The President is very good at co-opting iconic American symbols as his own.
And in the end, restoring the image of the White House as his “home”, as he put it, was clearly the outstanding accomplishment of the Republican National Convention.
Remember the White House just a couple of month ago, when the President was briefly hiding in a bunker, a wall was going up around the perimeter, and peaceful protestors were gassed as they drew near? That was Trump at his weakest; made the President look small.
Now the White House is a place of red carpets and lavish galas and big fireworks. And protestors are kept at a safe distance. And the President’s wife makes a speech in a dress that, while couture, is worthy of the North Korean military.
And on the final night, Trump’s speech itself is insanity. But the White House is majesty.
We were hoping the President would make good on his idea to do his big convention appearance at Gettysburg. Because anybody who’s been there knows those battlefields are so vast, and even today so heavy with the sobering remembrance of war dead, that anybody standing there can’t help but appear small. Except perhaps Abraham Lincoln.
So it really may not matter that the Democrats’ convention got better ratings, even though that also annoys the President. Because what may matter more is the images people who didn’t watch either convention live at all took away from news recaps and their social media feeds.
If Trump has managed to shore up his image, it didn’t happen by chance. It started last month, at Mount Rushmore, coupled with a bunch of stories about how Trump had ridiculously inquired about his visage being up there in stone too. But guess what? That stupid story put that image in peoples’ minds.
Like when Trump hugs the flag. Or flops over it, really. It’s ludicrous. But maybe not so ludicrous if the message he wants to send is: “It’s mine!”
No doubt Mount Rushmore, and his White House “makeover” too, were on their face empty, pandering gestures. And almost definitely illegal.
But we admit: we were fooled into focusing on the content of Trump’s speeches—pure lunacy, without realizing the events were almost purely about icons and symbols. Including a fairly new one: not wearing a mask.
The really sad thing about it for people in this country is the recent renovation attempt is about the President’s image only, and goes no deeper.
It’s not really even about getting people to like him more. He seems to have given up on that. Seems to us Trump doesn’t even mind much being seen as evil, as long as he think he’s perceived as great and powerful.
And nothing else except perhaps Trump’s image has changed, despite his party’s efforts last week. The U.S. still has an astounding number of Coronavirus deaths compared to the rest of the world. The streets are still filled with sustained peaceful protests and also sometimes violence.
Trump’s response continues to be to lay off all the responsibility for social unrest on Democratic politicians in big cities far from Washington, so they bear all the weight, and he bears none.
Still, it’s all going on under Trump’s watch, and a lot of what’s happening on the streets—on both sides, as the President likes to say—is a response and reaction to him.
It’s not entirely clear yet how bad this is going to get, except it’s rapidly escalated over the weekend, and it’s getting bloodier. Trump goes to Kenosha, Wisconsin tomorrow.
At the same time, Trump’s throwing economic sops to the public, which are no more than his typical scams. With the hope that people won’t catch on before Election Day. For instance, the newly Presidentially mandated payroll tax cut. Yes, if someone’s got a job right now, they’ll soon suddenly see more money in their paycheck, because taxes won’t get taken out right away. But they’ll still owe those taxes. And may be surprised when they later get a giant tax bill from the IRS. But that bill of course won’t come until a month or so after Election Day. Catching on?
Or if Trump is somehow able to make good on his promise to make those tax cuts permanent, which would almost certainly require Republicans winning back control of the House and hanging on to the Senate, then he it imperils Social Security and Medicare, because that’s what those taxes go toward.
Still, the fact that the actual situation hasn’t changed, only the veneer, means Trump is far from sealing the deal. Really, it’s the White House that’s looking better, not the President. Joe Biden though has got to get people refocused on what’s really real.
Because in order for Trump to ultimately prevail, he’s got to convince voters who earlier in the summer were inclined to have each others’ backs, to turn on their neighbors.
It’s that stark and that simple.
And maybe the anger and fear and uncertainty a lot of us have been feeling, can be refocused so that we’re angry at our neighbors, not Trump. Fearful about rioters and looters, not Trump. And uncertain about Joe Biden, not Trump.
It’s Trump’s best and maybe only shot at victory. And since all Trump cares about is him winning, it’s an end that’s worth tearing apart the fabric of American society apart to achieve.