Politics or economics: Which will be more important during next year’s presidential election?

The economy is almost always the most important issue during any big election. Just ask “It’s the economy, stupid” Bill Clinton how he pulled off an upset victory over President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election.

Or ask President Trump, who harped on economic issues during his improbable win in 2016.

The only time the economy doesn’t reign supreme is when the nation is at war and strong leadership may rank higher among voters.

So, today’s questions are: Is the US at war internally right now? Trump thinks we might be headed for a civil war.

And if the battles in Washington continue — even if there isn’t all-out “war,” as the term is usually defined — will that affect the election next year?

Will voters want someone who exudes strength, confidence and calm even if that person can’t read a balance sheet? Will voters reject Trump?

With everything that’s going on, there’s just too much to write about in one column. So today I’m going to discuss the political chaos and how it might affect the election.

On Thursday, my focus will be just on the economy: what it seems to be doing now and what it might be doing by November 2020.

If all this seems pretty dry, I apologize. But, in fact, the chaos that we are now seeing internally in Washington and in our government’s dealings with the rest of the world is historic.

Younger generations will someday talk about the political climate right now the way my people — the baby boomers — drone on and on about Watergate.

I’m not bringing up President Nixon’s Watergate problems for reasons that some of you may think — and some of you may hope. I’m not predicting that Trump will get kicked out of office. In fact, I think he’ll easily win another term unless the political wars become too much for voters to handle.

Even if the economy sours, I think Trump wins. I wouldn’t have said that a few months ago. But what has happened in politics in recent weeks makes me think he can survive even a stinker of an economy.

What’s happened? It’s not just the fact that Trump’s Democratic opponents are trying to impeach him. What’s more important is the fact that some Democrats have been obsessed with impeaching Trump from the day he was elected.

Just so you understand — if you don’t already — impeachment only means that Trump is “indicted” in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats. His trial on any charges would be held in the Republican-controlled Senate.

So, Trump isn’t going anywhere during his current term because the Senate isn’t going to convict. But here’s how this sets up after that.

Let’s say that the economy, which is now growing at an unimpressive annual rate below 2%, suddenly collapses. Trump can easily scapegoat the Democrats, who — he will say — were so hell-bent on impeaching him that they forgot to run the country.

And he’s got a case.

Plus, if that tactic doesn’t work, Trump has a secondary scapegoat in Jerome Powell and his Federal Reserve. “Boneheads,” Trump already called chairman Powell and the Fed in an opening salvo. “If the Fed had only cooperated, the economy would be doing much better,” will be Trump’s campaign ad.

The impeachment effort in the House is only the opening act of this drama. It’s going to get a lot worse.

In fact, I’ll stick with the description I used the other day in a column. Impeachment is a diversion for what’s going to happen next.

That will be the long-awaited report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and its fallout that is likely to include criminal prosecution over dirty tricks pulled during the last presidential election.

Then, the Democrats will have to counterattack. And the Republicans will have to ramp it up even more. Such eye-for-an-eye tactics will make the whole democracy shut down.

If there isn’t already a constitutional crisis in this country, you can pencil one in for sometime in the next year.

The more recent whistleblower complaint against the president for having a phone conversation about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden only makes the crisis worse.

Eventually, the Democrats will have to ask Biden to step aside because influence-peddling charges against him — which seem credible — will be too hard to explain to voters who have no influence to peddle. Trump actually did the Democrats a favor by bringing this up now and not waiting until before the election.

There are now two whistleblowers on the Ukrainian phone call.

The problem is this: The only way anyone could have known the content of that call — which, incidentally, I don’t think the president should have made — is by eavesdropping on Trump’s White House telephone.

The only people who could have done that are those from the National Security Agency or the CIA. So the dirty tricks continued.

The very few people in the room at the time of the call wouldn’t have heard both sides of the conversation. And if it was someone in the room, that person would have been fired already.

The constitutional crisis we are about to experience because of the political war might take voters minds off the economy. Or it might not.

(Thursday: The focus in 2020 should really be on the economy even if Washington’s battles are more fun.)

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