Wednesday, November 6, 2019

This Just In: Doing Unpopular Stuff Makes You Unpopular

David Frum has a good piece up on the Atlantic on GOP governor Matt Bevin's defeat in Kentucky. Frum reminds us that not only was Bevin a jerk (like Trump) but he was also pursuing a lot of very unpopular policies (like Trump and the entire GOP).
"Those [contentious] behaviors [by Bevin] may have contributed to the collapse of Republican support in Kentucky’s urban areas and more affluent suburbs, such as Campbell County and Kenton County, on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, across from Cincinnati....But the true fire bell in the night for Trump and his party comes from a different direction: from the slump in Republican voting in southeastern Kentucky, formerly coal country.
What happened there?
No state saw a more dramatic improvement in its health-care-insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act than Kentucky. And no part of Kentucky benefited more than the southeast from the ACA.....
Bevin’s personal behavior may have been extreme, but his policy priorities as governor were squarely in the GOP mainstream. Squeezing the ACA has been Trump policy, too. Nationwide, Medicaid and S-Chip enrollment has declined by 1.7 million over the past two years, a decline too big to be explained solely by improvements in the job market.
The central idea of the Trump candidacy and the Trump presidency has been that Trump’s abnormal behavior could win just enough votes from culturally conservative whites to overcome the unpopularity of the Republican agenda. Kentucky tested that proposition—and proved it false."
In other words, unpopular policies do wind up, on net, making you unpopular! Frum concludes
"Trump is even more unpopular in the suburbs of Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, than in the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. Even more people have lost Medicaid coverage under Trump in Indiana and Tennessee than in Kentucky.
Trump is a historically unpopular president, delivering a historically unpopular agenda. If that message failed in Kentucky, where will it succeed?"
Where indeed? This is really Trump's fundamental problem--he's an unpopular guy doing unpopular things. Unless the Democrats screw this up (quite possible!) he should, deservedly so, wind up a one-term President.
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The Republican incumbent couldn’t overcome the unpopularity of the party’s agenda. That doesn’t bode well for the GOP in 2020.

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