Saagar Enjeti: Trump’s attacks on socialism could backfire

Opinion by: Saagar Enjeti

President Donald Trump visited the Economic Club of New York yesterday to schmoozeWall Street, tout his record on jobs, unemployment, and much more yesterday in what is becoming a predictable element of his stump speech.

Leaning hard into the “socialism sucks” type rhetoric that I’ve warned is political peril for him and Republicans on this show… let’s take a listen:

Almost immediately after the president’s speech, the White House leaked to the Washington Post that it is considering a middle class cut to 15% in order to contrast themselves to Democrats in the 2020 race for president. The president’s rhetoric and the White House’s actions are making it very clear they’re leaning harder into the free market capitalism/tax cuts framework in preparation for an Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden candidacy.

That, of course, is an extraordinarily risky move and a massive misreading by the president’s strategists about why so many people in the swing states took a chance on him in the very first place and continue to stick with them today.

I’m reminded every time Trump delivers one of these prepared speeches about the wonders of the economic metrics of this particular news item from the Daily Beast in which he reportedly mused that socialism would be a lot harder to beat than his advisors predicted.

The only tax cut that the people who came out of the woodwork in 2016 to vote for Donald Trump would even be affected by is a payroll tax cut. Most of them don’t pay very much in income tax, not because they’re lazy, but because their wages, earning potential, and benefits have been destroyed by neoliberal policies of the right and the left for 30 years. The American worker put Donald Trump in the White House on three issues alone: cultural conservatism, rejection of free trade, and immigration restriction.

They don’t give a damn how well things are going on Wall Street. They certainly didn’t vote for a middle class or the corporate tax cut that we saw as the singular achievement of the united Republican government in 2017. At every step, the establishment Republican Party has done their best to grift tired Reaganism on to Trumpism itself, trying to fool voters into thinking that this time, it will finally deliver with a uniquely Trumpian flair.

The more they lean into how job creators are the real heroes in our economy, the closer they will inch towards a very competitive race in the key swing states that he needs to win. Right now, Trump’s force of personality, his defense of cultural conservatism alone, and record of wins on the trade front are keeping him competitive— but it may not be enough.

The Economic Club that Trump should have been in is the one he visited during the 2016 election in Detroit, not New York City. In that speech, he didn’t talk about the booming stock market or the unemployment rate. He began the speech saying, “it’s a conversation about how to make American great again for everyone, and especially those who have the very least,” adding that “the skyscrapers went up in Beijing and in many cities around the world, while the factories and neighborhoods crumbled in Detroit.”

That’s what it was all about from the very beginning, and the American right would do very well to remember it.

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