Donald Trump wants to win reelection.
He’s not serious about winning reelection.
How do you square those two statements? You look at what vestiges of a “campaign” he’s running and you realize that there’s nothing in what he says or does to suggest he’s actually doing what is necessary to get to 50% of electoral college votes.
Fundamentally, Trump is in deep electoral trouble. His map is … quite impossible at this point with states like Alaska, Montana, and Texas competitive, and new states like South Carolina creeping into unexpected contention. His campaign is bleeding money on nonsensical expenses like advertising in places like Ohio, which will not decide the election, and insanely high legal expenses as he tries to sue his critics (and reality, at times) into silence. His attempts at generating a white backlash against the movement for Black Lives is going nowhere. His campaign is incompetent, and yet the same people who delivered Trump’s Tulsa humiliation (speaking in front of 6,000 when he had promised 1 million) are still in charge of the joint.
The Trump campaign truly is a disaster. But, we are warned, don’t be complacent! He can still turn things around!
There are reasons not to be complacent: We have a second historic opportunity (after 2018) to utterly annihilate the GOP and reshape American politics for a generation. No one took it easy in 2018 despite polling predicting big Democratic gains. No one is relaxing this year.
But it’s not being “complacent” to simply realize that absent some impossible-to-imagine event, Trump isn’t turning anything around. And the reason is because he’s not trying to turn things around. He is in the mess that he is now because of the very things he can’t stop doing. And it starts with the words that come out of his mouth.
All campaigns have a message. It’s literally the bedrock of any electoral effort: “You should vote for me because _______.” But what is Trump’s?
He had that whole “Hunter Biden in the Ukraine” thing that went nowhere except for the history books as a rare presidential impeachment. There was an aborted attempt to create a thing called “Obamagate.”
Then he was really into protecting Confederate statues, but that has seemingly been set aside as Salvadoran MS-13 gangs make a cameo after their abject failure to deliver Republican victories in 2018. And don’t forget that we were supposed to vote for him because presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden was “sleepy” and “hiding in his basement.” Except, of course, that it was Trump himself who was literally hiding in his basement.
There’s a lot of whining about poor him and presidential harassment mixed in with whatever loony Q-inspired theories emerge from the Twitterverse or Fox and Friends. There’s calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “symbol of hate” while blaming Dr. Anthony Fauci for his continued indifference to actually doing something about a national mass death event that has killed 140,000 and counting.
What else? There’s attacking Joe Biden for wearing a mask because that was somehow a thing, as well as repeated unsupported attempts to tie Biden to the Chinese Communist Party. Why he, in the pocket of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, would want to bring attention to the issue of foreign involvement in the election is beyond any rational attempt to explain.
And this week’s masterstroke of political communication?
Obviously Trump and the GOP were never going to win core Democratic constituencies: youth, voters of color, single women, and urban whites. But the Republican Party finds itself in dire straits because of defections among college-educated suburban white women.
And tell me, what, of that list above, is going to win a single college-educated suburban white woman? Quite the opposite, in fact—every single one of those items merely reinforces the very reasons those women fled from Trump and his party in the first place: his idiocy, his inability to handle a national crisis (much less several of them), his refusal to listen to science and the experts, the racism, the sexism, and his boorish bullying behavior.
And as that tweet from Ivanka shows, their unserious and shallow base impulses. Quite clearly, the tweet was designed to “own the libs” who have been organizing a boycott of Goya products after the company’s CEO publicly lavished praise on Trump. I’m sure their cheering section of deplorable dead-enders cheered along with it. But that’s not winning them any elections! And at this late stage of the campaign, everything they say or do should be laser-focused on winning votes.
But they can’t do it! They can’t run a disciplined, focused, and appeal-building campaign because the person at the top, Donald Trump, has zero interest in broadening his appeal, much less being disciplined and focused.
In 2016, Trump lucked into the “but her emails” bullshit narrative the GOP had spent years building. It was simple enough and stupid enough for him to repeat ad nauseam. But he doesn’t have the benefit of any pre-laid right-wing narratives this year, and he’s made it impossible for the Republican machine to singularly focus on or even create any of their typical manufactured outrages. Huntergate? Obamagate? Yeah, nice try, a--holes.
So that’s where we are.
Donald Trump wants COVID-19 to go away, but he won’t do anything to make that happen. He certainly can’t sic his lawyers on the virus to either threaten it into oblivion or pay it off for its silence.
In that same way, Trump wants to be president for four more years, but he won’t do what he needs to do to make that happen.
He’s failed upwards too many times in his unjustly charmed life. But too many people now know how dangerously incompetent he is. His luck has finally run out.