Mr Trump’s promise to “keep America great” will be hard for Democrats to beat. (Reuters: Leah Millis)
In Donald Trump’s America there are three realities.
There are, of course, the two much-publicised worlds of fact and fiction.
Which one you reside in depends entirely on your point of view, specifically whether you support or oppose Trump.
The third realm intersects the other two but is far more electorally potent than both of them combined.
It’s the world of feelings.
Trump has moved on from fear
Voters on the left, once driven by the audacity of hope, now hate all the President stands for and fear the direction he is taking the country.
Everything Trump does, from speaking at an anti-abortion rally to coaxing a foreign power to dig up political dirt, feeds this hatred.
They feel it in their bones.
The loudest cheers at Democratic candidate rallies are not in response to factually based policy promises.
Democrat voters cry out for the candidate who guarantees to clobber the President in the November election.
Trump’s supporters, who lean right, are often accused of being driven by hate and fear.
At the last election, Trump fed those voters with a rich and steady stream of vitriol to stoke those emotions.
But now, he doesn’t have to.
He has something more powerful and, ironically, much more hopeful at his disposal: An economy in full bloom.
America is feeling optimistic about the economy
Voters are feeling “great again” about America’s economic prospects. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo)
Unemployment in America now stands at 3.6 per cent, the lowest it’s been since 1969 — a time that most people remember as truly “great” for the economy.
The stock market is regularly hitting all-time record highs, with every milestone trumpeted by Trump.
Nearly six in 10 Americans say they are better off financially now compared to a year ago and an astounding 74 per cent believe their economic prospects will continue to improve next year.
That’s the most optimistic Americans have been since Gallup started polling on the issue in 1977.
In the politically powerful realm of emotion, voters are feeling “great again” about America’s economic prospects.
Facts show Trump can’t take all the credit
At this point, it’s worth skipping across to the much-maligned realm of facts.
Unemployment has been steadily falling since the early years of the Barack Obama presidency, with around 2 million jobs added every year for the past nine years.
If anything, the jobless rate has improved at a slower rate since Trump took over, as the nation edges closer to full employment.
It’s a similar story with the stock market.
Aside from the normal market fluctuations, the Dow Jones has risen in a pretty straight line since 2009, when America started to recover from the global financial crisis.
On the numbers, there was no perceivable bump to the economy when Trump took over.
Political leaders the world over claim the credit for a strong economy.
Then when things turn sour, they invariably blame “global headwinds” or “external forces”.
Of course, Trump boasts at every opportunity of the strength of the economy.
He’d be mad not to.
But, even with strong economic winds in his sail, the President still verges regularly into the realm of fiction.
Trump’s proposed budget would expand deficits
During his State of the Union speech, Trump claimed the economy was “the best it has ever been” despite GDP growth falling to 2.3 per cent last year — the weakest it’s been since he took office.
The President said his reversal of “years of economic decay” and “failed economic policies” was the driving force behind the low unemployment rate, when more than a million more jobs were added in the 35 months before he became President than the 35 months since.
His claim on health care to “always protect patients with pre-existing conditions” comes at a time when his administration is literally fighting in court to strike down protections for pre-existing conditions.
In normal times, these inconvenient truths would cut through.
But these are not normal times.
This week, the White House released a budget proposing to cut the Medicaid health program by almost $US750 billion ($1.1 trillion) over 10 years and reduce government spending on food stamps by $US192 billion ($285 billion).
The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by a whopping 26.5 per cent in the next year, the Health and Human Services budget sliced by 9 per cent.
And yet, even with the somewhat heroic assumptions that the US economy will grow at an unprecedented, sustained rate of 3 per cent, the proposed budget predicts rolling deficits until 2035.
The Trump tax cuts come with a cost
In 2016, Trump promised to pay off national debt entirely if he served two terms as president.
After utterly failing to rein in the deficit in his first term, he’s now proposing to add another $US3.4 trillion ($5 trillion) in debt by the end of his second term.
With Congress almost certain to block many of those budget cuts, the debt figures will actually be even more grim.
And yet, there’s been not a peep of fiscal concern from Republicans or Democrats.
The Republicans, obsessed with rising debt under the previous administration, are now entirely under the President’s thumb.
The Democrats are hardly going to raise the issue at a time when its leading presidential candidates are making promises that will add even more to the national credit card bill.
All of this apparently matters little for the average American citizen, because, in the realm of feelings, things are going pretty well.
Of course, not everyone is winning
The gap between rich and poor is widening.
And even some of Trump’s strongest supporters in 2016 are hurting.
Manufacturing jobs are actually declining, despite an increase in factory activity.
And farmers are still trying to recover from tough times brought on by the administration’s trade war with China.
But overall, Americans remember the Obama years as being tough, whereas, under Trump, many are able to breathe again, even thrive.
There may be a lot of things voters don’t like about their President, but on election day, very few issues are more important than the economy.
And, with three out of four Americans optimistic about their prospects going forward, Trump’s promise to “keep America great” will be hard for Democrats to beat.