THE MORNING PLUM:
Donald Trump’s campaign, in what looks like a ham-handed effort at psychological warfare, has taken to suggesting that he will win over Bernie Sanders supporters by taking a page from the Vermont Senator’s populist playbook.
In order for this to be true, however, Sanders supporters would have to completely ignore most of the actual elements of Trump’s species of “populism” — and completely discount the ways in which it differs vastly from Sanders’s variety.
The New York Times spells out the Trump campaign’s argument as to why this is possible:
On a range of issues, Mr. Trump seems to be taking a page from the Sanders playbook, expressing a willingness to increase the minimum wage, suggesting that the wealthy may pay higher taxes than under his original proposal, attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left on national security and Wall Street, and making clear that his opposition to free trade will be a centerpiece of his general election campaign….
In an interview, Mr. Trump said that if he is president, the North American Free Trade Agreement “will be renegotiated and probably terminated.”…
Mr. Trump recently offered a taste of his coming line of attack on the campaign trail in Oregon, where he praised Mr. Sanders for highlighting Mrs. Clinton’s ties to the country’s largest financial institutions. “She’s totally controlled by Wall Street,” Mr. Trump said, echoing a Sanders rallying cry.
There are several problems with the idea that this should succeed in bringing in Sanders supporters. First, if Sanders backers support vastly more social spending and tax hikes on the rich, then Hillary Clinton is closer to them on these goals than Trump is, even if she is not nearly where Sanders is. Clinton has actual plans which call for increased expenditures on infrastructure, manufacturing, and childcare, and she would raise taxes on the top one percent in ways that would generate $1 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, Trump talks a good game about spending on infrastructure. But his tax plan would deliver a huge windfall to the wealthy, and as a result, would cause a drop of $9.5 trillion in revenues over 10 years.
It doesn’t matter that Trump has supposedly hinted that he’d raise taxes on the rich (he didn’t, but never mind). Trump has since confirmed that he would cut taxes on the wealthy. It’s hard to see how he could possibly stick to his plan while also increasing spending on things like infrastructure.
Second, the idea that Trump’s position on trade should win over Sanders supporters suffers from a crucial misunderstanding of their differences on the issue. Sanders has spoken in powerful moral terms about the plight of the global poor, aligning himself with Pope Francis’s call for a more “moral” global economy. Sanders criticizes international trade deals for their impact on workers and the environment in America and abroad. Trump’s trade talk is all about winning for America. Trump’s prescriptions for doing that would probably cause more harm than good by starting trade wars, but the point is, Trump and Sanders aren’t meaningfully aligned in moral terms on trade to begin with.
It’s absolutely true that Clinton has shifted her positions on trade deals over the years, probably for political reasons. Her current opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership should be viewed with some skepticism, and if she is president, we should hold her to her previous insistence that trade deals should improve wages and working conditions at home and abroad. But this doesn’t make Trump automatically better on trade issues than she is, and it certainly doesn’t mean Trump’s position is aligned with that of Sanders.
Third, Trump’s call for “higher wages” actually has little in common with that of Sanders. No matter how many times media outlets misrepresent this, Trump is really saying that he generally wants wages to get higher, which he will accomplish by magically making America filthy rich again. Meanwhile, he says we should do away with the federal minimum wage. Sanders, by contrast, supports a higher wage floor imposed by the federal government. Trump does not support this. Clinton does, albeit not at the level Sanders does.
On Wall Street, Trump would repeal Dodd-Frank. Clinton would build on it and expand oversight of shadow banking, even if she would not be nearly as tough on the big banks as Sanders would. Yes, Trump claims he would not touch entitlements. But if he is elected president, Republicans would all but certainly keep Congress, and it’s likely he’d sign GOP measures cutting the safety net. Clinton might be susceptible to regressive centrist deal-making, but Clinton and a Dem-controlled Senate would almost certainly do less damage to the safety net than Trump and a GOP Congress would — and the former would be more easily influenced by the left on these matters. And on top of all this, Trump is scapegoating illegal immigrants and Muslims in ways that will repel Sanders supporters.
One imagines that highly regarded populists such as Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown will be spelling out these distinctions in a high profile way soon enough. And they will very likely be joined by Sanders himself.
* DEMS UNLOAD AD BARRAGE ON TRUMP: The pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA has launched its first two ads in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Nevada, as part of a $6 million buy, with lots more to come. Here’s the first:
And the second one features a range of other Trump statements denigrating women’s figures. As I’ve reported, Dems don’t believe the general electorate is yet aware of the full range of Trump’s crudeness and wretchedness. This ads are about changing that.
* TRUMP RESPONDS TO AD BARRAGE: One of the new Priorities USA ads shows Trump saying, “you can tell them to go f-ck themselves.” This morning, Trump responded:
That should do a whole lot to allay concerns about his temperamental fitness for the presidency.
* A TIGHT RACE NATIONALLY? A new NBC News/Survey Monkey USA poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 45-42 among likely voters nationwide.
Don’t worry too much about individual polls. Keep focused on the averages of national polls (which have Clinton up six) and the averages of the swing state polls. Also, the forecasts from Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato, which still show a big electoral map edge for her.
* REPUBLICANS TRUST TRUMP OVER PAUL RYAN: The new NBC/Survey Monkey poll also finds:
A majority of Republican and Republican-leaners who say they are registered to vote trust Donald Trump over Ryan to lead the GOP….Nearly six in 10 trust the presumptive Republican nominee to lead the Republican Party over the House speaker, while nearly four in 10 trust the speaker more.
Wait, so GOP voters might be more interested in mass deportations and banning Muslims than in the limited government ideology that has made Ryan the GOP’s in-house sage?
* BERNIE FAVORED TODAY IN OREGON AND KENTUCKY: Reuters previews today’s voting on the Dem side in Oregon and Kentucky, reporting that analysts favor Bernie Sanders to win both. The short version is that Oregon is heavily white and liberal, while Kentucky is probably fertile Sanders territory, too, based on Sanders’s wins in West Virginia
Wins in these states will give Sanders a way to argue he should keep on fighting, but even so, he’ll still remain far behind in the delegate count, so what will really matter is how hard he goes after her in coming days.
* CONSERVATIVES STILL PLOTTING TO BLOCK TRUMP: The Post reports that some grassroots conservative activists are still hoping that delegates to the GOP convention can “unbind” themselves and vote against nominating Trump, among other things:
Conservatives across the country are studying the party rule book for last-ditch moves they could make when the convention begins in Cleveland. Veteran Republican campaign operatives familiar with convention planning are offering to educate delegates on how they can act as free agents, even if the Republican National Committee insists that delegates adhere to the results of their state primary. Some even talk about convening somewhere other than the convention site.
This is probably hopeless, but it gives rise to the real question of whether enough conservative voters will sit out the election to make a difference, particularly down-ticket.
* AND NO, TRUMP IS NOT ‘EXPANDING THE MAP’: Shane Goldmacher has a useful analysis of voting data out of a number of states, which concludes:
While Trump’s insurgent candidacy has spurred record-setting Republican primary turnout in state after state, the early statistics show that the vast majority of those voters aren’t actually new to voting or to the Republican Party, but rather they are reliable past voters in general elections. They are only casting ballots in a Republican primary for the first time. It is a distinction with profound consequences for the fall campaign.
Yep. And just a reminder: Trump’s claim that he can ride Rust Belt white working class anger into the White House is also highly unlikely, based on the data.