The hard left of the Democratic party had a miserable few days last week. It could be a harbinger of worse to come.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other party socialists were slammed in a procedural vote on the Green New Deal in the Senate. The vote failed, 57-0, with 43 Democrats voting 'present'. While Democrats decried the vote as a sham and a political stunt, the impression is nevertheless left that the Democrats will tack to the center and the hard left will be marginalized.
Polling data support this view. According to a Monmouth University poll, "a majority of 56% [of Democrats] prefer someone who would be a strong candidate against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues. Just 33% say they would prefer a nominee who they are aligned with on the issues even if that person would have a hard time beating Trump. Democratic women (61%) are more likely than men (45%) to say they would put their policy positions aside in order to get a nominee who could beat Trump." Women played a pivotal role in last November's elections.
The numbers are in line with our expectations. We have stated that the effects of the 2008 economic depression were on the decline after mid-2017, with more traditional median voter tendencies beginning to re-appear, just as we saw in last November's elections. The Senate GND vote and polling results suggest that moderate forces in the Democratic Party are beginning to gain the upper hand. AOC and the radical left is poised to lose.
This is bad news for President Trump.
Trump's approval ratings are below every post-war president except Carter at this point in their term, and no sitting president has ever been re-elected at the President's current approval levels. Nor has he received a bump in popularity from the release of the findings of the Mueller report. Rather, Trump's approval ratings are both steady and consistent with those of presidents during recessions—at a time when the economy is still strong. And that may not last. The odds of a pending recession look reasonably high, with yield curve inversion observed last week, generally a leading indicator for recession by 12-18 months -- right into the teeth of the 2020 election season.
Consequently, on the current trajectory, the Democratic center looks likely to hold and unless the economy remains resilient and the President improves his approval rating to 50% vs 42% currently, history suggests the President will lose in 2020. Indeed, a Fox News poll sees Joe Biden winning by 7 pp points over Trump. Bernie Sanders, second in the polls, would beat Trump by 4 pp.
For fiscal and social conservatives interested in meaningful immigration reform, this is well nigh a disaster. Ordinarily, US presidents are re-elected if they have done a reasonable job. Assuming Biden wins the 2020 election, his re-election would typically be expected. This means a Democratic White House would control immigration policy until 2029. This matters because time is ticking on undocumented immigrants. According to Pew Research, in 2016 approximately 7 million undocumented immigrants had resided in the US at least 10 years. By 2029, most of those immigrants will have been in the US more than 25 years. Their claim on amnesty and citizenship gains every day they remain in the country. If the Democrats are to hold the White House until 2029, then at some point, the balance of public opinion will swing in the favor of a broad scale amnesty -- a Republican and Democratic Congressman from New York suggested just such a proposal last week. Conservatives are likely to walk away with vague promises of enhanced border enforcement, but in practice will cede a large scale amnesty for very little in return.
This leaves the balance of 2019 for Republican immigration initiatives, as 2020 will most likely be consumed with election campaigning. A proposal likes ours -- perhaps the only major initiative with any hopes of raising the President's popularity ratings -- requires many months of preparation. As a practical matter, if the White House has not expressed an interest in the approach by Easter, it will be off the table for a decade, and the President may well have to do with the approval ratings he has carried for the last two years. These are unlikely to win the day in 2020.