Winkelman voted Republican presidential candidate for the first time in his life in 2016, thanks in large part to Donald Trump’s promise to restore manufacturing jobs and invest $ 1 trillion to rebuild U.S. infrastructure in Rust Bell, Wisconsin. . This year, Winkelman will vote on former Vice President Joe Biden, a decision sealed in part by Trump’s decision to continue tax cuts – which Winkelman said was mostly favored by the rich – because of infrastructure investment. Winkelman said he and other members of the construction deals were “smeared”
“He gave this golden chariot to everything he would do. I was hoping my children and grandchildren would see what a prosperous country might look like, ”Winkelman said, pausing to point to the aluminum cladding he was installing for a hotel bridge in downtown Milwaukee. “The way [Trump] he spoke as if he were supporting us. It has been a complete farce ever since. “
Trump can claim credit for fulfilling and at least partially fulfilling many of his key promises for an economic campaign in 2016, such as tax cuts, cuts in government regulations and the resumption of America’s international trade. But with a central part of his economic stake – a massive infrastructure package – the president has far less to boast about in the wake of the election campaign.
After repeatedly advertising infrastructure during his 2016 campaign, Trump failed to improve infrastructure legislation through Congress during his four years in office. Under his administration, federal investment in roads and bridges as a share of the economy remained stagnant, while federal spending on water infrastructure projects fell to a 30-year low. Unable to stimulate federal dollar infrastructure projects, Trump has also been unable to deliver on his 2016 promises to update and upgrade parts of the United States, including roads, ports and airports.
The president’s unfulfilled commitments to infrastructure underscore the disconnect between his message of a populist campaign in 2016 and the results of four years of governing in partnership with Republicans in Congress who partially redefined his economic agenda. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has tried to exploit the issue, repeatedly stressing the infrastructure in the wake of the Midwest election campaign and promising swift action on the issue if elected.
“We were told and promised that Trump would ‘build America; “There had to be a lot of money there, almost $ 1 trillion. He talks about it before he was elected, after he was elected and nothing happened. They will not vote for him because of this, “said Kenneth E. Rigmaiden, president of the International Union of Artists and Allied Deals. “Workers see things slowing down. Our members are losing their jobs. Infrastructure is a big part of the business we are prone to. “
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former top strategist, said in 2016 that Trump’s “economic nationalism” would transform the GOP from his alliance with the business lobby into one that supports broad government intervention for blue-collar workers. Numerous sociologists and political experts say these appeals to economic populism have helped Trump win over traditionally democratic white working-class voters in the Midwest.
Trump has reshaped Republican economic policy in key ways that violated traditional conservative preferences, approving new U.S. trade deals and urging the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates. But his populist economic appeals have now been undermined by four years in power, in which his rhetoric has clashed with the reality of governance and the constraints imposed by the global economy.
Trump’s 2020 campaign has largely abandoned his calls for infrastructure four years ago. Trump highlighted infrastructure as a critical national need during the 2016 presidential debate, his speech at the Republican National Convention, speeches in the Midwest and his opening remarks In his campaign speeches last month in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, the president did not mention repairs. of crumbling infrastructure, nor to repair the country’s roads and bridges. Bannon, who boasted that “conservatives will go crazy” over embracing Trump’s infrastructure, has been out of the White House since 2017.
Asked about the issue at the New York Economic Club on Wednesday, Trump blamed congressional Democrats and said infrastructure legislation would be passed in his next administration. He also cites the construction of the US-Mexico border on the southern border. “We consider this infrastructure,” Trump said. The president also often talks about his administration’s deregulation agenda, such as overcoming federal obstacles to new construction projects, including highways.
Trump’s position among the white working class, which excites his message about infrastructure, is eroding. In Pennsylvania, Trump leads Biden by 17 points among white voters without a four-year college degree, who make up about half of the state’s electorate, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll published last month. Trump won this group by more than 30 points in Pennsylvania in 2016.
The failure of Congress and the Trump administration to provide additional assistance to states and cities amid risks of coronavirus adds further delays in infrastructure investment, returning work on highways, roads, sewers and other municipal projects that have been delayed for years.
Mike Vanderstein, the mayor of the small town of Sheboygan in northeastern Wisconsin, said he voted for Trump in 2016, in part because he heard a real estate mogul disappoint his frustration with the inadequacy of national infrastructure. Sheboygan has struggled for years to fund repairs to local roads, but the city’s problems have intensified since 2016. Lake Michigan’s water levels have risen to unexpected and historic highs in the past two years, shattering the 100-year-old water intake at the estuary. city line. Vanderstin worries that the pipes are at risk of flooding or damage, which disrupts residents’ drinking water.
Vanderstine wrote to Biden and Trump’s campaigns asking them to commit the federal government to funding $ 20 billion for cities on Lake Michigan to mitigate the damage from rising coastlines. Neither has agreed to provide the assistance that Lake Michigan cities deem necessary.
“The president is talking a lot about infrastructure, and in fact nothing is happening yet,” Vanderstin said, adding that he has not yet decided who to support in the 2020 presidential election. “It can be really catastrophic.”
Even many of the president’s supporters in white collars still hope he will make a deal. Don Iverson, 50, a logger in western Wisconsin, has used Route K and Pray Road for three decades to haul red pine, white pine and oak trees to nearby sawmills. For the past five years, both K and Pray Road have been closed to Iverson trucks. New weight limits have also been imposed on the nearby bridge on Highway 54. This means that Iverson must reduce its shipments and add another 30 miles of driving in the direction of the sawmills.
Four of Jackson County’s nine loggers have left or gone out of business, Iverson said, in part because of their struggle with shoddy city roads. Trucks are now forced to travel through the city of Black River Falls, which is both more expensive and more dangerous due to more congested traffic. Without federal support, half a dozen Wisconsin city managers say they have no funds to repair roads or bridges.
“This is a huge additional burden for our business. It’s never been this way, “said Iverson, 50, with a gesture from his blue Dodge truck to the uneven and uneven black-spot patches attached to the city road. “It simply came to our notice then. I have no idea how they expect us to do this. “
The White House needed votes in Congress to approve an infrastructure plan. In the early days of their rule, the president and the GOP gave priority to repealing the Affordable Care Act and implementing large tax cuts instead of an infrastructure plan. Three former senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said the White House had never had a serious discussion about putting infrastructure at the top of the GOP’s legislative to-do list. “Paul Ryan and these boys had waited 30 years for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to cut taxes. They would not let him go, “said one of them.
Trump aides have been working on an infrastructure package for months, eventually creating a package in 2018 with just $ 200 billion in new government spending spanning 10 years that relied heavily on attracting additional private funding through “public private partnerships ”. Trump opposed the plan for private-public partnerships and even criticized it in front of the aides who developed it. Councilors believed that such a large package would not be acceptable to Republicans in Congress as they and the White House struggled to agree on how to pay the infrastructure bill.
In 2018, White House officials believed that Parliament Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California) was ready to reach a bilateral agreement on infrastructure, but talks collapsed amid party arguments over impeachment. White House officials also did not believe that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) was ready to give the president victory for infrastructure spending. Democrats in Congress said they were ready to make a deal in 2017 with Trump for infrastructure.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, you have every Democrat and every Republican willing to spend a significant amount on an infrastructure program’ … I told Trump and his entire economic team at several meetings: ‘Everything is ready for you,'” the senator said. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “It will go down in history as a legislative mistake that Donald Trump did not come up with a major infrastructural effort.”
Peter Navarro, the most populist of the president’s top economic advisers, said in the summer that the president was supporting a $ 1 trillion infrastructure package to help the United States return from the pandemic. The announcement was ridiculed in private by other senior officials in the administration, and Navarro’s proposal never materialized.
The president and some of his senior advisers remain committed to the idea of infrastructure. Trump has continued to speculate to advisers in recent weeks that he will build infrastructure in his second term.
DJ Gribbin, the president’s former adviser on infrastructure, left the administration in 2018 before the midterm elections when he saw some momentum to receive a package through Congress. “One of the big winds that any federal infrastructure faces is a lack of understanding that the federal government can’t just make new money,” Gribbin said.
Infrastructure eventually became a constant joke in the Capitol and even in the White House, with West Wing officials joking about Infrastructure Week as the issue was silenced by impeachment and other controversies by serial Trump, according to two former senior officials of the administration.
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.