Opinion writer


Today, Hillary Clinton will campaign for the first time with Elizabeth Warren, and the duo will make the case in Ohio that Clinton has a real economic agenda that will help working Americans, while Donald Trump is offering them nothing but bluster.

This comes as the conventional wisdom is already hardening that the surprise victory for Brexit just has to be good news for Donald Trump. It shows a rising groundswell for protectionism and a restrictionist approach to immigration, and a declining faith in globalization, which — bluster or not — may supposedly foreshadow more support than expected for Trumpism here, too.

But just as the conventional wisdom turned out to be wrong in predicting that terrorism would be good for Trump, so, too, will it prove wrong about Brexit helping Trump.

Some Democrats, to be sure, are worried about what Brexit heralds for the 2016 presidential race, with some fretting that Trump’s mix of nationalism and alleged “populism” and “anti-elitism” (those latter two are a scam, but never mind) could have similar appeal in the industrial heartland. Dem Rep. Debbie Dingel of Michigan says many voters understand what Trump represents, but nonetheless “want to shake up the system,” leaving her “worried.”

No doubt that is a real phenomenon. But presuming that in the end, this will automatically translate into decisive support for Trump’s side of the economic argument requires accepting assumptions that are pretty shaky.

There is no reason to assume that voters will adopt a simplistic framing of the argument that dictates a false choice between Trumpian protectionism and throw-workers-to-the-wolves free international trade. As Jim Tankersly explains, a third option is very possible: rising worries about globalization could also push public officials towards a more “worker friendly” approach to the phenomenon, one that focuses on affirmative government efforts to invest more in U.S. manufacturing, to make U.S. workers more competitive in the global economy and to soften the pain of the dislocation they are suffering. This is the approach Clinton — who (now) opposes the Trans Pacific Partership and has called for a variety of government investments in programs to help workers — has adopted.

Meanwhile, economists believe Trump’s tariff proposals would start trade wars and wreak untold havoc. And Trump has already responded to the vote in Britain by cheerfully asserting that any resulting economic downturn will mean more customers for his golf course in Scotland and by laughing off the idea that he needs to consult any pointy-headed advisers about it.

As it happens, we have already had a test case of sorts for Clinton’s argument: Clinton’s battle with Bernie Sanders. After Sanders’s big Michigan win, Clinton sharpened up her economic case, arguing for a broad slate of government investments to bolster the competitiveness of American companies and workers in a globalizing economy that isn’t turning back. While there are many differences between Clinton’s battle with Sanders and her current one with Trump, the point is that Clinton has already succeeded with a more nuanced argument about globalization than the one Trump is making.

Some observers are explicitly positing that the simplistic bromides Trump is offering may prove more compelling than Clinton’s offerings because, well, they are simplistic, and simplicity has a good chance at triumphing over nuance. That is possible, but here, too, we’ve already had a test case: the argument over terrorism. Observers confidently predicted that Trump would surely benefit from a terror attack. After all, he’s promising strength and toughness, and there’s no arguing with that, no? Well, no. After the Orlando attack, Trump doubled down on his strongman act and his crudest and most garish proposals, such as the Muslim ban. But the public recoiled, and now polls show that voters reject Trump’s Muslim ban and prefer Clinton’s handling of the Orlando shooting.

Some observers, having blown it on Trump during the primaries, appear to be trying to compensate for that failing by erring on the side of ascribing automatic political potency to Trump’s arguments on terrorism and trade alike. That proved wrong on terrorism, and now it may well prove wrong on trade, too. The underlying twin assumptions here are that crises provoke a desire for strength, as Trump defines it, and that voters, in the grip of anti-elite sentiment, crave some form of simplistically imagined “disruption.” But these, too, are proving wrong.

No, Trumpism’s appeal should not be dismissed as rooted in nothing but xenophobia and nativism, and no, Democrats should not underestimate Trump. Clinton still has plenty of problems as a candidate, including her association with elites that have failed a lot of people. But there is no reason to presume up front that crises automatically favor Trump politically or that voters want the brand of disruption Trump is offering. The new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Americans say by 61-28 that Clinton has the right personality and temperament for the presidency, and that 61 percent say Clinton is qualified for the job, while 64 percent say Trump isn’t qualified for it. It’s perfectly possible that crises — and the candidates’ contrasting responses to them — favor Clinton’s argument that Trump is catastrophically unfit for the presidency, and that majorities are concluding that Trump’s “disruption” will be more destructive than anything else.


* DONALD TRUMP IS TANKING: The new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump among registered voters nationally by 51-39. James Downie ferrets out some amazing numbers from the internals:

70 percent of Americans are anxious about the prospect of a Trump administration, unchanged from six months ago. Sixty-four percent call Trump “not qualified” for the presidency, up six points from May….68 percent of voters agree that Trump’s attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican-American background was racist….only 28 percent of voters felt Trump did a better job than Clinton of responding to the Orlando shooting, and now a majority trust her more to handle the threat of terrorism.

Wait, what? But Trump STRONG. Trump SMASH ENEMY. Yet Clinton is more trusted on terror? That can’t be possible.

* BERNIE SUPPORTERS COMING HOME TO HILLARY: Here’s another key finding from the new WaPo/ABC poll:

Sanders backers, who polls have shown were reluctant to jump over to Clinton and even flirted with supporting Trump, are coming home faster than we might have expected. Last month, 20 percent of Sanders supporters said they would back Trump over Clinton in the general election. This month, that figure is down to 8 percent.

And that’s before Sanders has even endorsed Clinton and started rallying his supporters behind her, which he presumably will do before long.

* BERNIE STILL NOT READY TO ENDORSE HILLARY: On CNN’s State of the Union, Sanders was asked whether he is prepared to endorse Clinton. He declined, instead saying the fight to shape the platform will continue:

“We’re going to take that fight to Orlando, where the entire committee meets in two weeks. And if we don’t succeed there, we are certainly going to take it to the floor of the Democratic Convention.”

What he means is that he’ll take the fight over the platform to the convention. It’s unclear whether this means he’ll continue to refrain from endorsing Clinton.

* BERNIE WINS CONCESSIONS IN PLATFORM: Over the weekend, the first draft of the Dem platform was finalized. The Associated Press summarizes what Sanders won and lost:

A draft of the Democratic Party’s policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton’s supporters turned back efforts by Sanders’ allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking.

Truthfully, that’s not a bad showing for Sanders, given that he lost the primary. But apparently he intends to continue withholding his endorsement of Clinton in the quest to win more.

* BERNIE IS HOLDING OUT TO BOOST HIS LEVERAGE: The Post reports on deliberations by Sanders over how to handle the endgame of the primaries:

What is unclear is whether Sanders, who enjoys higher favorable numbers than Clinton or President Obama, will ever tell those voters to support the winner of the presidential primary contests. Clinton aides have privately expressed frustration over Sanders’s continuing campaign and refusal to this point to endorse her….Sanders’s role is under discussion, but he has said a more immediate priority is trying to find common ground on the issues he championed during the primaries.

Another important question: Will Sanders make the case to his supporters that the outcome of the whole process was legitimate?

* McCONNELL WON’T SAY WHETHER TRUMP IS QUALIFIED: Pressed repeatedly on ABC News whether Trump is qualified to be president, Mitch McConnell declined to say, offering only this:

“The burden obviously will be on him to convince people that he can handle this job,” McConnell said…Pressed by ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on whether he thinks Trump is qualified, McConnell replied, “I leave it up to the American people to decide.”

Translation: You’d better get those negatives down, Donald, you’re making life miserable for our down-ticket incumbents!

* AND NOBODY WANTS TO GO TO TRUMP’S CORONATION: Politico does the legwork:

With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators, and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it — and everyone else said they either weren’t planning on it, didn’t want to, weren’t going to Cleveland at all, or simply didn’t respond.

But Trump is going to put on such a fabulous tremendous show! The contrast with the Dem convention, which will feature pretty much every leading figure in the party, including two Dem presidents, should be amusing.