Monday, September 02, 2019


Here's a headline from The Washington Post:
Trump’s lost summer: Aides claim victory, but others see incompetence and intolerance
"Lost summer"? Makes sense to me -- but does the president feel that way?
When President Trump presided over the battle tanks and fighter jets, the fireworks and adoring fans on July 4, he couldn’t have known that the militaristic “Salute to America” — as well as to himself — would end up as the apparent pinnacle of the season.

What followed was what some Trump advisers and allies characterize as a lost summer defined by self-inflicted controversies and squandered opportunities. Trump leveled racist attacks against four congresswomen of color dubbed “the Squad.” He derided the majority-black city of Baltimore as “rat and rodent infested.” His anti-immigrant rhetoric was echoed in a missive that authorities believe a mass shooting suspect posted. His visits to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso after the gun massacres in those cities served to divide rather than heal.

... His trade war with China grew more acrimonious. His whipsaw diplomacy at the Group of Seven summit left allies uncertain about American leadership.
And this happened just as campaign season is beginning:
In the final lull before the 2020 campaign starts to intensify this fall, Trump could have worked strategically to solidify his position and broaden his appeal. Instead, his words and actions this summer served to further divide the country and to harden public opinion about the ever-polarizing president....

“Trump squandered a summer of opportunity to enhance his reelection campaign,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and chief executive of Canary, a drilling services company, wrote in an email. “While Democrats are divided and focused on their own primary, President Trump could have focused on solving the trade war, a genuine infrastructure plan or a decisive foreign policy victory. Instead, he fanned the flames of the trade war, attacked Baltimore, ‘the squad’ and the Federal Reserve, and failed to add a cornerstone achievement to his 2020 election credentials.”
But everyone's forgetting that Trump is the world's greatest expert on winning elections -- just ask him and he'll tell you -- based on his record of precisely one victory (in which, of course, he didn't win the popular vote). Trump didn't squander the summer -- he did exactly what he wanted to do. He divided the country. He wanted to divide the country.

That's the reason I'm (cautiously) optimistic about the 2020 presidential election. Trump's poll numbers are bad, but they could get better -- as the Post story notes, Barack Obama's numbers weren't great in the summer of 2011, and he went on to win reelection decisively. The difference is that Obama wanted to appeal to a broad coalition of voters. Trump doesn't. He wants to piss off everyone but the superfans.

Maybe this works if you're running a business that's disdained by most consumers but loved by others -- like, um, the Trump Organization. If you keep selling the Trump brand in a way that alienates certain customers, it might be very appealing to others, who'll buy more and more Trump merchandise and spend more and more time at Trump properties.

But that doesn't work for voting. The superfans can't vote more than once. Trump already has them locked down. They're going to vote. They're already maximally motivated, yet the president thinks it's a brilliant strategy to keep motivating them by alienating everyone else, including potential voters who haven't made up their minds how to vote (or whether to vote).

There'll be many more stories like this one, stories that ask, "Why isn't Trump trying to broaden his appeal in time for the election"? He won't. He thinks he's hacked electoral democracy. It wouldn't take much to make Trump a very tough candidate to beat, but he intends to do the exact opposite of what it would take.

He might still win, of course. But if that happens, it will be despite his best efforts.

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