ANALYSIS: Trump’s angry, fearful closing argument to voters
The U.S. economy is booming.
Some 250,000 jobs were created in October, unemployment is holding at just 3.7 per cent, and wages grew at the fastest pace since 2009.
So why isn’t President Trump talking about that?
“It’s the economy, stupid!” was once the phrase that guided American political campaigns.
Instead, Trump has decided that he’d rather sell a message of fear and loathing.
His closing argument to voters is a full-on assault on immigration, with racially-fueled rhetoric aimed at stoking anxiety among his white working-class base.
“An army,” “an invasion,” full of “many gang members,” and “unknown Middle Easterners” is on its way to the U.S., according to Trump, in the form of a caravan of migrants from Central America.
For the record, that caravan is made up of many women and children — people who say they are fleeing violence, crime and political persecution.
Even though those migrants are currently in Mexico, and are still 1,400 kilometres away from the U.S. border, Trump claims the threat is so great, he needs to send up to 15,000 troops to the border immediately.
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That’s a larger deployment of U.S. troops than the current war in Afghanistan. Pentagon documents leaked to Newsweek show that even senior military officials believe the mission is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
At the same time, the president has launched an attack on birthright citizenship, a principle, protected in the U.S. Constitution, that says any person born on American soil is automatically a citizen.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and that baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” Trump told Axios, in a blatantly false claim. Canada and nearly 30 other countries offer birthright citizenship, too.
Trump now says he has the power to strip birthright citizenship from the constitution with a simple executive order, which seems legally dubious, but has opened up a debate about the issue in the final days of the campaign.
All of this is by design.
Trump wants the midterms to be about immigration, because it’s the one issue that gets Republicans all fired up.
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Global News saw that firsthand in rural Wisconsin, where voters overwhelmingly viewed the caravan with deep concern.
“[Trump’s] got a great instinct for what works with his kind of folks, and that’s all he’s interested in,” explains political analyst Charlie Cook.
In other words, the president knows fear will drive his base to the polls. After all, divisive, racially-charged language carried him to the White House in the first place.
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That does not make the president’s strategy any less painful, or harmful.
The final weeks of the campaign have been marred by the massacre of worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and a wave of bombs mailed to Trump’s most vocal critics.
In response, the president has been blamed for what is seen as hostile political climate of his own creation.
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Which brings us back to Tuesday’s vote.
While Trump has focused on the issue of immigration, Democrats have struggled to find one single theme that resonates with their supporters.
They may not need to worry about that, according to Cook.
“No offence, Democrats, this election isn’t about you,” he says, “It’s all about him.”
You see, just as Trump knows how to motivate his own supporters, he’s also driving his opponents to turn out in droves.
Both Republicans and Democrats have seen an unusual surge in voter enthusiasm with 65 per cent of those surveyed reporting a “high interest” in the midterm elections.
It seems fear works for both sides.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.
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