Exactly one year ago today, American voters sent political shockwaves throughout the world by electing Donald Trump as president of the United States. A Washington outsider, Trump pushed the issues that most resonated with financially distraught, hard-working middle class earners who haven’t had a raise in decades. Meanwhile, the prices of everyday goods continue to increase.
Even Democrats will now tell you they should have focused more on the economy, and perhaps less on social and cultural issues. But just one year into the Trump presidency, are Republicans now starting to make the exact same mistake that helped deliver the election to Trump?
For the last several months, Trump has repeatedly come back to the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He has spent precious time as president tweeting about how the NFL should respond to players who kneel. While Trump hasn’t exactly ignored the economy during this time, the president’s willingness to engage in controversial public debates like “taking a knee” could create a problem for Republicans in 2018 and 2020.
This is not to say that voters don’t care about cultural and social issues. They do. But at the end of the day, “it’s the economy, stupid.”
If Republicans fail to get tax reform and fall short of repealing Obamacare before the midterm elections next year, they will get slaughtered. Democrats will pick up multiple seats in the House and Senate. The effect will trickle down to the state level and potentially hurt GOP governors and gubernatorial candidates.
State lawmakers will not be exempt from this partisan wave, either.
The best thing Trump and other Republicans can do and should do at this point is focus less on cultural and social issues that distracted Democrats in 2016 and cost them the White House and continue talking about job creation, healthcare overhaul, tax reform and infrastructure.
Once Trump has signed into law legislation doing these key things, he can once again shift his focus back to social and cultural issues. If he times it right and begins talking about, say, NFL players “taking a knee” just months before the election, after he’s already seen to these key economic issues, it’s likely the American people, the majority of which agree with Trump on cultural issues, will reward the GOP handily at the polls.