Every election cycle, it is always the economy, stupid. Come Election Day, the economy plays an important role in voters’ decisions. It is the one issue that transcends party lines as both sides think about their pocketbooks and choose the candidates who can successfully grow the economy with their campaign proposals. From tax cuts to greater investment in infrastructure, Republicans and Democrats present measures to either bring the country out of a recession or expand upon economic growth. Since the economy is not static, 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 decimated. This is the new normal in the coronavirus economy. Even if a vaccine were developed and distributed tomorrow, it would still take a long time for the United States to recover. Whether President Donald Trump is re-elected or former Vice President Joe Biden defeats the incumbent in November, the next four years are going to be incredibly difficult.
2016 – An Economy at a Crossroads
The 2016 presidential election was essentially a referendum on American politics. Trump represented an outsider who wanted to take a chainsaw to the establishment and embrace an America First agenda. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the status quo: NAFTA, globalism, regime change wars, and big government. The U.S. economy was still expanding at this time, but growth was sluggish. The real estate billionaire mogul promised winning like never before, while Clinton dismissed her opponent’s promises of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Sixty million Americans took a gamble on Trump’s optimistic America First plan that consisted of tax cuts, regulatory reform, and renegotiating trade agreements.
2012 – A Sluggish Recovery
It had been a few years since the United States faced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. 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 abysmal. Then-President Barack Obama presided over the worst economic recovery in the nation’s history. Experts allude to a wide range of reasons for the lackluster recovery, but the biggest hurdle for the country was big government. Still, the electorate had more confidence in Obama than his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
2008 – The Great Recession
Months before Election Day, it was evident that the Democratic nominee was going to win the White House, whether it was then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) or then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Eight years of President George W. Bush produced two recessions, including the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The U.S. was also engulfed 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 decimated Republican rule and triggered the so-called Blue Wave.
2004 – A Booming Economy
The U.S. had just come out of a recession in the 2004 election cycle. By the time voters cast a ballot, all the key economic indicators pointed to an excellent United States economy in 2004. 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 myriad of scandals had delivered a black eye to the Bush administration, the booming economy saved the president and the GOP. But households still faced other economic hurdles, primarily rising energy prices and ballooning debt.
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. 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 in a euphoric stage after a decade of remarkable prosperity. A soft landing or a full-blown meltdown, the nation would not see a recession until the following year.
To 2024 and Beyond
No matter how much society debates, discusses, and deliberates Supreme Court Justices, foreign policy, or congressional term limits, it is typically the economy that is the voters’ most pressing issue at the ballot box. In the 2020 election, according to Pew Research, the economy is the top issue for Republican and Democratic voters. What will 2024 be like? The last year is proof that anything can happen.