Of course they are. Is this even in dispute? It’s taken for granted that Pelosi won’t agree to cut payroll taxes to stimulate the economy even though that idea is normally popular with Democrats because it might help Trump’s chances in 2020. At least one left-leaning talk-show host with a national audience has admitted openly that he’s rooting for a recession. Liberal publications as mainstream as The Atlantic have taken to trying to persuade skeptical readers that no, really, a recession would be bad.
In an age of intense negative hyperpartisanship, how could it be any other way? Left and right activists share the belief that, by definition, whatever loosens the other side’s grip on power is good for the country long-term, whatever pain must be endured short-term to facilitate it. A recession would do that for Democrats, ergo recessions are good now.
Trump is worried about it too, and rightly so:
Any president will reap the whirlwind for an economic downturn on his watch but Trump is at special risk because of his trade war with China. It’s his signature policy “achievement,” the thing he’ll be remembered for much more so than the 2017 tax cuts. If China caves and makes a deal he gets the credit. If they don’t and the economy slides, he’ll take the blame. Even though not all of the downturn will be tariff-related, obviously.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the pressure may be getting to him:
The aborted Greenland purchase, however, was not necessarily the response many geopolitical strategists had in mind and comes at a time when Mr. Trump has seemed particularly erratic. In recent days, he proudly quoted a radio host declaring that Israeli Jews love him as if he were the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God,” while Mr. Trump himself accused Jews who vote for Democrats of “great disloyalty.”
Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn on Wednesday, he suggested that God had tapped him to lead a trade war with China. “I am the chosen one,” he said, glancing heavenward. In the Oval Office on Tuesday, he exhibited his universal suspicion. “In my world, in this world, I think nobody can be trusted,” he said. At a rally last week, he ridiculed a man he thought was a protester for being fat, only to learn later that it was one of his supporters.
Some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the president’s behavior, suggesting it stems from rising pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year’s election approaches.
Imagine the wonders that await us in the daily news cycle next year if the economy really does begin to shrink and Trump has to cope with a rising probability of resounding defeat. Public perceptions of the economy’s health have already begun to dip, in fact — only slightly, but if that’s the start of a trend it’s a mortal threat to his reelection. After all, public perception decides who wins in a democracy, not the underlying reality. It’s conceivable that the economy will have avoided a recession by next November but that the public will have grown bearish nonetheless about continued growth. How does the vote shake out in that case for undecideds — stick with Trump on the theory that he’s our best chance to prevent a downturn or try the Democrat on the theory that Trump’s approach is beginning to fail?
— Musadiq Bidar (@Bidar411) August 21, 2019