Dick Morris: Trump Needs To Weaponize His Economic Record


It will not work for President Donald Trump to keep repeating statistics about the spectacular performance of the economy under his administration. Nor will it be particularly effective to belabor comparisons with the Obama years.

The economy is like the weather. When it is bad, it is all anyone can think about and looms as the major topic of complaint. The greater the disaster, the longer the recession, the more it dominates all other issues.

But when the skies have cleared, voters have difficulty remembering how bad it was. Doctors tell us that their patients have trouble remembering what pain felt like. So do voters when they try to recall how the stagnation, dashed hopes and squandered dreams of the recession years felt like.

So Trump must go further to get the political benefit he deserves from the good economy. To use the economy in the campaign, Trump needs to weaponize it.

He needs to point out that he turned the economy around with unanimous Republican support and equally solid Democratic opposition. This was no deal or settlement. The Democrats did everything they could to kill, delay, dilute or destroy Trump’s initiative.

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There is no credit to go around. There was no compromise. No splitting of the difference. This is a 100 percent a Trump/Republican accomplishment.

The Republicans persevered and got it through.

The economic disaster of the Obama years began to end with Trump’s election. But, when Republicans passed Trump’s programs of tax cuts despite Democrats’ opposition, it moved into high gear and has been roaring along at an average 3 percent growth rate ever since. (Obama’s average was 2.4 percent).

So Trump needs to take the issue to the stump. Rather than talk only about his achievement — as an incumbent president is wont to do — he needs to discuss what would have happened if the Democrats still ran the show.

He needs to elaborate on what our economy would look like now if Hillary Clinton had won and continued Obama’s policies.

He needs to warn what will happen if the Democrats resume control over the economy in 2020. Describe what turning back would mean. Show voters what today would be like if the Democrats controlled the Congress or the White House: Continued high unemployment, a nation dragged down by a global recession, an expanding — not narrowing — wage gap between the rich and the poor, no new jobs, a continuing trade imbalance draining our nation.

Paint the picture of what would be happening if the country had forked to the left instead of the right in 2016.

Then he needs to take the next step and explain what will happen if the Democrats have their way in the 2020 election. He needs to paint the future canvass if they win. Higher taxes, much slower growth, fewer jobs, lower wages, continuing collapse of manufacturing and a larger trade deficit.

Ever since FDR, the credit for good economic times has had to be shared by the two parties. During the Kennedy, Johnson, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Obama and Bush years the parties ironed out their differences and moved forward together. Even under Reagan, House Speaker Tip O’Neill gave way to the president.

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But, in the 1930s, when the Republicans of the Hoover-Landon era opposed the New Deal programs unanimously and at the top of their lungs, was economic recovery a one-party issue, just as it is today.

The result was the Roosevelt landslide of 1936, just as it might be a resounding Trump victory in 2020.

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Dick Morris is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton as well as a political author, pollster and consultant. His most recent book, "50 Shades of Politics," was written with his wife, Eileen McGann.