Pat Buchanan: Trump’s great gamble
President Trump’s reelection hopes hinge on two things: the state of the economy in 2020 and the identity of the Democratic nominee.
The further left the Democrats go to select their candidate, the greater the probability Trump wins a second term.
Thus Trump got good news last week.
The verbal flubs of Joe Biden reached critical mass. They are now so numerous and egregious they have begun to call into question whether Biden, who turns 77 in November, is really up to a year of campaigning, followed by four years of leading the nation in the world.
If Biden stumbles and falls before next spring, it is almost certain the Democratic candidate and party platform will be outside the American mainstream.
Consider what the Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders-AOC Democrats have to offer: A Green New Deal with government jobs for all. Net-zero carbon emissions. “Medicare for All.” Free tuition at state schools. Forgiveness of student debt. A trillion dollars of infrastructure. A $15 minimum wage.
All this is being promised while the nation is running a $1 trillion deficit and facing trillion-dollar deficits through the first term of the next president.
But if the Democrats’ performances this summer were heartening for the president, what happened last Wednesday must be causing palpitations.
The Dow Jones average plunged 800 points, capping a loss of 7% of its value in weeks.
And worldwide, the news is not good.
U.S. growth in the second quarter was 2.1%, tepid compared to the 3.5% growth in the spring of 2018.
On top of this disquieting news on the economic front, Trump’s disapproval in the Fox News survey released last Wednesday rose to 56%.
That the president laid last Wednesday’s market swoon at the doorstep of the Federal Reserve suggests that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is being set up to take the fall if the economy goes south in 2020.
And going south is a distinct possibility. Bank of America Merrill Lynch puts the odds on a recession next year at 1 in 3.
There is nothing Democrats would relish more than seeing the Trump boom, which has reduced unemployment to record lows, end in a recession, negating his greatest political argument and asset.
And if America can be talked into a recession, rely on the Beltway political and media elites to try to bring it off.
Which brings us to the China trade impasse, which involves a historic gamble by Trump.
Trump seeks to throw out a free trade policy that, rooted in 19th-century ideology rather than U.S. national interests, threw open U.S. markets to the world and produced, over three decades, $12 trillion in trade deficits and a loss of 70,000 factories and 5 million manufacturing jobs.
Like the Russian army carting off German factories after World War II, the Great Arsenal of Democracy was looted by its postwar allies and adversaries alike.
The weapon Trump is using to stop this looting is tariffs. Trump is using them to coerce China to stop cheating on the trade rules we have established and to grant us the same access to her markets as producers in China have to the American market.
And he is betting his presidency he can pull it off.
Pat Buchanan is author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”