WHAT THE TRUMP RALLIES MEAN
(Computer problems: Back at it) We have arrived at the last week of the strange 2020 presidential campaign. The strangeness of the campaign is partly due to its being held during an unchecked pandemic. The candidate most politically responsible for the seriousness of the pandemic, Donald Trump, is attempting to campaign as though the pandemic does not exist. While Trump rallies on, his Democratic opponent Joe Biden has, until recently, run an underground campaign from his basement in Delaware.
Now, at the end of his disciplined campaign, Joe Biden has come out of his basement. But, while the Democratic campaign is still being held “virtually”, Donald Trump and his dutiful Vice-President have been campaigning to mass rallies with little or no attention to the precautions necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
To a visitor from Mars the rallies organized by Donald Trump would make no sense at all. Those rallies draw thousands of people in conditions that clearly seem likely to encourage the spread of the virus. Those worshipful packed-in thousands may feel good but they are certainly not going to gain much information. Trump, usually dressed in his black overcoat and wearing black gloves while sporting his incongruous red cap, says almost nothing of substance.
Trump does not deal with his own administration or its goals. He does devote time to attacking his opponents, but the attacks are not directed at anything that Biden and Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris have actually proposed. Truthfully, the president’s discussion is virtually content free, a kind of stream of consciousness rant. When the president leaves all those people in the cold and flies away in his warm plane, they will have learned nothing.
Think carefully about what is really happening: There is a Republican presidential campaign. That campaign is being waged by surrogates who speak for the president. It is also being waged on the internet and in the traditional media with thousands of expensive ads (that campaign has spent something on the order of a billion dollars). In fact, that campaign has had to curtail much of its advertising toward the vital end of the campaign because it is running out of money.
Donald Trump never cared about traditional campaigning but he loved the rallies. During the 2016 campaign he held rally after rally. To him, that was the campaign. He did not appear to even have been trying to win. He had wanted to use the publicity from his campaign to “improve his brand”. No one was more surprised (and perhaps more dismayed than he was) when he won.
Once in office, he never really did the studying, attended the endless meetings, or carried on the grueling routine decision making that all other modern presidents have done. He just was not equipped to do those things. What he did want to do was the rallies. He loved getting up in front of thousands of worshipful people and letting the love wash over him. For Donald Trump that is what being president was all about. So, even after he was in office in 2017, the rallies went on and on.
And now, the need for the feeling that he derives from those rallies is so great that he is back at it again. It really has very little to do with the campaign. Those people would vote for him anyway. In fact it is very likely that he is losing votes by holding those rallies. Undecided voters realize that he is probably condemning some in his audience to death so that he can stand up there and be a hero. That is so off putting that they will cast their votes elsewhere.
This is a terribly meaningful presidential campaign. Time is running out for the Republicans as they are presently constituted. In politics, demographics are destiny. The demographics now seem to dictate that Republicans as they are now constituted are destined to become a hopeless minority. The only question is whether that happens this year or four years from now.
If Donald Trump manages to be returned to office it means four more years with the government deadlocked, the pandemic raging on unchecked, and a more functional government delayed for another long four years. It also means that the Republican Party will continue to function locally while it rots at the top.
It will be far better for the Republicans to take the loss as a party this time. They can then begin the difficult process of party reform while the Democrats work to get the federal government back on track and the pandemic under control. That means that, in four more years, we could be in a far better place than we are now.
There will be one clear loser. Donald Trump will have to survive without those rallies!