How Bad Could It Get?

All of the published opinion polls show President Donald Trump trailing in his race for reelection, and although he claims that his own polling show him with a comfortable lead we believe that’s another o the boastful lies he routinely tells. Down-ballot polling and anecdotal evidence and the way things are going lately suggest that every major news organization including Fox News and every pollster including Rasmussen are not conspiring to mislead the public.
Trump and his die-hard supporters will note that last time around the polls failed to predict his Electoral College victory, but they tend to forget that the polls almost precisely predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2 percent win of popular vote and the polls in the four states states where Trump eked out victories were all within their margins of error. This time around the national polls have Trump losing by 9 to 14 points, and faring as badly in those battleground states he won in 2016. Worse yet, the state polls also show that some states Republicans have long taken for granted are now battleground states.
According to a poll by commissioned by the Dallas Morning News, Biden even has a five point lead in Texas, which is very bad news for Trump. Texas is by the most populous state the Republican party counts on, and losing it would make Trump’s reelection impossible. The good news is that Biden has only 46 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 41 percent, with 14 percent of the electorate in the undecided column, bu that’s not great news. Trump needs to win well over have half of the undecideds just to catch up, and that will require time and money that can’t be spent in other states will need to prevent an electoral landslide.
If current trends continue Trump might be forced to write off the four Rust Belt states that got him elected in 2016, and try to hold on to such once reliably Republican states as Arizona and North Carolina and even Georgia and Kansas, as well as populous and always-competitive Florida and Ohio, where the polls show him in a fight for his life.
Current trends might not continue, of course, but at this point it’s hard to imagine what might reverse them. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and deaths are climbing steadily nationwide and spiking to new records in Texas and Arizona and Florida, while d public health experts are saying the worst of it might come fwhen lu season arrives in the fall. Economic experts are predicting that unemployment will remain in double digits through the end of the year. Perhaps Trump’s steadfast stand for the Confederacy and crackdowns on peaceful protests against racism might turn things around, and his pardons of convicted felons won’t undermine his “law and order” positions, but so far they’ve only been driving his approval ratings down.
Trump is a master at marketing, if nothing else, and maybe he’l pull something out of his Make America Great Again ball cap. It will need to be something pretty damned good, though.

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Military

Mark Esper is the United States’ Secretary of Defense, at least for now. He’s openly stated his opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that would allow President Donald Trump to use the military to quell the recent unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd while being arrested, and although he quickly backed away from the statement he might not be defense secretary for long.
Trump has deployed National Guard units to patrol the streets of Washington, D.C, and urged governors to also use the National Guard, and he’d clearly love to unleash the active duty military on the streets. Ever eager to project an image of toughness, Trump hopes to “dominate the battle space,” even if it’s a peaceful protest in a public park that’s blocking his walk to a photo opportunity, and seems to care little that the military isn’t eager to take up arms against its fellow citizens.
Esper is a decorated combat veteran of the Army, and is steeped in the military’s proudly apolitical tradition. Trump’s first defense secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis, came from the same tradition and broke with his habit of not commenting on political matters to sharply criticize Trump with an essay that ran in The Atlantic magazine.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing by,” Mattis wrote. “We must reject any notion of our cities as a ‘battle space’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’ Militarizing our response, as we witness in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society.” He went on to criticize Trump for dividing rather than uniting the country.
Trump predictably responded by “tweet,” calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated general,” and despite his having appointed Mattis to be defense secretary adding “I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree.”
Although he talks tougher than any decorated combat veteran, Trump never served in the military, dodging the draft during the Vietnam War with educational deferments and a note for a podiatrist who rented his office from Trump’s father. He boasts about how he’s strengthened the military with increased defense spending, which is true even if he exaggerates how badly it fared until he came along, but he’s often clashed with the military leaders who don’t like being used as political props and disagree with his pardons of convicted war criminals. Trump doesn’t understand military culture, with its notions of honor and adherence to strict codes of conduct, and he doesn’t care about any Constitutional restrictions on its use.
That 1807 law does give Trump authority to quell an insurrection, but no previous president has invoked it, even in the turbulent 1960s, and Mattis and Esper are probably right that now is not the time to do so. Trump would be wise to listen, rather “tweet” more tough talk.

— Bud Norman