If there’s one thing we should all have learned by now, it’s that Donald Trump can’t make it on his own politically. Having the charisma and authenticity of a turkey vulture, Trump requires a nemesis, a Sherlock Holmes to play foil to his own Moriarity, so to speak.
Just follow the bouncing ball. In 2015, when he rattled down that schlock gilt escalator in Trump Tower, his foils were the 16 other candidates running for the GOP nomination, and then Chairman Reince Priebus and the RNC itself.
From the time he became the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton was his next, and most natural target. After the election, when Clinton went back to being a full time wife and grandmother, Trump was lost. He tried rekindling the flame at his rallies, but they just weren’t into it anymore.
After the election, the media became Trump’s new Ernst Blofeld for a while. They were a natural target because they insisted on reporting uncomfortable truths and facts about His Lowness. Trump even invented a pet phrase for them, one so simple even his doltish followers could remember it, “fake news.” But the bloom withered on that vine when the press refused to engage with him, and stuck to reporting the facts.
But then came Trump’s most durable, and longest lasting adversary. Robert Mueller. Mueller was in many ways a dream foil for Trump. Since he never said a word in public, Trump could paint Mueller any old way he wanted to. And when the media reported on the investigation, Trump could resurrect his mantra of “fake news.” But even the golden era of Mueller must come to an end, and after Wednesday, Trump’s most worthy adversary will be no more.
But, who to replace Mueller? Well, how about four young, outspoken women of color, all of whom just fortuitously happen to be women of color? A match made in heaven. And it started out that way. Trump freely bashed them for their extreme progressive views, especially on immigration, and gave Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic caucus fits.
But then Trump once again stepped over that invisible line he keeps tripping on. Needlessly, he brought religion and racism into the equation. And as well as it plays for his base, it has stirred extreme consternation among his GOP legislators. You can tell this by their response. In normal situations, GOP congress critters defect Trump’s gaffes by either laughing them off, or claiming that Trump either misspoke or was misunderstood. This time they’re reduced to either ignoring the question, or flatly stating that Trump isn’t a racist, and getting the hell out of there.
But once again, Trump is about to lose his foil. In about 10 days or so, Nancy Pelosi is going to bang the gavel down, and The Squad are going to go home to their families and constituents for 5 weeks or so. And that’s going to be bad news for Trump, because he’s still going to need a punching bag. The fallout from the Mueller testimony is likely to last for weeks, especially if subsequent polling shows an increase in the appetite for impeachment. And with congress adjourned for recess, the only political news will be from the Democratic primary campaign, where a good portion of the output will likely be hammering Trump over the head with a rhetorical 2×4. Trump is going to need a distraction, to keep his base bovine and uninformed.
That’s the problem, for Trump and the base. Who does he pick? With congress in recess, most of his likely targets will be largely off of the radar. And since this exercise is largely for his base, it’s going to have to be somebody easy to hate, meaning most likely a minority, either religious or ethnic. But it can’t be a nobody either, because while it’s easy to hate a minority generally, it’s harder to hate Luis, the guy who rings up your six pack at the 7-11. It’s going to have to be someone notable.
That’s the rub. Trump erred badly with The Squad, his racist attack immediately made them sympathetic figures, and galvanized support behind them, not just Democrats, but at large, making it harder for his caucus to back him up.The video of the reception that Ilhan Omar got when she stepped out of the terminal in Minneapolis must have driven him insane. What if he picks another woman of color, one without some of the controversial baggage that Omar carries, and whacks away at her. If he goes back into the mud, it’ll have to be further than he went with The Squad, or his base will be cheated. But if he does, his incumbents could well spend weeks facing questions from their constituents about how they can remain silent when confronted with such obvious racism? But at least it will change the topic from impeachment.
None of this may come to pass. But Trump’s troubles are not going to end for the summer recess, and history has shown us that Trump is incapable of dealing with problems, instead counting on deflecting to scapegoats as a distraction. Does Trump finally step over the line in a way that requires the incumbents who must support him if he is to survive to face some uncomfortable questions and outrage from their own voters? Time will tell.