Updated: Jul 2, 2019
While his advisors tell him to focus on the economy, President Trump steers the attention to the issues that most appeal to his base. And, he skillfully does it to control virtually every news cycle, every day. His issues are his mantra.
While he sees this as a winning strategy (after all, it led to the White House), that approach resulted in the Blue Wave and Democrats seizing control of the House of Representatives in last November's election. So, Trump's strategy is to turn defeat into victory by keeping his issues alive as a point of contention.
This appears to be his approach for the upcoming 2020 election. By dragging the issue through the courts, Trump hopes to keep his failed National Emergency declaration alive as a cornerstone issue to appear to his loyal base of supporters.
During the 2018 midterm election campaign, Trump continually trumpeted the issue of illegal immigration as he stumped for various Republican candidates. He knew this issue would have great appeal to his base.
But, what Trump failed to comprehend was the difference between a national issue and the local issues that are central to Congressional elections.
Meanwhile, his advisors were telling him to tout the successful economy and his tax reform initiative. They saw this as a strategy that would appeal to a majority of voters who witnessed an increase in their take-home pay, combined with rosy employment numbers. They wanted to capitalize on the issue before people realized the increase was merely a version of a loan that would need to be repaid once they filed their 2018 tax returns. Their advice was largely ignored.
Now, we have the Congressional rebuke of Trump’s National Emergency to build the wall.
This sets up a sure battle in the courts to prevent Trump’s executive overreach, as he has assured anyone with Twitter access that he will definitely veto the measure.
So what does this mean?
As the issue drags on, it will certainly be a major talking point of Trump's 2020 re-election bid. It will energize his base with more chants of “Build the Wall”, bringing it, once again, to the forefront of his campaign. He certainly will use his legal team to drag the issue out through the election season.
Will this be a successful strategy? A large part will depend upon who his eventual Democratic opponent. If it’s someone who can be painted as “weak on immigration”, that can present a springboard to re-election. So, make no doubt, the real topic of the campaign isn’t who the better candidate might be.
Instead, it’s the issue, stupid!
CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.