12 min read

Why America’s Headed for Another Trump Era, How it Feels Watching My Predictions Come True, Plus How to (Really) Think About the Economy

Why America’s Headed for Another Trump Era, How it Feels Watching My Predictions Come True, Plus How to (Really) Think About the Economy
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Patrick Semansky/AP, Julio Cortez/AP

I’m Umair Haque, and this is The Issue: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported publication. Our job is to give you the freshest, deepest, no-holds-barred insight about the issues that matter most.

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  1. We Germans are making Trump ‘thunderstorm’ plans (CNN)
  2. Trump’s Truth Social account shares video referencing ‘unified Reich’ (WaPo)
  3. Harassment of scientists is surging — institutions aren’t sure how to help (Nature)
  4. Biden is dramatically out of touch with voters on Gaza. He may lose because of it (The Guardian)
  5. The Dangerous Retreat into Protectionism (Project Syndicate)
  6. Scarlett Johansson told OpenAI not to use her voice — and she’s not happy they might have anyway (The Verge)
  7. Marco Rubio Says He Might Not Accept the 2024 Election Results, Because That’s a Requirement of Potential Trump VPs Now (Vanity Fair)
  8. Alabama’s War on Women (Rolling Stone)

Hi! How’s everyone? Sorry not to write for a couple of days—I’ve been sick as a dog, and little Snowy has, too. The poor little guy was so sick, in fact, that we didn’t think he’d make it. And then, brave little dude that he is, he fought it off and pulled through. But maybe that made me sick with stress and worry, because right now my brain is…mush. Still, today, we’re going to (try to) discuss….

Sigh. Politics. The Democrats, blowing it. Watching another one of my predictions—Biden would fall behind Trump, swiftly and badly, come true. Why it came true. And how that feels for me, since somehow I always end up being a sinister sort of question mark to the White Establishment (sorry, can I just say it out loud by now, since fascism’s around the corner anyways?)

How Badly Have the Democrats Have Blown it? (Way) More Than You Think

Let’s begin by understanding just how badly the Dems have blown it. It’s way, way worse than you probably think. All the latest polls put Trump ahead in nearly every swing state. Let me translate into a chilling bit of plain old English for you.

If the election were held today, it’d likely be a Trump landslide. Not just a minor league win. But a proper landslide, more or less. What else do you call carrying 75, 80% of swing states? 

Stop and reflect for a moment on how bad that really is. Not just in sort of grand, abstract terms. But in simpler ones. How badly the Democrats have failed to be on the verge of a Trump landslide.

So how did I know—not believe, but know—this was going to happen?

How I Knew All This Was Going to Happen, or How to (Really) Think About “the Economy”

I predicted just this a while ago. And even then, chuckle, it was “controversial.” I’ve discussed at length this foolish thing of being controversialized, and I’ll come back to it. One of my goals here at the Issue that’s a little different from my previous publications is to teach how you to think, too, so that you understand why I’m able to predict stuff like this with this sort of eerie accuracy, versus just read the opinions of pundits. 

It’s not rocket science. What’s it about? Well-being. How did I know Trump would pull ahead? Not believe, as in, that was my opinion, again, but know? Because Americans’ well-being was falling off a cliff. The whole world’s is—I call it the Modern Crisis of Being. And in America, this sort of catastrophic undoing of well-being is accelerating into oblivion.

That’s abstract, so let me make it a whole lot clearer.

What’s “well-being,” anyways? A lot of things. How we feel, our relationships, our state of mind, our creativity, our sense of strength, our levels of education, our knowledge. And our…financial lives.

Now. Different societies sort of have different priorities of well-being. In America? It’s a hypercapitalist society, and in it, money is everything. So financial well-being counts for…the most, by a very long way, to most people. 

That should make intuitive sense: in a hypercapitalist society, like America, the economy’s always issue number one, because, well, see the first half of that sentence. For the average person, money is literally everything. Status. Survival. Subsistence. Now, it’s not so much, in other societies. Elsewhere—Canada, Europe, etc—safety nets sort of detach money from existence a little bit. And in many other places, it’s perfectly possible to be respected, but not rich, or to have a fairly comfortable life, but not a whole lot of money. But in America, money is…everything.

Don’t have enough of it? You’ll be out on the streets, all your stuff repossessed, in days. It’s a swift, sudden, and altogether too common, now, plummet from relative comfort to penury. Hence, we say things like “the middle class doesn’t really exist anymore,” or, “the American Dream is dead.” 

What we mean by those things is that financial well-being—and this doesn’t just mean the stuff “wealth advisors” and whatnot preach, and I’ll come back to that—is on the ropes, in a ruinous state.

Now, I put that to you formally so you can grasp the difference. Between old-school, abstract measures of “the economy,” which are basically “GDP” and “unemployment”—and the harder, newer stuff of well-being. So what does financial well-being mean, in these hard terms? Many things.

Being able to save, afford a home, not be wrecked by an emergency. It’s not so much climbing the ladder as just sort of having a firm grip on your rung of it. But none of that’s true in America, and the statistics tell us that beyond a shadow of a doubt. 70-80% live paycheck to paycheck, somewhere between 30-50% of people are reaching for credit cards to afford food, educating a kid costs as much as a home, and a home is something young people will never really have as a social class, on and on it goes.

This catastrophic plunge in well-being told me that…what did it tell me?

The Catastrophic Mistake the Democrats Made, or Why Trump’s Winning

By itself, it didn’t sort of seal the deal. But the Democrats response to it—which was insane, let me not mince words—did.

How do the Democrats think about…reality? “The economy"? Well-being? Here’s a pretty good summary by Annie Lowrey, who’s sort of this reliably consensus establishment writer at the Atlantic. She says, summarizing the Democratic line neatly:

The jobless rate is below 4 percent, as it has been for nearly two and a half years. Wage growth is moderating, but it is higher than it was at any point during the Obama administration; overall, Biden has overseen stronger pay increases than any president since Richard Nixon. Inflation has cooled off considerably, meaning that consumers’ purchasing power is strong.

Yet Biden’s approval rating is below 40 percent. His disapproval rating is 56 percent. Donald Trump is beating him handily in most key swing states. And there’s a chance that Trump might edge out Biden in the popular vote, particularly if he continues to expand his popularity with Black and Latino voters in blue and purple states.

This reality has engendered panic among many Democratic campaign operatives, and no small degree of dismay too. What does it mean if Biden can’t win a campaign as an incumbent in an economy like this—during an election in which most Americans say the economy is the most important issue to them?

What’s the mistake in thinking here? Annie’s ignoring well-being, which tells us a very, very different story than the sort of abstract, old-school measures of GDP and unemployment, which are increasingly kind of meaningless—after all, GDP’s “grown” for decades, but the median income is still, incredibly, where it was in the 1970s. Meanwhile, everyone sort of knows how badly inflation and prices and stagnation are wrecking people’s lives…everyone except the establishment, that is.

So where does that leave the establishment? In a corner. They go out there and preach, as we all know rolling our eyes, that “the economy’s great,” and as we roll our eyes, their credibility is blown. But worse than that, like I said, it leaves them in a corner. Annie ends up sort of blaming the defection away from Biden to Trump on…negativity.

Too much coverage of the bad news. So there the Democrats are, chiding people for the state of their own lives. Instead of taking responsibility for it, and saying, “we know things suck, and we’re working on it, and let’s all get through these awful times together.” See how different those messages are?

Chiding people who are seeing their futures basically get destroyed, which is what’s happening today, make no mistake about it…that’s a recipe for self-destruction. Who wants to be chided, and told things are “great,” when you can barely make ends meet? 

There’s a new sort of trend in viral videos: my fast food now costs this much. Some brave guy funnily posted a video showing that a quarter pounder meal at McDonald’s set him back twenty bucks. That’s how sort of ruinous it is out there, and if you think that’s not Real Economics, allow me to introduce you to the Economist’s Big Mac Index, which has been used for years to sort of informally look at how economies are really doing. That was a proto-measure of well-being. The real ones? They all point to serious difficulties for most people, and the Dems simply won’t even acknowledge it.

And so of course there’s this huge groundswell towards Trump, who…does.

Biden’s Shocking Mishandling of Gaza, or Moral Injury and the “Lesser Evil”

All that was before Gaza. Then Gaza happened, and the Democrats, already blowing it, did something remarkable—they decided to die on the hill of supporting the far right in another country. Think of how crazy that sort of really is. Yes, we can all agree that what happened was terrible and awful—and probably, that what happened afterwards was, too. 

I talk to a lot of young people, just by virtue of being this sort of guy that hangs out in a neighborhood full of them. And they’re…incredibly angry. Way, way more than I think the Democrats not just do understand, but maybe even can understand. They think of Biden, openly, as a racist, call him a guy who supports genocide, and doesn’t seem to care about the concepts of international law, equality, justice, peace.

Are they wrong? It’s hard to say that they are, because just lately, after the ICC prosecutor decided to ask for arrest warrants, Biden thundered that it was outrageous. So…does he believe in International law, or not? Just selectively? It only applies to certain kinds of people, and not others? 

In what sense is that position…come on…not rank hypocrisy, that’s going to make every single young person and minority under the sun sort of run away screaming from the Dems, because while Trump may be the greater evil, sure, at least you don’t have to turn your stomach by supporting the “lesser” one, which suddenly, is still pretty bad and makes you feel complicit.

Leave my personal politics aside. I’m just telling you what I hear in conversations with young people. And the numbers bear that out—this isn’t just sort of random anecdote I’m offering you, but something much more dangerous, which is that there is in fact an exodus of young people away from the Dems, because they can’t stomach being part of this slaughter.

Annie chided people for being “negative” about the economy. Shall we chide young people, now, for…believing in peace, justice, equality, and nonviolence? In International law and some semblance of order? 

You see, this is the point the Dems have reached. They’re out there chiding people who should be their supporters…but that never wins you any support. It just makes people roll their eyes. Because of course by the time you have to chide them, you’ve already lost their support, by failing to provide genuine leadership.

How Watching This All Happen Makes Me Feel

So. You might wonder: how does all this make you feel? You arrogant son-of-a-bitch, you know-it-all, you smarty pants. Listen. I was trying to stop this train wreck. The Democrats just…never listen.

How does it make me feel? It makes feel stupid and bad, is the truth. Because when my predictions come true, something perverse happens. If I was a white dude named Josh, they’d win me respect and glory, but since I’m not…what happens…is that…the establishment…just sort of…hates me…more and more…every time I predict something that’s right, and they don’t. 

I mean, that much is sort of plain, no? Here I am, telling these guys that they’re doing it all wrong. And they already think nothing of me, even though, hell, I literally wrote the book on the economy and transformed marking and branding. What they see is a pretender who doesn’t deserve to be heard, getting it right, while they keep getting it wrong, and it drives them nuts.

They should be engaging with me, learning from me, taking it all in, all this stuff I have to teach, but like I said, since I’m not named Josh or what have you, they never will. In their world, guys like me don’t have anything to give, because what could we possibly have to offer, anyways?

So it makes me feel bad and stupid. Here I am, part of this…vicious cycle…of idiocy. Maybe even fueling it. But what choice do I have? Figures like Annie want cheerleaders—don’t focus on the “negative”!!—they believe that if you just keep talking stuff up, people will somehow change their minds about their lives, in some sort of weird mentalist trick. That’s not how reality works. Well-being really does matter, and it predicts…a great deal.

I know that, and now you know that, but they don’t know that, they don’t want to know that, and worse, if you try to teach them that, they’ll attack you for it, and that’s what they do to me. So me? I feel bad and stupid for…I don’t know…being part of any of this. Mostly, I just want to walk away, and let these fools reap the whirlwind they’ve sown. I write it for you to try and teach you something, I guess, before it’s too late, in the hard sense.

It’s hard for me to overstate how bad it feels being The Guy Who Gets Hounded For Being Mostly Right, the Cassandra, whatever, and I know that sounds self-righteous and tedious. Mostly, now, I want no part of any of it. Not the predictions, not the please-listen-because-all-of-our-futures-on-the-line. 

It makes me feel a lot of things, and none of them are good for me. Guilty, because, hey, I’m taught how powerless I am, reduced to playing out my role in this fool’s game. Ashamed, because I see how little all this knowledge I spent a lifetime acquiring is actually worth. Hopeless, in a sort of dreadful way, seeing how impossible the battle to teach, especially power, a damned thing really is. And kind of…worn out? Burned out isn’t enough. Sort of morally vanquished, if you like, because…

I understand, over and over, every time I do this, that to power, we’re the real bad guys. We’re somehow worse than the authoritarians and fascists, to power, which is why power fights us, way more than it ever fights them.

I don’t know how you live carrying that little terrible secret peacefully. I really don’t. What sort of…lesson…does it carry? What kind of future can we have like that? Where does history lead then? So I share it with you, because at the end of all that, how I really feel is humiliated

I say that almost with a chuckle. Drink up and cheers, I guess.

So What Happens Next? 

So, by now you’re probably asking: hey, you asshole, you think you’re so great, so what happens next?

What happens next is exactly what the trends now predict. Sadly. And that goes like this.

The Democrats keep pretending things, aka, the economy, life, the present and future, are great.

The economy—the real thing, which is well-being, not just “GDP” and “unemployment”— keeps on plummeting, people battered in every possible way, financially, emotionally, their safety and security and stability just wrecked, downward mobility accelerating.

People roll their eyes.

The Democrats, believing in the Cheerleader Theory of Politics, chide people for not being cheerleadery enough.

People walk away.

That very same dynamic happens with issues of foreign policy, like Gaza, too—the Democrats go on pretending that letting slaughter happen, even enabling it, is somehow not inimical to and inconsistent with the value of peace, justice, and equality, and the more they pretend, the more that young people and minorities, sort of sickened to their stomachs, walk away, unable to accept that as some kind of “lesser” evil, and not feel morally destroyed.

And all of that puts us closer and closer to a Trump landslide. Be honest. When I wrote, a while back, that a Trump landslide was becoming a very real risk, did you take it seriously? Or did you chuckle, or maybe even get mad at me, and call me names, fabulist, hysteric, alarmist? And what do you think now? Suddenly, it looks a lot more real, doesn’t it. 

So every day, we’re living in a world where tail risk is becoming more and more normal. Tail risk—extreme events, now becoming common. We see it with climate change. We see it with billionaires becoming trillionaires while middle classes die. We see it with democracy on the brink. And we see it with the growing risk of a decisive, historic Trump victory, which, if the election were held today, it’d almost surely be.

That’s what happens next. It’s not pretty. It’s ugly, grotesque, and awful. But it’s also reality. And when the side purportedly tasked with defending and preserving democracy begins to deny reality, and insult, deride, and chide its own supporters…guess who wins? In the end, nobody.

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