Vox is running an interesting post on Donald Trump’s re-election strategy. The key point is that the Donald is “doubling down” on his 2016 strategy to divide and conquer, but that times have changed. Thus, the strategy probably won’t work this time around.
… a Washington Post-Schar School poll in June found that most Republicans supported (the black lives matter) protests that emerged after (George) Floyd’s death. And Trump is losing the support of crucial parts of his political base, like older voters and white voters, as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on people’s health, mobility, income, and wealth. These factors likely explain much of why Trump is the worst-polling presidential incumbent at this point in the race in nearly three decades.
While I agree that the above trends evidence likely defeat for Mr. Trump this November, I think the analysis is a bit myopic. Have we already forgotten the historic dem victory in the 2018 mid term elections? Since then, the factors that created the “blue wave” have not diminished in importance. To the contrary, there has been a steady, smokey exhaust of political calamity wafting from the White House that culminated in the impeachment melodrama. And it will be difficult to forget how GOP senators refused to see what was staring us in the face: no matter what one’s political views may be, Donald Trump does not belong in the White House.
When you add all of this up, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Donald Trump has never really had a strategy for governing at all. He is a “one act pony”, and the act was wearing thin even before he was elected in 2016. As Howard Stern said, the dude will say anything in order to get attention. So as not to be “boring”, Trump concocts and delivers his daily fantasy laden diatribes, totally oblivious to truth, impact or whatever. The only thing he pays attention to is whether he is front page news. And using that criteria, Donald Trump can rightfully claim that his presidency has been a success — for him.
The good news is that fears that some folks had back in 2016 (me included) that Trump had some sort of nefarious plan to subvert democracy were overblown. Trump is not capable of that sort of strategic thinking, though Bill Barr may be.
The bad news is that Trump has proven himself to be both venal and woefully incompetent. and as Susan Rice points out, he has surrounded himself with sycophants. Out of that stink pot, we got disasters like the botched hurricane relief for Puerto Rico (remember that one?) and now the non-existent Covid response. Need we mention that Donald Trump has eroded confidence among our allies that the USA can be trusted to lead the free world? And sadly, Trump has given confidence to others that they can act with relative impunity as the Trump led Untied States is not likely to respond. Not only that, we now have a strutting gaggle of Trump “wannabe’s” who think being like Trump is a smart way to gain power.
Boiling this all down, we are likely to remember Trump as the personification of a very stupid idea. That stupid idea is that politics is just a form of entertainment, like a sporting event. With that mindset, it doesn’t matter which team you support, and “truth” and “good governance” are whatever politicians say they are in order to win elections. And so political journalism is about whether a given “tactic” will be successful rather than whether it is remotely reasonable. Even the rather sober Vox article linked above falls prey to this mentality. I call this the era of “politainment” (the fusion of politics and entertainment) — and it has had a peculiar sort of logic for the most overly entertained people since the Romans. Game on, dude!
One hopes that we have found out the hard way that politics does matter, and that if we take politics as a form of entertainment, we are, as they say, riding in “a canoe without a paddle”. Now is the time to remind ourselves that reality has a way of barging into the party sooner or later, and when it does, we cannot save ourselves by repeating “It’s only a movie!” Yes, I am saying that things could get even worse if we do not learn from the last four years. So it will be interesting to see if after November, a somewhat more sober sort of national politics emerges in the United States. I do not ask for a 21st century Gladstone, but I do hope we can avoid a Boulanger or even worse a Nicky II.
One can dream, right?