David Frum: How Democrats Could Spark Trump Return

Are constitutionally committed Americans doing all they can to prevent a pro-Trump plot to pervert the 2024 election?

Maybe not.

But alongside that question, here’s another: Are constitutionally committed Americans doing all they can to prevent Donald Trump from winning the 2024 election in a fair and square manner?

The Biden administration’s numbers collapse in fall 2021, paving the way for Republican gains in 2022 and the return of the twice-impeached ex-president as a presidential candidate. The ploys and machinations of the pro-Trump movement are history. But if we are heading for a republic crisis, the mistakes and woes of the anti-Trump coalition are also worth mentioning.

This is not a “two-sided blame” complaint. Only one side is “to blame” for the crisis: those who are prepared to re-elect a corrupt and authoritarian president, even denying legal voters the right to vote if that is the only way to do it. But given this reality, it is more than a daily political imperative that the other side successfully governs. It is a unique moral imperative.

This success is proving elusive. The troubles in the Biden administration could empower the Senate, House and Republicans across the state to restore Donald Trump to power. These issues are closely related, but for clarity I will separate them and discuss them in turn.

The COVID-19 hangover

The United States is now lagging behind the rest of the developed world in immunization. Even countries that somehow missed the opportunity to get vaccines earlier – Australia and Japan, for example – are now overtaking the United States, or will soon be.

The Biden administration’s highest promise was to quickly overcome the pandemic and get the country back to normal by 2022. Right-wing misinformation and Republican obstruction thwarted this mission until 2021. Even though new news wave of vaccination mandates overcome these hurdles this fall and winter, they have lasted long enough to disrupt the economic recovery from the COVID shock.

With daycares and school involved, hundreds of thousands of women still have not returned to the workforce: nearly 2 million in the middle of the summer. The huge Baby Boom contingent has accelerated its retirement during COVID. Extended unemployment benefits expired on September 6. But economists do not yet notice an increase in the number of job seekers.

This has resulted in shortages of goods including gasoline and beef (as I described recently), essential industrial items such as glass, and consumer goods including clothing and shoes.


As supply chains are squeezed, demand from American consumers is increasing. President Joe Biden signed a $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill in March 2021. Another huge spending bill will be rolling out of Congress soon. This is all on top of the big relief measures previously signed by President Trump and, of course, the ultra-low interest rates devised by the Federal Reserve.

This aid protected the U.S. economy in 2020 from the kind of collapse it suffered in 2008 and 2009. Today, in 2021, consumers are eagerly buying homes, cars, plane tickets, clothing and groceries. They accept higher levels of household debt to finance their purchases. In August, household debt jumped the highest amount in a single quarter since 2007.

Americans have money to spend. They find less to buy.

Economists do not agree on the advisability of qualifying the resulting rise in consumer prices as “inflation”, in the sense of a loss of the purchasing power of money in relation to all goods. and services. Let us leave this technical question aside. The terminology does not matter to voters who pay more to fill their cars, heat their homes, feed and clothe their families. Already, the cost of living has overtaken COVID as a major issue in some polls of voter attitudes and is starting to contribute to voter pessimism. Polls reported Americans were feeling better about the future in early summer 2021 than at any time since before COVID hit. That optimism collapsed this fall, with nearly 60% of them now fearing the country is on the ‘wrong track’.


Amazon has increased its starting wage for warehouse workers to $ 18 an hour. Other large employers also offered more. Higher wages have yet to get all Americans back to work. But the hiring message is being heard around the world.

Poorer countries cannot afford to supercharge demand like the United States does. Brazil now pays almost 11% to borrow money. He is forced to balance his books, which pushes the Brazilian unemployment rate above 14%. These economic trends are one of the main reasons tens of thousands of Haitians who took refuge in Brazil ten years ago are suddenly showing up at the southern border of the United States to file asylum claims.

It’s not just Haitian residents in Brazil who are responding to signals from enthusiastic US employers. In July, border patrol officers encountered more people trying to cross the southern border than in any other month in the past 20 years.

The administration reacts by dividing the difference: admit some, refuse others. Of the 30,000 migrants who presented themselves at the Del Rio crossing in September, 12,400 were admitted to the United States, and the cases of 5,000 others are still pending. Some 10,000 have been turned away.

Politically, it’s the worst of all possible worlds for Biden: lingering images of chaos, growing anger among pro-immigration Democrats, heightened feelings of loss of control in communities borders and among skeptical voters about immigration – and all without a plan to resolve the crisis before election day 2022.

The Biden administration is pushing a big infrastructure bill through Congress. If this becomes law, it could sharpen the contrast between a booming United States and stagnation (or worse) in poorer countries. This contrast could propel even more economic migration and generate more images of border chaos to frighten and upset those who demand that migrants be refused entry and those who demand that they be greeted in the same way.

Globalization bites back

One way of understanding Trumpism is as a reaction against the globalization of the US economy. A team of economists found a significant correlation between the impact of imports from China on a country’s economy and its switch to Trump in 2016. Trump has vowed to isolate the US economy, to push through America first.

Five years later, the economies of the United States and China remain closely linked, presenting another danger to the president’s party. One of China’s biggest real estate developers is on the verge of defaulting on its massive debts. This is just the most recent in a series of crises that have rocked the heavily indebted Chinese real estate sector since 2018.

Real estate is a huge part of the Chinese economy, a major employer, kept in place thanks to easy loans from public banks. Even if the Chinese government can afford to absorb the loan losses, what happens to jobs? And if Chinese workers lose their jobs, what happens to other countries that export to the world’s second-largest economy? The United States is only the fifth largest exporter to China. But it is the second-largest exporter to China’s top supplier, South Korea, as well as the second-largest exporter to China’s next supplier, Japan. A shock to the Chinese economy will be felt not only in the Pacific, but in Peoria.

Crime and culture

Despite the Democrats’ 8 million vote advantage in the 2020 presidential race, Republicans fared well further down the ballot, especially in the House races. Subsequently, three Democratic rights organizations closely studied 19 House and Senate races to understand the mismatch between the presidential vote and the type of races that will be contested in 2022. They found a particularly powerful connection between voters’ concerns about race and crime. In 2020, homicides in the United States increased by 30%, the biggest jump in a year on record by the FBI. The three Democratic groups found:

  • Republican messages about crime and policing hurt Democrats the most when deployed “against candidates of color in inner cities with large white populations.”
  • “None of the candidates or campaigns included in this analysis supported police funding, but nearly all of them were targeted by paid ads claiming to have done so.” Tellingly, this theme dominated the the most efficient ads as measured by digital impressions.
  • The study also suggested that pro-police Republican messages worked particularly well to steer Latino and Asian-Pacific voters away from Democratic candidates towards Republicans in districts such as Florida’s Twenty-Sixth (from South Miami to the bottom from the peninsula) and the thirty-sixth from California. Ninth (extending north and east of Fullerton almost to Pomona).

Republican messages about race and crime will resonate even more with the smaller, older electorate of 2022 than with the larger, younger electorate of 2020. More worrying to Democrats, 2020 has shown how the issue of crime can separate “communities of color” – and unite some of those communities with white conservatives.

Democrats have yet to find a solution to this conundrum. Maybe no way out exists. They can only hope that crime decreases and the problem becomes less salient, as it did during the low crime years from the late 1990s to the late 2010s. But the murder rate does not. not decrease; it continues to increase in 2021, but at a slower pace than in 2020.

Those appalled by the removal of Republican voters should not fall into the misconception that voting rights protection will in itself guarantee Democrats’ victories. GOP reduced-ballot candidates may also thrive in high-turnout elections, as they did in 2020. In 2022, the job of Republicans will be easier than two years ago. They won’t be weighed down by a mandate from Trump that has alienated many historically Republican voters. Instead, they can try to prolong the pandemic and then profit from the dissatisfaction they helped provoke.

Democracy is really on the agenda in 2022 and 2024, as in 2016, 2018 and 2020. But this time around, prices, borders and crime are too. While the Biden administration cannot answer these questions any better than it has so far, Trump and his enablers will be just as happy to seize power by default as they do to seize it by stealth or by force.

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