So the 2020 race is winnable for Democrats when it kind of shouldn’t be. But they still need to contend with the robust American economy, one which continues to generate gobs of jobs, month after month. And while wage growth might not be spectacular, real wages are rising. Pretending none of this is happening makes Democrats look detached from reality. At the recent, two-night Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren asked, “Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
Except all the gains aren’t just going to folks at the top. Right now wages are rising fastest for those in the bottom third. There’s a big difference between saying things are good but could be better and trying to persuade satisfied people that they should be miserable. And if lots of people think the economy is pretty decent today, imagine how much that number might rise if the expansion runs through November of next year?
Yet history suggests even an extraordinarily strong economy offers no iron-clad, electoral guarantee for the incumbent party. Just ask Al Gore who as Bill Clinton’s vice president was unable to parlay the 1990s economic boom into victory over George W. Bush in 2000. Now part of Gore’s failure was Gore’s fault. In an effort to distance himself from Clinton’s sex scandal and impeachment, Gore ran away from his boss. He played the insurgent populist rather than the guy who could keep the economy humming for four more years.