By now, you’ve probably heard that President Trump was met with a chorus of boos and chants of “Lock him up!” when he was introduced to the crowd at Sunday night’s World Series game at Nationals Park in Washington.
Many of the usual suspect pundits and analysts are continuing to treat this incident as a bad omen for the White House, or at least an accurate take on public sentiment against the president.
They might have a point if this event weren’t already well-steeped in a lot of factors that hardly make it a fair example of the current vox populi.
First off, remember this was a World Series game we’re talking about and most regular income Americans can’t exactly afford to attend such a game. A quick check of the online ticket sites showed the lowest price for an actual seat to Sunday night’s game five was $1,000 with standing room going for $800.
But don’t worry, this is Washington and Washington-area residents are more likely to be able to afford it than most of us.
Six of America’s top-10 richest counties are D.C.-area suburbs. Why is that exactly? Sure, some of those places are beautiful. But let’s get real. The enormous wealth in that area stems from the fact that the federal government runs without any real budget or free market constraints.
Many of the people pumping up the median salaries for those six counties are highly paid lobbyists and lobbying firm attorneys who act as the conduits for all that money corporations, unions and lots of foreign governments spend in hopes of influencing our government. Just how much money people make in this industry was recently put on display for all of America during the Paul Manafort trial. Most Americans were likely shocked by the sheer amounts of cash he made just for promising to arrange connections to government leaders.
It isn’t just those massive lobbyist contracts. For years, Americans have heard the oft-repeated line that government workers make less than their counterparts in the private sector and they are making a big sacrifice by continuing to work in government. Plenty of government workers are indeed dedicated, but they are hardly making a big sacrifice to remain in their profession.
Since the 1990s, federal workers have seen their pay grow faster than private-sector workers. Last year, federal workers earned an average 80% more than private-sector workers. And federal workers earned an average of 47% more than state and local government workers. The bottom line is that federal worker pay and benefits are good, very good.
Then there’s the economically immeasurable value of working in a job that faces next to no chance of ever being eliminated. Imagine what kind of investment and second job opportunities you might pursue if you know you’d never be laid off.
Washington is a company town. Not in the way that Detroit makes cars and Hollywood makes movies. But the federal government does make one thing very well: more government. That government production also produces great wealth for those who work in the industry.
In that context, President Trump has done a better job of convincingly casting himself as anti-Washington than any president before him. Just think of all the successful and unsuccessful presidential candidates we’ve had over the years who tried to paint themselves as outsiders. None of them really compare to this president. It’s definitely why Donald Trump Jr. is calling Sunday night’s jeering incident a
badge of honor.”
The funny thing is President Trump hasn’t really done much to slow that ever-growing behemoth. In what could be considered the greatest failure of his presidency, the federal budget deficit continues to grow and the debt is now approaching an eye-popping $23 trillion. Yes, his first budget proposal to Congress back in 2017 did include some much-needed ideas for cutting the spending and expansion of government. But those cuts never really materialized, apparently in a tradeoff to get the Trump tax cuts bill passed. The Trump administration has also been trying to make it easier to fire poor performing federal workers. But that effort has hit a snag in the courts.
Nevertheless, the anti-“swamp” messaging from the Trump campaign in 2016 and its expected return for 2020 clearly resonates with much of the public. It always has. Deserved or not, the major party nominee who has done the better job of portraying himself as being the more “outsider” candidate has won every presidential election for decades. That’s even true when incumbent presidents win reelection, which is incredible because who could be more of an insider than an incumbent president?
But some of the more recent incumbent victors have had the good fortune of going up against challengers like Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney and John Kerry, all of whom were career politicians. Like the old joke about the two campers being chased by a bear, the surviving camper doesn’t need to outrun the bear … he just needs to outrun the other camper.
It’s a stretch to think the booing incident at the World Series will hurt President Trump in any discernible way. But it should help us remember two important things: World Series ticket holders are not a good polling sample, and appearing like a hostile alien to the entrenched powers in Washington, D.C., isn’t a bad selling point at election time.
Jake Novak is a political and economic analyst at Jake Novak News and former CNBC TV producer. You can follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.