Donald Trump’s bizarre performance at the town hall in Wisconsin, pre-recorded by Fox News and then later aired, was a seismic event, not only in Trump world but in the larger world of the GOP. Frankly, i’m surprised Fox aired it. James Carville said on Brian Williams’ show that Trump’s chances of resigning are greater than his chances of winning. Then Chuck Grassley indicated his alarm.
Will somebody w access to the Oval Office read the WSJ editorial “The Trump Referendum” to President Trump. We won’t hv more good scotus justices or the best economy in 50 years like we hv had if he doesn’t follow that advice
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) June 26, 2020
Chuck Grassley is 86 years old, but he’s never seen anything like this in his life either. And the Wall Street Journal article he references is a scorcher and we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s look at another Wall Street Journal editorial, this one by Peggy Noonan, who puts forth a compelling argument for why Trump is going down in flames and why he is losing his oft-vaunted base. She says, “He doesn’t understand his own base. I’ve never seen that in national politics.” Neither has anybody else, so far as I know.
His long-term political malpractice has been his failure—with a rising economy, no unemployment and no hot wars—to build his support beyond roughly 40% of the country. He failed because he obsesses on his base and thinks it has to be fed and greased with the entertainments that alienate everyone else. But his base, which always understood he was a showman, wanted steadiness and seriousness in these crises, because they have a sense of the implications of things.
Interesting way she phrases this last sentence, “they have a sense of the implications of things.” She doesn’t say they know what’s going on and are making informed decisions. No, they’re low information, no information people, just like the Republicans like, and they vote based on their “sense” of “implications.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s no disrespect for the writer here — quite the contrary, I find her candor refreshing in the extreme. It’s rare coming from the conservative end of the spectrum.
Some of them, maybe half, are amused by his nonsense decisions and statements—let’s ban all Muslims; let’s end this deadbeat alliance; we have the biggest, best tests. But they are half of 40%, and they would stick with him no matter what. He doesn’t have to entertain them! He had to impress and create a bond with others.
The other half of his base is mortified by his antics and shallowness. I hear from them often. They used to say yes, he’s rough and uncouth and unpolished, but only a rough man can defeat the swamp. Now they say I hate him and what he represents but I’ll vote for him because of the courts, etc. How a lot of Trump supporters feel about the president has changed. The real picture at the Tulsa rally was not the empty seats so much as the empty faces—the bored looks, the yawning and phone checking, as if everyone was re-enacting something, hearing some old song and trying to remember how it felt a few years ago, when you heard it the first time.
This might now be the true face of the base, the ones that were going through the motions and yawning in Tulsa — or at least the 20% of it that isn’t hard core that Noonan spoke of. They showed up perfunctorily and the ones that bothered to show most probably will vote for Trump because of the Faustian bargain of the judges and abortions and all that song and dance. So they’re not really voting for Trump at this point, they’re voting the generic Republican ticket. And that’s going to upset Trump. This is divorce time.
In the end, if the president loses, he’ll turn on them too. They weren’t there for him, they didn’t work hard enough, they’re no good at politics. “After all I did.”
That will be something, when that happens.
Nobody knows what’s coming. On New Year’s Eve we couldn’t imagine the pandemic, economic contraction and protests. We don’t know what will happen in the next four months, either. I believe in the phenomenon of silent Trump voters, people who don’t tell anyone, including pollsters, that they’re for him because they don’t want to be hassled. But eight, 10 or 14 points worth? No.
I think this is a realistic appraisal. Now let’s go to the other opinion piece which Chuck Grassley desperately wants somebody to read to Donald Trump — I guess because he figures Trump can’t read it himself, and I certainly don’t disagree with the senator on that point. The piece is entitled “The Trump Referendum” and it’s by the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This isn’t one columnist here, this is the editorial board, the official voice of the paper.
President Trump may soon need a new nickname for “Sleepy Joe” Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend that’s exactly what Mr. Biden will be on Nov. 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him.
Mr. Trump refuses to acknowledge what every poll now says is true: His approval rating has fallen to the 40% or below that is George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter territory. They’re the last two Presidents to be denied a second term. This isn’t 2017 when Mr. Trump reached similar depths after failing to repeal ObamaCare while blaming Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. He regained support with tax reform and a buoyant economy that really was lifting all incomes.
I must have been in a coma when the Trump economy, post tax reform, was “lifting all incomes” — “really.” The version of reality that I recall, because I lived through it, is that Barack Obama prevented a second Great Depression after the housing bubble exploded, and any stellar employment numbers and “lifting of income” took place during his administrations. And he handed Trump a booming economy on a silver platter and now we’re in a recession — officially since February — less than four years later. But, this is the Wall Street Journal, so take a lot of this with a grain of salt. The reason I reference this editorial is two fold: 1. It gives you insight into exactly what they want Trump to do. They’re telegraphing the GOP platform at him, but he doesn’t get it; and 2. This is the GOP’s last ditch effort to wake Trump the hell up and get him to act right before they are forced to accept their fate, and they don’t know how dismal it is going to be.
But he wasted his chance to show leadership by turning his daily pandemic pressers into brawls with the bear-baiting press and any politician who didn’t praise him to the skies. Lately he has all but given up even talking about the pandemic when he might offer realism and hope about the road ahead even as the country reopens. His default now is defensive self-congratulation.
The country also wants firm but empathetic leadership after the death of George Floyd, but Mr. Trump offers combative tweets that inflame. Not long ago Mr. Trump tweeted that a 75-year old man who was pushed by police in Buffalo might be an antifa activist. He offered no evidence. […]
Mr. Trump has little time to recover. The President’s advisers say that he trailed Hillary Clinton by this much at this point in 2016, that they haven’t had a chance to define Mr. Biden, and that as the election nears voters will understand the binary choice. Perhaps. But in 2016 Mrs. Clinton was as unpopular as Mr. Trump, while Mr. Biden is not.
Chuck Grassley wants Trump to hear this because this is as politely as it can be put to him how he has royally effed up. And Grassley would unquestionably like, as would all the others, for Trump to adopt the following cheery platform, that would “appeal to millions” in the wake of that mortifying nothing-burger answer that Trump gave to Sean Hannity in Wisconsin about his agenda for a second term.
As of now Mr. Trump has no second-term agenda, or even a message beyond four more years of himself. His recent events in Tulsa and Arizona were dominated by personal grievances. He resorted to his familiar themes from 2016 like reducing immigration and denouncing the press, but he offered nothing for those who aren’t already persuaded.
Mr. Trump’s advisers have an agenda that would speak to opportunity for Americans of all races—school choice for K-12, vocational education as an alternative to college, expanded health-care choice, building on the opportunity zones in tax reform, and more. The one issue on which voters now give him an edge over Mr. Biden is the economy. An agenda to revive the economy after the pandemic, and restore the gains for workers of his first three years, would appeal to millions.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe we should send them a note.
“Dear Republican Party:
“Your standard bearer isn’t going to do these things, because he doesn’t know how and moreover, he doesn’t give a damn. He got into this game, and game is all it is to him, because he’s a game show host and a snake oil salesman, and that’s all he knows.
“The GOP is going to take a fall, but do you know when that fall began, ladies and gentlemen? It began the day this clown descended the escalator, with an R behind his name and with paid extras cheering him on. And if you find defeat a bitter pill to swallow, you wrote the prescription yourselves when you put him on the top of your ticket. You wrote, produced and directed this shitshow and you own the copyright, all the negatives, foreign distribution, everything.”
“Trump is your Frankenstein’s monster and you will never be able to claim that you didn’t know when you sold the mad doctor the castle and saw him bringing up wheelbarrows full of body parts, and saw strange lights at night and heard he was doing experiments with electricity that you had no idea anything like this could happen. You were warned, ad nauseum and you laughed and doubled down and made excuses. Just any moment now, your monster was going to morph into some other kind of a being and become “presidential” and be capable of doing the job he was elected to do. And it never happened, because it never could. It wasn’t within the creature’s makeup to do so. Now your monster is out of control and turning on you — finally — and he’s going to destroy you. And this is surprising, why exactly?”
I cannot assess the nature and extent of the damage that the GOP will sustain and clearly neither can they at this point. This situation is developing day by day. But right now, if I was a Republican looking for reelection, the last thing I would want is the endorsement of Trump. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski will come out of this smelling like roses, relatively speaking. All the rest who trembled in trepidation of Trump’s Twitter feed are going in the same direction he is — down, down, down, the dark ladder. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of poseurs and sycophants claiming to be public servants and literally ignoring their oaths of office, so that they could bask in the limelight and enjoy the trappings of fame and power. They may have gotten on the right side of Trump but in doing so they got on the wrong side of history. And for that, personally, I can never forgive any of them.
This country had a close encounter with fascism and tyranny, which I frankly hope never to see again in my lifetime. We need to get the guardrails on both the constitution and safeguard our voting system and it wouldn’t hurt to throw out the electoral college, since the one time in 240 years that the occasion arose for which it was designed, a fail-safe mechanism, in case something like this happened, it failed utterly and miserably. If Trump had been smarter, we would be toast. We saw what happened in Germany in the 30’s and it damn near happened to us. We have to make sure this never happens again.