Mr. Biden, with subsidies for industrial policy and even more relief aid, racked up $13 trillion in new debt from 2017 to 2023. The Federal Reserve enabled much of this by printing money to buy many of the new Treasury bonds.

Mr. Trump slapped tariffs on China and torpedoed U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Mr. Biden has one-upped him by refusing to negotiate free trade agreements with Europe or reenter the TPP.
Further, Mr. Biden is "remaking America" with uncontrolled illegal immigration that taxes the capacity of cities like New York to maintain its police force and basic services such as garbage collection, and with industrial policies that promote electric vehicles, semiconductors and green energy like wind and solar power.

The numbers the government prints say inflation is coming back under control, but voters are conscious of what everyday items cost:

  • Milk prices are up 21% since just before COVID, and
  • the price of common necessities such as video streaming services jumped nearly 25% last year.
A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult Poll recently found that:
  • only 26% of voters in 7 Swing States thought “Bidenomics” was good for the Economy, and
  • 49% thought it was bad – and that the economy overwhelmingly outranks other issues as their primary concern.
EVs are piling up at car dealerships; drivers want gasoline-powered engines. Utilities don’t dare raise rates further to accommodate the impact of higher interest costs on big-ticket wind projects and should be uneasy about the increasing vulnerability of winter electricity supplies as the grid becomes more dependent on solar and wind.

Only 25% of swing state voters think the federal government should be subsidizing EVs, batteries and semiconductor production.

On economics, Mr. Trump was no altar boy. His tax cuts were budget busters, and he hectored Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about interest rates. But he didn’t have Mr. Biden’s inflation.
With economic issues and out-of-control illegal immigration cutting hard in swing states, Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden in:
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina, and
  • is virtually tied in Pennsylvania & Wisconsin
With Mr. Trump facing 91 felony charges in three states and Washington, D.C., why does he so outpoll other experienced Republican opponents?

Simply, they represent “the establishment.” And more Americans – even moderate Americans, which include more Blacks and Hispanics than progressives like to admit – may not view the legal system as fair.

They also believe the two major political parties work for solutions to their own benefit, or think the media are not reporting the news objectively.

In the 1970s, 70% of Americans trusted the news media; today it’s 32%. That’s why more Americans get news from Facebook and YouTube.

The cancel culture at NBC and NPR is canceling itself.

Many of the charges against Mr. Trump are based on novel legal theories, while Mr. Biden’s son was initially offered terribly light treatment for tax evasion. Mr. Trump is prosecuted for taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago but not the sitting president for keeping the same in his Delaware garage.

Americans indicate they would be receptive to a third-party candidate, but it’s getting late for a moderate candidate to emerge and gradually build a national constituency.

But why Mr. Trump?
Mr. Trump is the only viable self-styled outsider, and the liberal media misread what he represents.

They may correctly fear that a second Trump administration is out for revenge. But what Mr. Trump understands, and Mr. Biden has recently learned, is that the federal bureaucracy has cultivated a culture malignant to democracy akin to that of China.

As illustrated by the in-house revolt at the State Department against Mr. Biden’s policy toward Israel in Gaza, federal bureaucrats often view themselves as the anointed custodians of our national interests and sovereignty, and elected presidents as ill-tempered populists.

The deep state is a real problem, and much of it needs to be pulled out by the roots.

The most attractive Republican, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who garners support from Wall Street and establishment Republican donors, is not going to do that.

Many voters may not be enamored of Mr. Trump, but his policy impulses are a lot less statist than those of any viable Democrat you could name.

It’s clear he would be committed to the radical change necessary to take the country back from the ruling political class, the party bosses and the media.

Peter Morici is an Economist & Business Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. A nationally recognized columnist, Morici served as Director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.