At least temporarily. And really, it’s his only message.
And that is: The people out to get him aren’t just out to get him, they are out to get America. And the more calculated that anti-Trump effort looks, the better it is for him.
One of the reasons this has worked so well for him for so long, is it’s so easy to express in extremely simple terms: love Trump = love America, hate Trump (or even oppose him and his policies a little) = hate America.
When the President is effective at delivering this message (really, it’s a simple math equation), then any Democrat running for any office is not trying to win an election. No, they are attacking America. They are trying to do a coup. Against Trump yes, but really against America. So in order for this to work for him he needs to equate any attempt to compete against him as an attack on America itself.
And his big promise? His only promise? He will be there to protect the people he purports to protect against that attack.
But there’s a fine line between protector and dictator. And when Trump starts running around screaming “LAW AND ORDER!” and deliriously boasting about throwing people in federal prison for 10 years “no exceptions!” if “these hoodlums” who “hate America” act up too much in the park across the street from the White House, and expecting hundreds of thousands of disciples to show up in Tulsa in an enclosed arena with no masks in the middle of a pandemic, he starts looking a lot less like he’s trying to protect his version of America, and more like he’s trying to protect only himself.
Yes, “law and order” worked for Nixon. But Nixon knew when to shout and when to whisper. Trump doesn’t. That’s why we always think it’s funny when the media write about Trump doing a “dog whistle”. Because there is no such things as a dog whistle with Trump. It’s a megaphone. Always.
And he’s been very good at delivering his central message until a short time ago. And it’s also why a lot of the media has never taken him seriously enough, because he’s almost ludicrously hyperbolic in promoting that message. For instance: “If Biden is elected…your 401(K), and money itself, will be worthless.”
Lately though, the President’s temporarily lost the ability to effectively convey that message.
And maybe not because he’s been too distracted by COVID-19 and a shrinking economy.
Seems more because he’s been too distracted about things like being criticized about how he holds a glass of water and walks down a ramp. (Which would be “so unfair” as he says, if he didn’t constantly accuse Joe Biden of worse.)
Which does indicate the way to weaken Trump politically is not head on, where it could start looking like the full force of the American establishment and now counter-establishment is trying to undermine him in a very deliberate way, but chipping away at his edges, and then stepping back for a sec and allowing the President to show unfiltered who he really is when he (invariably) churlishly responds.
Do enough of that, and his vanity keeps him on tangents and away from what’s always been that central, most effective message: Oppose Trump = Hate America. Really, he only has that one. This is something groups like the Lincoln Project understand, and why the ads and internet videos they’re producing hammer at the President’s gaffes and frailties, not policy really.
Sure this counter-strategy could backfire every once in a while: we’ve seen a lot of stories in the past couple of days trying to figure out why Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wasn’t fired immediately after Saturday’s Tulsa rally debacle.
And while there’s still a high percentage chance he will be fired, it may be that he hasn’t yet because so many people outside Trump’s campaign (including, again, the Lincoln Project), have been giddily trying to accelerate his firing. Leaving the President in a position where in order to push back, he has to keep Parscale on, at least for a little longer, or else his opponents “win”.
Also be careful what you wish for: remember in 2016 when Trump sidelined Paul Manafort and brought on a guy named Steve Bannon? Who knows who might replace Parscale when he goes? (Although Parcale’s not in exactly the equivalent job, you get the idea.) And while most campaigns tend to be hurt or at least slowed by shake-up and turmoil, Trump’s has consistently seemed to benefit from it in the past. Because each time it’s re-energized the President himself; it may be something he needs.
Of course, if Trump for some reason were to put son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner in charge of his campaign, then maybe now we’re talking.
We’re not suggesting there’s a high percentage chance of this happening outright. And Kushner already has a hand in Trump’s campaign. But as the President gets more dug in and paranoid, he seems to be putting Kushner in charge of just about everything these days.
There are also other reasons to be a little cautious: we’re looking at a Trump way off the rails in the past couple days. That’s not to say he can’t be driven even further off. But he’s also got time to get back on track and resonate again with his original, simpler message.