Can Trump keep cam­paign prom­ises?

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Al­bert R. Hunt E-mail Al­bert R. Hunt at

Don­ald Trump promised coal min­ers he’d bring back their jobs. He vowed he has an “ab­so­lute way” of de­feat­ing the Is­lamic State very quickly.

Will he achieve these com­mit­ments? Prob­a­bly not. Will it mat­ter to most vot­ers, es­pe­cially his sup­port­ers? That de­pends.

Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Trump was caught in lies, bad be­hav­ior and con­tra­dic­tions that would have been lethal for an­other can­di­date. It didn’t much mat­ter, al­though it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that he did lose the pop­u­lar vote by more than 2.8 mil­lion.

Pres­i­dents usu­ally are held ac­count­able for spe­cific com­mit­ments. In sell­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, for ex­am­ple, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama promised, “If you like your health care plan you can keep it.” That wasn’t true for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, and it plagued him and Oba­macare through this year.

There’s ev­i­dence that vot­ers take some of Trump’s prom­ises more lit­er­ally than oth­ers. At a fo­cus group last week for the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s An­nen­berg School for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Ohio vot­ers in­di­cated that they ex­pect him to de­liver on the econ­omy, jobs and wages. But they didn’t re­ally think he’ll build a wall along the south­ern bor­der, let alone with Mex­ico pay­ing for it, or quickly elim­i­nate the vi­o­lent ji­hadists of Is­lamic State.

That makes sense. It’s rea­son­able to think that vot­ers care most about the eco­nomic and health care is­sues that af­fect them di­rectly. If Trump should bow to con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and re­nege on his cam­paign prom­ise not to cut So­cial Se­cu­rity or Medi­care ben­e­fits, look for a back­lash. Re­peal­ing Oba­macare, as both he and his con­gres­sional col­leagues have promised to do, is full of po­lit­i­cal land mines.

Trump has told coal min­ers to ex­pect an ex­plo­sion of new jobs. But it isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. Coal-min­ing jobs have been in de­cline for six decades, un­der Ron­ald Rea­gan as well as Obama. The fall of coal has noth­ing to do with China, con­trary to Trump’s claims, but with tech­nol­ogy and bet­ter en­ergy al­ter­na­tives from nat­u­ral gas to wind and so­lar.

So coal coun­try is likely to be dis­ap­pointed. But it’s a small slice of the U.S. job mar­ket, so there won’t be a great deal of po­lit­i­cal fall­out. That won’t be the case if Trump can’t make good on his vow to gen­er­ate 25 mil­lion jobs over­all in the next decade, with higher wages to boot. That’s an am­bi­tious goal, but not a quixotic one — at that pace, he would ex­ceed the job-cre­ation record of Rea­gan and Obama but trail Bill Clin­ton’s.

If he comes close, it’s likely to over­shadow a mul­ti­tude of po­lit­i­cal dis­ap­point­ments. If he doesn’t, eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged Trump vot­ers could turn on him.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has de­clared there will be an in­ter­val be­tween re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare so that peo­ple can get “bet­ter cov­er­age at a bet­ter price.” That’s a bench­mark that will be tested.

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