Thursday, December 10, 2020


Politico's John Harris believes that Donald Trump's 2024 comeback is doomed.
... it will die — most likely with more speed and force than looks possible
Why, John?
The perception that Trump will remain relevant hinges on the possibility that he is a unique historical figure. Trump, however, is singular in one sense only: No politician of his stripe has ever achieved the presidency. In multiple other ways, he is a familiar American type, anticipated by such diverse figures as Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and Ross Perot.

Like Trump, they all possessed flamboyant, self-dramatizing personas. They tapped into genuine popular grievance toward elites, and had ascendant moments in which they caused the system to quake and intimidated conventional politicians of both parties. In every case, their movements decayed rapidly. Cults of personality in American politics are quite common. But they never live long, and Trump has offered no reason to suppose he will be an exception.
But it's not as if Trump shares 99.999% of his politcal DNA with McCarthy, Wallace, and Perot except for a bit of junk genetic material that led him to the White House. Winning is a key difference between Trump and the others -- and remember, tens of millions of Americans believe he won the presidency twice. When Wallace tried to stage a comeback by running for president in the 1972 Democratic primaries, or when Perot mounted a second third-party run in 1996, they could be written off as past losers (although Wallace won three states in the '72 primaries -- and finished ahead of Jimmy Carter in Massachusetts, at the height of Boston's school busing crisis -- while Perot had a higher vote percentage in '96, 8.4%, than any third-party candidate since). Trump, to his base, is seen as a winner. Even those of us who know he lost this year realize he won a hell of a lot of votes.

What else, John?
... the second reason Trump is not well-positioned to retain his hold on public attention: He has largely abandoned any pretense that he thinks about anything other than his personal resentments, or that he is trying to harness his movement to big ideas that will improve the lives of citizens. When he vaulted into presidential politics five years ago, Trump’s still-potent gifts — for channeling anger, for mockery, for conspiracy theory — were once channeled to an agenda that fellow Republicans were largely neglecting, over trade, immigration, globalization, and perceptions of national decline. These days, no one can follow Trump’s Twitter feed and believe that he cares more about the public’s problems than his own, and that is not a recipe for sustaining political power.
This presupposes that Trump's followers care about anything apart from grievance for its own sake. It also assumes that most voters think about issues the way smart people who write for Politico think about issues. When Trump warns about evil Black Lives Matter and Antifa hordes coming to destroy cities and suburbs, his voters think he's talking about issues, and they cheer him (though his voters don't live in cities and don't necessarily live in suburbs). When he says the Biden energy plan will take away voters' cars and force them to build building with tiny windows and electricity that doesn't work when it's cloudy, they think that's a serious policy discussion, too. But mostly, they love the grievance.

What else?
It is true that Trump will not lack for avenues to get his message out. But what will that message be, beyond repeating claims of a stolen election that his own attorney general has said are not true. Conspiracy theories, of course, can have power, even when the evidence is nil — that’s just proof of how deep and wide the conspiracy must go. But this isn’t a promising basis to return Trump to the White House or make him kingmaker.
So Harris doesn't think events will occur in a Biden presidency that Trump will seize on in a simple-minded, opportunistic, slanderous way? He doesn't believe the right-wing media will gin up real and fake controversies that Trump can use as material for his insult comedy?

Look, we can't see the future. Trump might decide he'd rather play golf all day. He might have health problems. He might simply become an older, weaker man, without the energy for endless combat. Or his legal problems might really be burdensome, as most people seem to believe, although I'm persuaded that he'll beat all the raps, as rich people generally do in this country, while leveraging news of the cases to raise even more money from his followers.

He might just give up, or be out of contention for some other reason. But if not, he'll be hard to knock off the throne. He can seem like the guy who can lead his base back to the promised land because they believe he's never lost an election. Even the slogan "Make America Great Again" will have a whole new meaning for those folks in four years.

Trump's voters are reactionaries who fear the future. Why wouldn't they want someone who can restore the past?

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