In tweets Tuesday afternoon, though, Trump rejected the idea.
“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19,” Trump wrote. “We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country.”
Instead, he continued, he would ensure that a stimulus bill passed after he won. In the meantime, he told the Republican-led Senate to focus not on addressing the slow economy but on Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“Our Economy is doing very well,” Trump insisted. “The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers.”
He ended with a shout: “THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”
From top to bottom, this is a baffling strategy for a candidate hyper-focused on reelection. It seems pretty obvious what’s happening: Trump, whose political viability in the 2016 Republican nominating contest was heavily contingent upon the extent to which he echoed the extreme views popularized in conservative media, is playing to what he sees as his base. This has been his approach to the job since he was inaugurated, of course, so it isn’t a surprise.
But Trump seems to have become increasingly focused on the subset of his base that’s deeply attuned to Fox News coverage and social media rumors, rather than his actual base of non-college-educated Whites. The former argues that the Supreme Court nomination is a crowning jewel in his presidency and the Pelosi bill simply a handout to Democrats. Many of the latter, it’s safe to say, could use a boost in their unemployment benefits: 11.2 million fewer Americans are working now than in February, and 4.4 million of them don’t have a college degree.
It’s inexplicable that an incumbent president whose primary argument for his reelection is the strength of the economy would prefer to argue that jobs are “coming back in record numbers” — a function of how deeply they had plunged — instead of pouring money into the economy to make a tangible improvement, even if not before Election Day. Permanent layoffs continue to increase, with more looming. A president who’s overseen a surge in the federal deficit thanks to 2017 tax cuts weighted toward wealthier Americans has suddenly decided that spending more is unacceptable.
Unless, of course, Americans vote for him — in which case he’ll rush a stimulus package “immediately.” It’s possible there’s a legal term for such a promise, but I’m not a district attorney.
There’s no evidence that even Trump’s base thinks putting the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett over a new stimulus plan makes sense. One recent survey showed that even most Republicans think the priority should be reversed. But Trump would apparently rather have a clear, Trump-centric win than accomplish something for which he’d need to share credit or which would annoy Sean Hannity.
It’s important to recognize the extent to which Trump’s view of what America wants is driven by what he sees on television and Twitter. A good encapsulation of that myopia came in another tweet Trump sent Tuesday, one that read simply: “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”
To an average American, this is indecipherable, a seeming riddle. To tuned-in Republicans, though, it unfolds into a complex if unoriginal argument: Because Twitter blocked a Trump tweet offering misinformation about the novel coronavirus, he is calling for action to prevent social media companies from blocking toxic behavior or false claims — specifically by repealing part of a law that a number of conservatives have erroneously argued enables those companies to take those actions.
What percentage of his audience could unpack that? What percentage even of the base on which he’s so focused? What portion of that group is going to see the tweet and be newly inspired to cast a vote for the president to have a second term?
Trump’s apparent focus on prioritizing smiles on Fox News and thumbs-up emoji in his Twitter mentions over winning votes appears to be growing. His insistence on checking himself out of the hospital to present an “I beat the coronavirus, and so can you” argument will mostly serve to reinforce the broad opinion among the public that he hasn’t taken the pandemic seriously enough. It also has the effect of making sure that people remain hyper-focused on the pandemic, an issue that has done untold damage to Trump politically if not literally.
But the president’s self-defeating approach to the moment is perhaps captured best in how wildly he misread or ignored the effect of his tweets about the Democratic proposal. He rejected the stimulus bill, telling Americans that he was personally deciding against sending them more money and asking that they instead just sort of take his word that the economy is doing well. After all, look at how well the stock markets are doing!
Here’s what the Dow Jones industrial average did right after Trump’s tweets.
Investors understood the damage Trump was doing, even if Trump didn’t. (“Nobody gets it,” one executive on Wall Street told CNBC’s Brian Schwartz.) But Hannity, one assumes, will offer the president his congratulations on another masterstroke, another devastating owning of the libs.