Expecting what might still happen in the last month of a campaign full of unusual jitters, the October surprise of the 2020 elections fell in September and in the form of an exclusive news story. The revelations of the The New York Times on the tax returns of Trump, who has not paid income tax in 10 of the last 15 years and only disbursed $ 750 (4,170 reais) in the year he started his presidential race, point to Trump’s waterline and have the potential to become one of those events that erupt in the final stretch of the campaign and can influence its outcome.
From the information, that the NOW began publishing on Sunday, it is possible to understand that the personal and professional history that the president sells to the population differs greatly from that reported to the tax authorities. The coveted documents obtained by the NOW, who decided not to share them to protect his sources, offer the portrait of a businessman haunted by debt, whose financial situation has improved substantially in the five years since the presidential race began, thanks to increased activity in some of the hotels and golf clubs that they are part of a business emporium from which he refused to disengage when he arrived at the White House, generating potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s conduct, according to the American publication, was that of a businessman who earns millions a year, but accumulates chronic losses, which are used, through aggressive tax techniques, to avoid paying taxes.
The revelations have the potential to deepen the gap between the Republican president and the working class electorate, especially in states with an industrial fabric affected by globalization, which will be essential in the November 3 elections. These voters felt abandoned by the political establishment after the 2008 Great Recession and listened to the message of Trump four years ago, who wanted to identify with them in this repudiation of the elites and promised to fight for their protectionist-based jobs. The image of a president who tried for decades to present himself as a hugely successful businessman, but who, in fact, suffered to keep his business afloat, was anchored in aggressive tax engineering to evade the Treasury and which may have harnessed political power to clean up its finances. This will resonate with workers who already prove that despite the promises, Trump’s four years have not improved, and in many cases have worsened, his economic situation.
In particular, the $ 750 figure – amount of federal income taxes Trump paid in 2016 and 2017 – offers Democrats a powerful and simple label that they will try to engrave in voters’ minds. The number will be on the minds of those workers whose lifestyle is a far cry from the ostentation and luxury associated with the president and who, meanwhile, pay more than he does in federal taxes.
That is what popular congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez highlighted on Twitter, stating that she paid thousands of dollars in federal taxes in those same years, while working as a waitress. “He contributed less to financing our communities than waiters and undocumented immigrants”, told the congresswoman about Trump. The campaign by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden did not take long to release a video showing the usual income taxes paid by primary school teachers, firefighters and nurses, which reach thousands of dollars a year.
Nor does it help to reinforce Trump’s bond with this fundamental constituency, revelations like the one he deducted from his taxes $ 70,000 (390,000 reais) in hairdressing expenses for his television show The Apprentice. This image of a president so far removed from the concerns of the working class he says he governs is valuable ammunition for Biden, who on Tuesday faces Trump face to face in the first of three presidential debates.
The debate will take place precisely in Ohio, one of the states with a strong industrial weight in which Trump won four years ago and in which Biden now has a slight advantage in the polls. In the first of the thematic blocks, dedicated to the personal trajectory of the two candidates, Biden now has new artillery to contrast between the figure of the unscrupulous businessman from New York and his own origins of the working middle class in a state with the same industrial belt as the Pennsylvania.
Trump performs much better on the offensive than on the defensive. So the president’s team went on the attack on Monday. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, issued a statement in which he said the information was “full of gross inaccuracies” and framed the publication of the story as “a smear campaign prior to the elections”.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany accused Democrats of reinterpreting “the same 2016 script that the American people have repudiated and will repudiate”. THE President himself called the information “fake news” and attacked the newspaper in several tweets, to which he accuses of acting “with information obtained illegally and only with bad intentions”. Trump says he paid “millions and millions of dollars” in taxes, but “he was entitled, like everyone else, to declare spending on devaluation and deductions.”
By undecided vote
Trump has politically survived other equally devastating revelations, such as recordings in which he prided himself on touching the genitals of women without his permission. This recording was published in October 2016, also two days before Trump faced his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in a debate.
The difference is that, now, the information bomb arrives at a particularly bad time for the expectations of re-election of the president, who for months has been behind his rival in the polls, both nationally and in some of the decisive states. The pandemic has taken Trump’s main argument with which he was counting on re-election, the vigor of the economy, and his campaign is failing to respond to criticisms of his management of the health crisis.
The extreme political polarization experienced by the country does not contribute to the proliferation of undecided voters and has transformed the Trumpist bases, which have remained ostensibly loyal over these four years, into a bloc that has proved impregnable. But this October surprise, which arrived in the last days of September, points to the very heart of these workers from industrial Midwestern states, who four years ago took Trump to the White House.