But he’s always managed to get the people he needs back behind him eventually
There are lots of reasons to believe this time will be different. Maybe.
Starting with the President’s decision to forgo any national strategy for fighting COVID-19, and instead continually downplay it and then give up (or actually worse: drag it down to a “blame game”, where he’s the one being treated “unfairly”, not the victims), as record numbers of Americans continue to be touched by the disease with infections soaring in many places that hadn’t been hard hit before. And then there was his decision to pepper spray a bunch of peaceful protestors so he could go outside and hold a bible. And then there was his disastrous tiny crowd rally in Tulsa (after he’d boasted of huge crowds). And then the revelation that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, and Trump must’ve or should’ve known about it and did nothing. (Although that story has kind of faded into the background for the moment.) We also wonder why Trump hasn’t taken any concrete at least economic action against China, other than blaming them with words for the current pandemic. He’s never been shy about suddenly slapping tariffs on trading partners. So why only rhetoric for China if they’ve been so obviously culpable now for so long? And also now that they’ve cracked down on the remnants of Democracy in Hong Kong, which is a direct slap in the U.S.’ face.
And even Trump must sense how crazy things are getting even by his administration’s standards, because he’s quietly changed his insult nickname for his presumed opponent Joe Biden from “Sleepy Joe” to “Corrupt Joe”. Because “Sleepy” and all its connotations of calm and quiet and normalcy, might be too close to what too many prospective American voters might be seeking right now.
Now, suddenly, Trump’s made the central and singular mission of his Presidency to hunt down anyone who would wish harm to statues of any kind, and treat those people as public enemy number one. We’re sure we’re gonna hear a lot more about that at Trump’s next rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire this weekend (which again requires attendees to sign a document swearing they won’t hold Trump responsible if they get sick).
Doesn’t seem like a winning formula…
But there are also reasons to consider why the President might be opening some small paths to a turnaround for himself, if not yet building a big, wide boulevard to cruise down:
- He has never given up the spotlight. This is really the big one: even though Trump has shown plenty of unmistakable incompetence and weakness, as well as horrible, despicable behavior, he has never given up the spotlight. Even when he was navigating unsteadily down what he insisted was a “very steep” and “slippery” ramp at West Point. Even when he hid in a bunker. There’s a thing in TV called a Q rating (kinda ironic given what else Q stands for these days). The “old-fashioned” Q rating is mainly a measure of familiarity with a certain celebrity, and also their appeal. And sometimes you just end up associating with the guy you think know, even if you don’t like him. Trump also often uses pro-wrestling as a model, and that’s a world where “heels” often know how to use the crowd to gain favor even though they’re despised, and then the clean fighters become pasties.
- This is shaping up to be a very violent summer in many places across the U.S. At least in big cities, police are trying to blame it on the demoralizing effects of anti-police rallies. We think has more to do with people being angry and on edge for all kinds of social and economic reasons, and things always heat up in the summer heat anyway. Also, during months of lockdown, criminal enterprises also slowed down. Add that all up and the President’s instinct to embrace “law and order” over even constructive change may start to resonate even beyond Trump’s wildest dreams.
- Trump’s incredibly lucky. We know luck isn’t a real thing. And even if it is, it always eventually runs out. But in 2016, lots of Trump supporters we knew jumped off the bandwagon after “grab ‘em by the pussy”, but jumped right back on when then-FBI Director James Comey told us there were more Hillary emails.
Trump’s also got a base who will never abandon him. Not enough to win with just them alone, but they’ll turn out for sure. Meanwhile, lots of people haven’t really given even a thought yet to Joe Biden, much less expressed an unwavering allegiance; don’t even remember he was Vice-President for 8 years. Everybody knows Trump.
No doubt Trump is going to continue to do horribly reckless things, especially if his re-election chances continue to look dire. And sadly, the only thing that seems absolutely certain is by his hand, real harm will come to a lot of innocent people before the end of this term, win or lose. Mostly to feed an effort to win that seems mostly based on a desire to win solely for the sake of winning. How are we so sure about that? Because the only thing consistent about candidate Trump is inconsistency. Changing literally with the direction the wind is blowing.