Trump’s Political Future Depends Heavily on His Case to Economically Struggling Voters: Expert

News Analysis

While Donald Trump’s Nov. 15 announcement of his entry into the 2024 presidential race has met with a wide range of reactions, from the alarm and condemnation of Democrats and some mainstream conservatives to fervent support from his base, there can be no doubt that of Trump’s myriad stances and policy positions, it is his economic message that resonates most with voters and offers his surest path forward, an economic historian has told The Epoch Times.

In his Tuesday speech, Trump described what he saw as a country doing extremely well at the time he left office at the end of his first term in January 2021. In his telling, America was “ready for its golden age” and stood “at the pinnacle of power, prosperity, and prestige, towering above its rivals” and enjoying an economy in which “inflation was nonexistent” and the country “had finally achieved the impossible dream of American energy independence.”

Trump ascribed this prosperity to his having slashed taxes and regulations, including cuts “bigger even than what Ronald Reagan was able to produce,” as well as his trade policies, and aggressive moves to protect jobs by keeping the southern border firmly shut.

He contrasted this prosperity with the economic record of the Biden administration.

“The past two years under Joe Biden has been a time of pain, hardship, anxiety, and despair. As we speak, inflation is the highest in over 50 years, gas prices have reached the highest levels in history, and expect them to go much higher,” Trump said.

While his speech addressed other areas of policy and faulted the current administration for many other things, including the opioid crisis and what Trump called America’s humiliation in Afghanistan, it is his economic pitch that speaks most directly to the day-to-day experiences of struggling citizens desperate for a turnaround.

US-POLITICS-PETROL-INFLATION A sign displays gas prices at a gas station in Falls Church, Virginia, July 19, 2022. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

An exit poll of 2,660 midterm voters conducted by Edison Research found that 74 percent of voters consider the state of the economy to be either “not so good” or “poor.” The same poll also found very low levels of approval of the job that Biden has done as president, with 43 percent of voters saying they “strongly disapprove,” and only 17 percent indicating that they “strongly approve.”

While many people even within his own party have reservations about Trump seeking a second term and much can happen in the two years between now and the 2024 election, it is these factors that buttress Trump’s presentation of himself to an inflation-weary electorate as a populist well positioned to restore the quality of life and steady year-to-year growth that citizens used to take for granted. To the extent that Trump can develop a successful electoral strategy, it will depend largely on his ability to exploit the economic woes of voters.

This is the view of Brian Domitrovic, a professor of economic history at Sam Houston State University in Texas. In the context of U.S. history, Domitrovic sees the first 22 years of the current century and millennium as something of an anomaly.

Stunted Growth

Since the start of the millennium, gross domestic product (GDP) growth has rarely approached four percent and has typically hovered between zero and three percent, according to Macrotrends figures. In the last four decades of the last century, a growth rate above six or seven percent annually was not uncommon. The GDP’s growth of 2.6 percent in the third quarter of 2022 is still quite low by historical standards, noted Domitrovic, who blamed excessive regulation, taxation, and government spending for a depressed private sector.

“The twenty-first century is unique in American economic history for long-term slow growth. It’s never happened before over a twenty-year period in our history,” Domitrovic told The Epoch Times.

“I’m very sympathetic to the argument that this country is supposed to grow very robustly all the time, and if there are down periods, they’re supposed to be shaken off. And I will also say that in the period since the great recession of 2008 to 2009, the two greatest years were 2018 and 2019, with the Trump tax cuts. It was a very good tax cut in terms of labor force growth,” he said.

Domitrovic argued that, if not for COVID-19 and its impact on businesses and the employment rate, GDP growth in due course would have surpassed three percent, and been more in line with historical figures.

The most urgent tasks for a hypothetical Republican administration inaugurated in 2025, Domitrovic said, would include combating the expansionist monetary policy that has fueled inflation, lowering taxes, and slashing spending, particularly those expenditures associated with President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which will add $750 billion to the current U.S. deficit of more than $1 trillion in the next five years alone, and $158 billion over the next decade, according to Congressional Budget Office figures.

“Repeal that spending. It’s taking resources from the private sector and making them useless. It’s saying, ‘I want you to do something useless and pay you top dollar for it,’” Domitrovic said.

Work To Be Done

Trump’s speech was met with skepticism among self-identified conservatives who tend to agree with him, in principle, on many issues. The editors of the opinion magazine National Review called Trump’s announcement “an invitation to double down on the outrages and failures of the last several years that Republicans should reject without hesitation or doubt.”

Other commentators who shared their reactions with The Epoch Times did not discount the economic figures and Trump’s arguments about restoring prosperity, but argued that the former president still has work to do on his image if he wants to capture the votes of African-American and Hispanic citizens who still tend to favor Democrat candidates, and to avoid the perception that he has “too much baggage” to be an effective unifying candidate.

When asked what Trump could do to broaden his appeal, Mark Graber, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, told The Epoch Times, “I am not a Republican, so I am tempted to say, adopt the Democratic Party platform. More realistically, Republicans need a leadership less identified with white supremacists.”

Keith Naughton, the principal of Silent Majority Strategies in Germantown, Maryland, thought that Trump’s Nov. 15 speech favored grandstanding and flights of rhetoric rather than addressing the issues on a granular level.

“I think it started out decently, but turned into a dud. I think it was a poor attempt to reinvent Trump into something he’s not. Everything about the announcement, from the staging to the crowd to the content, was generic. After teasing a big premiere, it was like some mid-season episode of The Apprentice,” Naughton told The Epoch Times.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Trump’s campaign for comment.

Michael Washburn


Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers U.S. and China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We’re Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”

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