Donald Trump persuaded enough people to vote for him that he became president. That may have surprised him — and I think that it did. It certainly surprised a lot of other people. Me included.
I was surprised because I did not think Trump could form a connection with enough voters in order to win. Sure, he would empower the hard right. But the hard right is a minority. Trump was able to connect with more folks than just the hard right. So how did he do it?
When you think back, his message was very, very dark. He was saying that America was in danger and that only he could save the country because he was smart. His bank account, jet and book on negotiation were offered as proof of how smart he is. His snarkiness also created the appearance of being above traditional debate. “I know better!” he said. Everyone else is just a caricature, like “crooked Hillary”.
But here is the thing. What are Americans in danger from? ´Trump’s storyline needs a villain if it is to be credible. If there is no villain, there is no need for a hero. No need for heroic action. No need for a dude like Trump who has nothing else to offer (like experience in government, credible policy ideas, or presidential temperament). Indeed, without a villain, Trump starts to look — heaven forbid— like a fraud! Could it be?
So who is the villain? Hillary fit the bill nicely during the election. But after she lost, she disappeared. Locking her up now would make no difference to anyone except her, Bill and Chelsea. Who is the villain now?
Trump tried to persuade us that immigrants are the enemy. Especially Muslim immigrants and undocumented immigrants. But the reality is that most Americans are not negatively affected by either group. The claim is abstract and after the courts blocked Trump’s immigration bans, no one protested in the streets. No one is concerned about immigration now. Trump’s vilification of immigrants has not endured as a powerful political message. It is not providing him with political cover to help him get beyond his screw ups.
Ove the years, republicans have thrived on making democrats the villains. Well along came the Trumpcare flop. That could not be blamed on democrats as republicans control both houses of Congress. And after years of saying that they have a better idea than the terrible Obamacare, republicans made a hash of it — not even able to get any legislation enacted, let alone legislation that passes the laugh test. The dems came out of this mess looking pretty good for a change. Even Obamacare looks pretty good, compared to anything else on the table.
Jim Comey?`What was wrong with Comey except that he was doing his job as FBI director? Whatever you think about Comey, he was not generally perceived as a major threat to the country.
The Chinese? Nope. They were the villains for a while in Trumpistan, but now they are helping out with the North Koreans. The North Koreans? The North Koreans are not about to take over the country.
The media? Well, as much as Trump can rant and rage about media, Americans like media. They love getting the scoop. They love the entertainment. They are not about to agitate in the streets in order to get rid of the first amendment. Indeed, at least a few realize that no such protests would be possible without the first amendment.
Perhaps worst of all, the traditional villains, Russians, who regularly do gnarly stuff were invited into the oval office. No villains there — despite the fact that by all accounts they tampered with the election. In other words, by all appearances, Trump does not recognize the obvious and immediately dangerous villain in the story. Indeed, Trump is likely to regret the photos of him and his Russian buddies yucking it up — courtesy of a Russian cameraman (no US press had bee invited to the meeting).
Here is the simple reason why Trump is now toast. His type of politics needs villains and he has run out of villains. There is only one potential target left on the stage — and it is a big one — Trump himself.