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How Economics Has Shaped Elections

What effect did the economy have on the elections of the 21st century so far?

By:  |  October 24, 2020  |    568 Words

Come Election Day, the economy always plays an important role in voters’ choices. From tax cuts to investment in roads and buildings, Republicans and Democrats present measures to – hopefully – improve people’s financial situation and standard of living. Since the economy is always changing, voters face new challenges every four years. What did the electorate face in 2016 or 2004? Let’s explore.

2020 – The Coronavirus Economy

Millions of Americans are out of work, businesses are shutting down, and the federal government’s finances have been destroyed. President Donald Trump led a booming economy until it was ruined by coronavirus lockdowns. He campaigned on the idea that he could use a second term to rebuild even better that what he had achieved in his first four years on the job.

His opponent, Joe Biden, blamed the president for the post-coronavirus economic failures, and suggested that in order to get the country’s finances back on track, he would first eradicate the disease. Whoever won, the next four years were always going to be an economic challenge.

2016 – An Economy at a Crossroads

Trump represented an outsider who wanted to tear down established trade and economic systems and create better versions. His opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the status quo and continuation of the Obama era, with trade deals like NAFTA, and big government. The U.S. economy was still expanding at this time, but growth was slow. Sixty million Americans took a gamble on Trump’s optimistic America First plan that consisted of tax cuts, reducing regulations, and renegotiating trade agreements.

2012 – A Sluggish Recovery

While the U.S. was in a better place than it had been during the previous presidential election, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate was really bad. President Barack Obama presided over the worst economic recovery in the nation’s history. Still, the electorate had more confidence in Obama than his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

2008 – The Great Recession

Eight years of President George W. Bush produced two recessions, including the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The U.S. was also stuck in two disastrous wars in the Middle East that were financed on credit. The American people were not satisfied on all fronts, but it was the Great Recession that ended Republican rule and caused the so-called Blue Wave that year.

2004 – A Booming Economy

The U.S. had just come out of a recession in the 2004 election cycle. Real GDP surged $460.3 billion, personal income doubled in a single year, employment blossomed, and corporate profits edged up. Although the Iraq War and the many scandals had delivered a black eye to the George W. Bush administration, the booming economy saved the president and the GOP.

2000 – The Dot-Com Bubble Bursts

The 1990s offered historic growth and wealth for the U.S. economy, thanks primarily to the dot-com boom, a time when the new invention of the internet led to excitement and over-investment in tech businesses. However, by the time the world welcomed the new millennium, the dot-com bubble began to burst and the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to cool the economy. The signs of a recession were forming, but voters were still happy after a decade of remarkable prosperity.

To 2024 and Beyond

No matter how much society debates Supreme Court Justices, foreign policy, or congressional term limits, the economy is almost always the voters’ most pressing issue at the ballot box. What will 2024 be like?

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