Tuesday, May 18, 2021

BTRTN: Trumpal Infallibility... Republicans Are Better Understood as a Religion Than as a Political Party

Given our bent here at BTRTN, you may have guessed that Steve’s college major was political science or history. It was actually religion. He knows one when he sees one.


The ouster of Liz Cheney from her leadership position in the Republican Party left many slack-jawed. Just when we thought that we could no longer be stunned by the actions of the far right, we watched House Republicans oust one of their most consistent, staunch, and powerful leaders for refusing to pledge fealty to the party’s grand deceit.

In truth, the only real news here was that the Republican Party managed to execute this particular slimy, despicable, craven, and hypocritical act without the overt participation of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Ron DeSantis, or Greg Abbott. The cancer has metastasized to every local, state, and federal level of Republican governance. Is the cancer operable? Liz Cheney just discovered that the cancer thinks she is the cancer.

The fact that we continue to be stunned by the behavior and actions of Republicans, however, has a lot more to do with us than with them.  We continue to believe that a major political party’s objective is to articulate a comprehensive vision of policies to be embraced by a majority of voters. 

Try telling that to the Republican Party, which literally decided that they did not have a “party platform” of such policies in the last election, and have spent the last six months attempting to undo the majority’s will and disenfranchise enough voters to sway the next election.

If the Republicans were actually successful in “articulating policies” that were “embraced by the majority,” they would not have lost the White House, the Senate, and the House. Is “articulating policy” to be “embraced by the majority” even what the Republican Party is trying to do?

Perhaps we are mistaken to view the Republican Party as a political organization. In fact, its actions appear more predictable and even more rational if we view the Republican Party as an organized religion.

Sure, I know many people throw the word “cult” around when describing Trump and the Republicans, and there is certainly a great deal of cult-like behavior. But “cult” does not come close to capturing the danger that the Republican religious organization represents to our democracy. The word “cult” conjures images of Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Manson… tiny, secretive groups at the outer fringes of society that engage in extreme behaviors, are paranoid of outsiders, and don’t even dream of accumulating the critical mass necessary to have a widespread impact.

Calling the Republicans a cult is an insult to their ambitions. This party is figuring out how to do cult at scale. They are out to make Sun Myung Moon look like a one-wedding-a-week officiant from Teaneck.

No, if you want to get appropriately worried, the far more accurate archetype for the Republican Party is modern organized religion… huge, highly organized, largely centrally-run institutions that have immense societal power and drive behaviors based on articles of faith, as defined by scripture but conveyed to the masses in an interpreted fashion by an empowered class of evangelists. And now, with today’s sermon, the right reverend Tucker Carlson!

Ever since it fell under the spell of Donald Trump, the Republican Party has begun to function far more like a religious organization than a political organization. At the top of the org chart there may indeed be a cult of personality, but this is a cult that has taken control of a vast infrastructure for organization and communication. In the Republican church, the hierarchy of leadership is determined by the boss, not the rank and file, not the flock, not the governed. This vast Republican church has millions of followers whose loyalty is sealed by faith rather than fact or objective reality. Perhaps it is through this filter that we can begin to truly understand just how threatening the Church of Trump is to our democracy.

Let me be absolutely crystal clear on one point before I begin. This essay is not about the extremely private nature of individual worship and deeply personal nature of spiritual belief. Today we are discussing how certain philosophical constructs function within the belief systems of large religious organizations, and how these constructs of organized religion now seem to actually be shaping behavior in the Republican Party.

There are three concepts at play in the Republican Party today that are more associated with religious organizations than secular entities: the infallibility of the leader, the notion of miracles, and the concept of excommunication. Let’s discuss each.

The first rung to understanding why Trump’s Republican Party functions like a religious organization is the manner in which Trump’s pronouncements carry the weight of papal ex cathedra speech. When the Catholic Pope declares that he is speaking ex cathedra, it is as if he is taking on the voice of God. To speak ex cathedra is to be infallible.

The notion of Papal infallibility is, face it, the ultimate Trump card. It is essentially an order to the faithful that what the church leader says is, by definition, true. Science and math may come up with one answer, but if a human being is imbued with the power of infallible speech, believers are likely to go with the guy who holds the key to their eternal salvation. Truth is, by definition, what the leader of the church says.

For those who were watching closely, the Republican Party formally institutionalized the notion of Trumpal Infallibility when it decided to not adopt a party platform for their 2020 nominating convention. This was essentially a concession that (1) it was impossible to provide a coherent, rationalized presentation of the hodgepodge of political beliefs that Trump espoused, (2) it was equally impossible to square whatever those beliefs were with what the party traditionally stood for, (3) it was profoundly risky to articulate a policy when it was known that Trump could change his mind at any moment, and (4) the Republican Party already knew by then that it had become whatever Trump felt like saying into a microphone that moment. Anyone want to ingest some Lysol? Trump doesn’t even need to dilute the poison with Kool-Aid.  

In essence, the Republican Party was acknowledging that it had officially become whatever had just come out of Donald Trump’s mouth in the past minute, and that it was all subject to change in the next minute. The Republican Party abandoned its entire philosophical canon to avoid looking inconsistent when Donald Trump trashed NATO, sent the national debt skyrocketing, gutted our intelligence establishment, and coddled white supremacists.

However, of far greater consequence than the inconsistency of Trump’s rants was that what routinely came out of Donald Trump’s mouth was inaccurate, misleading, or downright lying. Throughout his term in the White House, Trump was emboldened to speak ever greater lies, because he was never called out by his own party leaders. He came to understand that he spoke ex cathedra. What he said was true, because he said it, and no one dared argue with it.  

He tested his power with bigger and bigger lies. He learned that the bigger the lie he told, the more powerful he became. When a huge lie is uncontested, it aggrandizes the power of the liar.

Ex cathedra speech is an article of faith. Science, fact, reality – none of it even enters the equation. It is moot. And that is pretty much how Trump’s die-hard base viewed things. What Trump says is the truth.

Which brings us to a second structural element associated with religion institutions: scriptural recording of miraculous events that can only be explained by divine intervention, and which therefore validate the faith of believers.

Western religion is rife with examples of miracles, which, taken collectively, lend credence to a notion of divine endorsement. God has granted thus-and-such miracle, so we can believe that there is a God, and that God favors our religion. When people believe that small amounts of food miraculously lasted for days and fed many mouths, the religious institution associated with this miracle is imbued with unearthly power. The existence of miracles gives certainty that faith is justified.

Sure, start by simply calling Trump’s election in 2016 a miracle. Trump stunned the party traditionalists to win the nomination, and then defied all the odds to win the general election.

But it was in the election of 2020 that Trump overtly manipulated his power of speaking ex cathedra to his faithful flock to create the monumental miracle of his church. He absolutely, categorically, and unflinchingly refused to accept that he lost the election. He promised his faithful that hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots had denied him his rightful second term. He stirred his faithful into a holy crusade to undo the wrong. On January 6, his flock took to arms in Washington to try to prevent Joe Biden from becoming President. The followers believed that the miracle would come to pass.

The followers remain certain that Trump will rise anew.

Beware, Democrats, of disdaining and dismissing the deceit of the “Big Lie.” Be very careful when trying to use rational argument to tell a believer that their miracle is a fraud. Miracles are not the stuff of what can or cannot be proven, they are the articles of faith that bind believers to their church.

We err when we say, “Of course the Republicans all know that it is a lie, that they all know that the votes were counted accurately, that they know Trump lost.” Perhaps the cynical hypocrites in Congress feel that way, but do not assume for a moment that cynicism powers the belief of the rank and file Republicans. We may be wiser to view the 2020 election as a galvanizing moment in which a zealous belief in Trump was dramatically strengthened among the most loyal. It is the essential miracle, a foundational element of a new religion.

Which brings us to a third element of organized religion: excommunication, and the exile of Liz Cheney.

If the Republicans were actually a political party, they would embrace Liz Cheney as a reliable winner in her district and a steadfast conservative in her voting record.

Instead, Cheney was very publicly shamed and savagely ousted, punished by her own party for what Democrats view as the courage to tell the truth, and Republicans could have chosen to simply view as a difference of opinion on the election results.

But there was a reason that Republicans could not view Cheney’s view to be a mere difference of opinion. You see, Liz Cheney did not simply question the election results. Cheney has challenged the foundational miracle of the religion.

She disagreed on a matter in which Trump was speaking ex cathedra, a matter of faith, in which Trump alone is allowed to declare what is truth. An example needed to be set. That made Liz Cheney a heretic. That meant she had to be excommunicated.

Indeed, Donald Trump has institutionalized excommunication in the modern Republican Party through the doctrine of centrally organized primarying. Once upon a time, “primarying” was largely a local phenomenon. A local politician would see an opportunity to run against an incumbent by taking an aggressive position of being further to the right and more ideologically pure. Now, “primarying” is a centralized operational tool: Trump keeps legislators in line by threatening to fund a primary challenge to those who fail to be sufficiently loyal to him personally. A primary challenge is no longer about how far right a candidate stands on the political spectrum. It is about how loyal that candidate is to Trump. It has become a crucial tool of the Church of Trump.

The irony of it all is that there actually is a very real element of representative democracy in the Catholic Church: the College of Cardinals elects the pope. (Think of it as the original Electoral College, except the one in Rome isn’t skewed to make Iowa more important than California). The College of Cardinals meets, debates, and holds a series of votes until one Cardinal receives two thirds of the votes, the requirement for election as the new Pope. (Imagine if they tried using that system in the radically polarized United States. Jesus Christ himself would have a hard time getting elected Pope).

But in its own quaint way, the College of Cardinals does serve as a model for the Electoral College in the United States, with the theoretical underpinning that the selection of the Pope -- and the President – should not be left to the uninformed masses. Each matter is to be entrusted only to persons with the proper knowledge, experience, and judgment. The theory was if you locked the most trusted party elders in a room and told them they could not leave until two thirds agreed on a candidate, you’d get the best answer.

That, in essence, is how Liz Cheney views her role: strong, established party elders have a responsibility to do the right thing… first, for country, and then for party.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party is now behaving more like a church, and – certainly insofar as it goes to electing leaders – the Catholic Church is behaving more like a democracy than the Republican Party.

Democrats, be warned.

Be careful telling someone of faith that the story about loaves and fishes is not true, that it was “just a metaphor,” and that it is simply a “powerful religious symbol meant to represent a broader truth.”

A percentage of the faithful may nod and take your point, but a large group won’t see it that way. They believe that miracles go to the essence of their faith. To believe that the miracle is simply a metaphor is to drain it of its power as a justification of faith.

Democrats, you are up against far more than “the Big Lie.”

The problem is that for Donald Trump’s base, the supposed “Big Lie” is actually the “Miraculous Truth.” You can try to tell them that it is all just so much Trump BS, but they will not hear your words. No amount of rational explanation, fact, data, or argument means a thing when it is up against the belief in the miraculous.

More and more, it appears that the only thing that can save the Republican Party from Trump is the revelation that Trump himself is a hoax. Perhaps Trump’s grip will someday weaken in a manner similar to a televangelist preacher who is revealed to be buying helicopters with the offering plate, sleeping with married congregants, and dissing true believers on leaked private recordings. Who knows? But don’t hold your breath: Trump has pretty much already committed all of the above, and the belief of the faithful is unshaken.

We know this much: Liz Cheney’s telling the truth has absolutely no impact on Trump’s base, and only serves to discredit her in the eyes of the faithful. Such is the punishment for the heretic who refuses to believe the essential miracle.

And Kevin McCarthy, kneeling and kissing the ring? He has proven he is worthy of the craven hypocrisy and cowardice and joined the inner circle of Cruz, Graham, Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Green and Matt Gaetz that has now become the central identifying mark of the Republican brand.

Time to rethink whether Democrats are competing with a political party.

Time to start thinking about how to compete with a religious organization.


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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

BTRTN: Joe Biden, The Six Trillion Dollar Man

Tom with the BTRTN 2021 April Month in Review.

For those who wished only for Joe Biden to return order to our government and lower the collective temperature from the Trump years, you may be disappointed. Sure, Biden has been a calming presence, a comforting leader and an uber-conventional president.  But too much was broken in those Trump years; there are too many wounds to heal, too much change required and too little time to waste.  And no one appears to know that better than Biden.

Many envisioned Biden as a “transition” president, one who would spend his first term fixing the obvious COVID mitigation and distribution issues, reversing the worst of Trump’s excesses on climate change, immigration and other matters of grave import, and mending fences overseas, before turning it over to Gen X-er Kamala Harris in 2024 to lead the march into the future.  That is, essentially, apart from the 2024 piece, how Joe Biden campaigned.  He was positioned as a steady hand who would restore science, competence and empathy to government, but not scare off those Midwestern centrist voters crucial to his election coalition with visions of a progressive utopia and its twin pillars of Medicare For All and a Green New Deal.

But after watching President Joe Biden in action, one-third of the way toward a $6 trillion investment to reinvent the American economy, one has to wonder:  what happened to that guy? 

The month of April ended with the traditional “100 day” benchmark of the new administration.  Biden used the occasion (and his first speech to a Joint Session of Congress) not only to celebrate the results of his administration’s crisis management, but also to define the future of his presidency, and of the country he wants to overhaul.  While some progressives may still feel that Biden’s reach is “not nearly enough,” (quoting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), Biden is making it perfectly clear that he intends to make the most of his one shot, within the framework of political possibility.  He knows his window may extend only to the 2022 midterms -- yet with the barest minimum of majorities to work with in both the House and the Senate, Biden is reaching for a domestic legacy on a par with that of FDR and LBJ. 

This is not a time to be turning down the volume on your TV set or dispensing with your political bookmarks.  A revolution is happening before your eyes.

The early days of the Biden administration were indeed focused on COVID management, economic stimulus and Trump reversals.  The signature triumph was the passage of the aptly named American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion behemoth that, among many other stimuli, provided a $1,400 check to most Americans, aid for small businesses, state and local governments, and increased support for COVID testing and distribution. 

By any measure Biden’s initial efforts at crisis management have been a resounding success.  When he took office in January, the U.S. was suffering through 1.25 million new COVID cases per week; now we are down to just over 300,000.  A truly grisly total of 23,000 Americans were dying from COVID each week back in January; now that still awful number is below 5,000.  Less than 1% of all Americans were fully vaccinated as of his Inaugural; now over 30% of the country is fully protected, to the point where the issue is no longer supply, but demand.  The economy grew at a startling 6.4% pace in the first quarter, and nearly a million jobs were added in March.  Biden’s approval rating is steady at 53% (roughly 10 points higher than Trump’s at the time of his departure) and he is getting high marks for his management of COVID (62%, about 20 points higher than Trump) and the economy (52%, about the same as Trump).  

From the chaos of the January 6 insurrection, Biden has accomplished a remarkable turnabout in short order. There is ample evidence to support Biden’s claim that “America is moving again” and that America was receptive to his policies.  Polls show that those who believe America is “on the right track” rose from 20% in January (pre-Inaugural) to 43% in April.  That figure had jumped immediately when Biden took office, from 20% to 34%, and it has risen each month since under Biden, from that 34% in late January to 43% in April.

The twin pillars of Biden’s future are not Medicare For All or the Green New Deal but rather the more soothing sounding, yet still monumental American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.  The former was announced at the end of March, with a $2 trillion price tag, and it immediately set up a furious debate on the definition of the word “infrastructure.”  Biden’s bill stretched far beyond the term’s traditional categories of roads, bridges, transit systems and electric grids, to include obvious extensions such as water supply and high-speed broadband, and more expansive (and controversial) ones such as new child care facilities, raising wages for home care workers, and retraining workers.  But while the GOP screamed “overreach” and complained about the broadened definitions, Biden did, after all, call it a “jobs” bill and not an “infrastructure” bill.

Biden announced the American Families Plan just a few days ago, in the Joint Session speech.  This plan differs from the other two in that, while also in the $2 trillion range, it pays for itself through tax increases on the wealthy (those who earn more than $400,000 per year) and corporations.  The plan is chock full of programs to bolster families:  $1 trillion in investments, including four years of free education and direct support for families to help with quality child care, and another $800 billion in tax cuts for families and workers.  And given its funding source, a clear goal is to take a step to level the income inequality playing field.

Biden’s “marketing” approach for his monumental program has been quite sophisticated, and relies on three main points.  The first is his confidence – borne of polling – that a healthy minority, at least, of Republican voters, along with the vast majority of Democrats, support his plans.  This enables him to claim that he is succeeding in his Inaugural promise of bipartisanship and unity, redefining the terms in the context of American voters rather than members of Congress (since no GOP representative has signed on to any Biden proposal as yet).  The second is his willingness to entertain bipartisan measures, demonstrated by his many meetings with GOP officials, devoting time to at least appear to be listening – all the while firmly assuring America that failure to act is not an option, and he is not afraid of moving ahead without GOP support.

But the third and most subtle of Biden’s marketing approaches – his special trick -- is his utter boringness.  There’s an old expression that you can say almost anything, no matter how critical or damning, with a smile on your smile.  In Biden’s case, he is testing the proposition that he can sell anything if he keeps a low profile and carries his message in a mind-numbingly banal manner.  That cozy, whispering monotone you hear is actually describing a stunning re-invention of America, with changes that will touch each and every one of us.  But you would never know it from the tone.

Essentially he is continuing his campaign persona, far from the backslapping, mic-loving, too much touching, gaffe prone Biden of old.  This new version could not be more disciplined or restrained, and the GOP is having a very difficult time finding an attack line on a regular guy whom everybody seems to like.  And, as in the campaign, the low-key approach seems to work well among Independents and centrist Democrats, who found Bernie Sanders’ thunderous bolts of Democratic socialism frightening and threatening.  But what he is actually saying has moved far closer to Sanders than expected.

But for all the warm and fuzziness, the harsh reality is that Biden’s agenda will likely have its outer boundaries defined by Joe Manchin (and to a lesser extent, Kyrsten Sinema).  Biden seems to be satisfying Bernie and the progressives, who are not going to derail the $6 trillion dollar man for lack of ambition.  But Manchin has already stated that, having gone along with the reconciliation-driven American Rescue Plan, he is not going to be a party to reshaping the country with the two latest bills without bipartisan support.  Whether he is posturing remains to be seen.  Biden can be persuasive, and the bills will be loaded with spending that will end up in West Virginia. 

But for those of you who would vilify Manchin for balking, keep in mind that Democrats have no business holding a Senate seat in his deep red state.  Trump won in West Virginia by 42 points, and Manchin’s GOP Senate colleague Shirley Moore Capito won reelection in 2020 by 43 points.  Manchin won by only 3 points in 2018.  Capito voted with Trump 96% of the time; Manchin did so only 50% of the time (according to fivethirtyeight).  The Democrats need Manchin to hold this Senate seat, and thus need to cut him some slack and help him find a way to get to yes on the Biden program without jeopardizing his reelection chances in 2024,

These bills will be much harder to pass than the American Rescue Plan, and will tax Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s talents to the limit and then some.  But the Biden Administration is approaching them much differently than the first bill, setting aside time for months of negotiation and clearly signaling a desire to do so in a more traditional bipartisan manner.  There is already talk of perhaps breaking up the bills into smaller portions, some of which of can be passed with GOP votes, with the more expansive perhaps reverting to the strictly partisan reconciliation method (Manchin willing).

Essentially, Biden has won the trust of most of America with his COVID management, and appears to have convinced the majority of the electorate that government can be a proactive agent for good, delivering real results on issues that are difficult for the private sector to address, of which surely a global pandemic is one.  Now he is asking America to take that belief and extend it dramatically, in a reshaping that will touch almost every aspect of the American economy.

Another such issue is climate change, and in April Biden staked out a position far more progressive than he previously indicated he would back.  He announced new U.S. goals at his own climate summit in late April, and they are far more aggressive than that of Obama:  a 50% reduction of carbon emissions (from 2004 levels) by 2030.  This will involve an enormous transition in the U.S. economy, from the full embrace of electric cars (which currently account for only 2% of U.S. vehicles) and to the winding down of fossil-fuel powered energy (yes, including in Manchin’s coal-heavy West Virginia).

Biden also overruled his generals to announce the departure of American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the devastating terrorist bombings on U.S. soil that started us down the path of the “endless war.” 

The other big event in April was the trial of former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd nearly a year ago.  Chauvin was convicted on all counts of murder and will be sentenced in the coming months.  While there was palpable relief across the country that a just verdict had been found, all that verdict proved was that, in America, it is possible to convict a white office of the cold-blooded murder of a Black man if you happen to have indisputable video evidence of an extremely obvious crime as it happened.  Beyond that, there is little comfort.  While the trial was in progress, there was an appalling series of Black deaths at the hands of white police officers, all with less clarity around the circumstances, but with the same tragic outcome.  These cases are the ones that usually result in acquittals, and it surely remains to be seen whether the George Floyd case, with the Chauvin conviction, will change that dynamic in any meaningful way.  On the political front, GOP Senator Tim Scott now has the ball in the battle for police reform legislation, and faces the unenviable task of finding nine of his GOP colleagues to go along with his efforts, and join with the 50 Democratic Senators who are clamoring for action.


What else can we say but:  Matt Gaetz. 



Joe Biden’s approval rating remained in the same mid-50’s range in April that he has carried through his young presidency.  He remains at a +13 net rating, which is quite encouraging in these divisive times.  


























Biden is getting high marks across the board for his handling of the two largest issues on his plate, COVID and the economy.  As stated, he is outperforming Trump by 20 points on COVID management, and holding with him on the economy, long viewed as Trump’s strongest suit.  And the nation has responded to Biden’s leadership with a steady increase in those who feel the country is on the right track, more than doubling where Trump left it in the aftermath of the January 6 Insurrection and the Big Lie that inspired it.  


% approval of president on issues



Biden Current vs. Trump 2021


























Right Track










The “Bidenometer” has begun to move sharply upward as the impact of Biden’s decisions and policies begins to be felt.  It has now moved from the baseline of zero at the start of his time in office to a robust +64.

This increase has been driven by a substantial improvement in the GDP and Consumer Confidence, and to a lesser extent by upward movement in the Dow and a small drop in the unemployment rate.  Only the price of gas has moved in the “wrong” direction, though the low gas prices of 2020 actually reflected low demand, given COVID.  Thus the upward movement of gas prices is not necessarily a “negative” sign.  The +64 index means that on average, our five economic measures have improved by 64% since Biden’s inaugural.

As a reminder, this measure is designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  We reset the Bidenometer at this Inaugural to zero, so that we better demonstrate whether the economy performs better (a positive number) or worse (a negative number) under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

This exclusive BTRTN measure is comprised of five indicative data points:  the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP.  The measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from the inaugural to the present time.

Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, you can see from the chart below that under Clinton the measure ended at +55.  It declined from +55 to only +8 under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then rose from +8 to +33 under Obama’s recovery.  Under Trump, it fell again, from +33 to 0, driven by the shock of COVID-19 and Trump’s mismanagement of it.  Now we have seen it move upward to +64 under Biden. 

Presidents >>>







Measures (all as of last day of term, except GDP which is rolling last 12 months)

End Clinton  1/20/01

End Bush 1/20/09

End Obama 1/20/17

End Trump 1/20/21 (base= 0)

Biden March 2021

Biden March 2021

Bidenometer (Now) >>>














  Unemployment Rate







  Consumer Confidence







  Price of Gas







  Dow Jones







  GDP (last 12 months)








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Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.