The People vs. Donald Trump – Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Professor Simon Johnson

From Project Syndicate

In American politics, the next election is all that matters. Despite the Republicans’ big win in November 2016, US President Donald Trump’s ability to pass legislation still depends on what congressional Republicans expect to see happen in the November 2018 midterm election. Owing to a major shift in public sentiment in the past few months, many Democrats are now convinced that they will win seats, and potentially reclaim control of the House of Representatives.

One can already see grassroots activism gaining momentum in congressional districts that would not have seemed competitive just five months ago. For example, in California’s 45th district (in the traditionally conservative Orange County), University of California, Irvine, law professor Dave Min is taking on the incumbent Republican, Mimi Walters. This past November, Walters was reelected with 58.6% of the vote, but her district favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by two percentage points.

This kind of House seat can easily flip to the Democrats in 2018, if a candidate like Min can persuade voters that Walters is out of touch – and too close to Trump. So Min has highlighted Walters’ support for Trump’s attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), as well as her backing for his broader budget-cutting agenda. Moreover, her positions on many social issues seem quite distant from those of her constituency.

Min’s catchphrase has become “Where’s Mimi?”, because Walters has always seemed to avoid town hall meetings with constituents, even before growing anti-Trump anger made such occasions especially awkward for Republicans. And the anti-Trump protests occurring throughout the country have been sustaining their energy.

Indeed, recent special elections in Kansas and Georgia showed that no Republican seat is necessarily safe. In the race for Kansas’s 4th district seat, the Republican candidate Ron Estes won by less than ten percentage points in a constituency that Trump carried by 27 – and only after the national party was forced to mobilize massive resources on his behalf. And in the race for Georgia’s 6th district seat, Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, gained more votes than any other candidate, falling just short of the 50% threshold that he needed to win outright.

The Georgia special election will now be decided in a runoff. And yet the ultimate result doesn’t really matter, because the general swing in support away from Republicans is already evident. The Democrats need to flip only 24 seats to regain control of the House. Right now, that seems entirely feasible.

Trump, meanwhile, is unwittingly energizing the opposition by doubling down on his policies. He may attempt, yet again, to repeal Obamacare. He is proposing tax cuts for the rich that will significantly increase deficits and the national debt. And he is pursuing various forms of financial deregulation – either through legislation, or by appointing regulators who are prone to capture – that will favor big banks.

Read the full post at Project Syndicate.

Simon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is also head of the Global Economics and Management group and chair of the Sloan Fellows MBA Program Committee.

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