Last Sunday, Trump ignited a political firestorm when he tweeted the “Squad” should go back to their drug infested countries and fix them (I am paraphrasing). Specifically, Trump was calling out Congressional freshman minority lawmakers (AOC) – NY, Rashida Tlaib – (MI), Ilhan Omar (MN) and Ayanna Pressley – (MA), for their support of “socialistic” policies.
The tweets, widely condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike, were precariously close to race-baiting. As is Trump’s style, the vulgarity and inappropriateness of the language was on full display. That said, the tweets seemed to serve the purpose o the President.
There seemed to be two purposes to Trump’s attack. The first was to unite Republicans around the President and of course it has done so. But secondly, and more subtly, it has linked Congressional Democrats with the squad.
On the surface, Trump’s attacks, racial in nature, would unite any foe against the President. The Caucus took the rare step of yesterday passing a resolution condemning the President. But, at a time when Democrats were divided, and leadership was actually trying to distance itself from its more progressive fringe, any daylight created has been eliminated.
Again, against a racial attack this would make sense for any party. But, the way the President’s tweets were packaged suggest it fits within a campaign theme of liberty vs. socialism where the entire Democratic Party will be beholden to its radical fringe.
Such a strategy plays into the theme of uniting the GOP around Trump but it also suggests the White House knows the 2020 campaign will be fought around a theme of “the devil you know,” vs. “the devil you don’t.” A strong economy should bolster such an underlying argument of “do you really want Democrats in charge?”
Trump, of course, has to talk about the economy and tone down the more incendiary rhetoric. Over the course of the last month of the 2016 campaign and at times during his Presidency he has proven he has the ability to do this. But, he has to do it long-term. The economy also has to keep growing.
It should also be noted the Trump team has sub-strategies at play such as finding bi-partisan support for a comprehensive housing plan and lowering drug prices. But those likely will only impact the election at the margins.
No doubt Nancy Pelosi recognizes what Trump is trying to do. Any amateur political analyst could (including me). But, considering the make-up of her Caucus and the bruising fights they have had over policy it only makes sense and the one thing which unites her party is opposition to Trump. Why mess with that?
The problem for the party is Trump’s tenure, whether it ends in 2020 or 2024 will pass and by then progressives will be in charge of the party. Pelosi knows this and it is why she has tried to protect the more centrist members on which her majority is built.
Trump is playing the short-term gain. No doubt, Trump might win reelection in 2020. But the damage he will do to the party before might be incalculable among younger voters. We’ll certainly see in the next few years but it suggests Trump is not just some deranged racist sitting in the White House. It suggests he has a plan for reelection and is following it.