Friday, August 2, 2019

The Economic Progress Paradox

The economy's doing well. That should help Trump right? But here's an interesting wrinkle that could complicate things for his campaign. Tom Edsall's latest column highlights some research by John Austin of the Michigan Economic Center and Brookings:
"[T]he conventional wisdom is wrong. Contrary to the perception that a rebounding economy will work to the president’s benefit, there is growing evidence in Michigan and throughout the Rust Belt that metro areas that are bouncing back — and there are a bunch — are turning blue again."
Austin noted that 10 of the 15 districts that flipped from Republican to Democratic in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Iowa “have income growth rates that exceed their state averages.”
Of the remaining five flipped districts, in which growth was below the state average, three were in Pennsylvania, where Democratic victories resulted from a state Supreme Court decision ordering the replacement of the Republican gerrymander of congressional districts, making those districts much more favorable to Democratic candidates.
The pattern Austin describes was apparent in the Michigan governor’s 2018 race.
Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic winner, made substantial inroads into once rock-solid, prosperous counties in West Michigan...
Austin argued that when the local economy improves, the tendency of voters to blame people they perceive as outsiders — racial minorities and immigrants — diminishes, to the advantage of Democrats and to the disadvantage of Republicans:
"Undergirding Trump’s nativist appeal is the fact that it is impossible to separate the interplay of economic prospects and race as a defining issue for the Midwest’s older manufacturing communities. Midwest industrial communities are the most segregated in the nation."
It should come as no surprise, Austin wrote, that
"citizens of once tidy, thriving communities are nostalgic for better days. And it should also be no surprise that a latent bias to blame and resent people of color for “what’s wrong” when the economic wheels really come off is today on full display. Particularly when the racism and resentment are stoked by a demagogic President suggesting that immigrants are the problem, or just don’t belong in America."
In those areas where the economy is improving, however, Austin argues,
"This dynamic can and is being changed in many communities. Voters in communities that are doing better economically appear less anxious and nostalgic, and more tolerant and forward looking — more interested in issues and less inclined to reward nativism and economic nationalism."
Very interesting. We shall see how this all nets out in these states come November, 2020.
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The Midwest remains undecided, but conflicting trends point alternately toward victory for Trump or his eventual opponent.

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