Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

And the Least Hated Candidate Is …

Keeping score has proved difficult in this crazy presidential election year, as the polls have been all over the place. One poll released Thursday had presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump with a four point lead, another had presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leading by six points, and while the average of all the polls still has Clinton leading by five points that’s down by a point or so over the past week and barely over the margin of error and really rather embarrassing given her huge advantage in advertising buys and her opponent’s gaffes over the same period. The only thing that every poll seems to agree on is that neither candidate is at all well-regarded by a vast majority of the American public.
That outlier Rasmussen poll showing Trump with the four point lead has him at only 43 percent, with only 78 percent of Republicans supporting him, which is worrisomely less than the 93 percent than the hated-by-Trumpsters Mitt Romney won in his losing effort in ’12, and we note that the reputedly Republican-leaning pollsters are charging extra to find out the favorability ratings of the candidates. The poll by the reputedly Republican-friendly Fox News that has Clinton up by six points freely acknowledges that an eye-popping 89 percent of the country thinks that “hot-headed” aptly describes Trump, with another 83 percent thinking that “obnoxious” is also a fitting description for the presumptive Republican nominee, but it also finds that only the most gullible 30 percent of the country considers Clinton “honest” and a wised-up 58 percent believe she is “corrupt.”
All that public opprobrium against both parties is entirely justified, as far we’re concerned, and it’s somewhat heartening to see all the polls confirm that a clear majority of the country is paying enough attention to be dissatisfied with its likely choices. At this point either party could win in a landslide if it would only nominate almost any of the 300 million or so American people who aren’t quite so odious as either Clinton or Trump, but it seems unlikely either will do so.
The smart play for the Democrats would be for the Democratic Attorney General to indict the presumptive Democratic nominee on the all-too-plausible charges of violating any number of federal laws with her private and insecure e-mail system and even her “family foundation” that was taking large donations from countries that were also doing business with her as Secretary of State. This would not only disprove a widely held and firmly established suspicion that the current Democratic administration is hopelessly lawless and corrupt, but allow them to nominate any old doctrinaire Democrat that you’ve never heard of because at least they’re not known for three decades of unrelenting scandals. They could go with pesky rival and self-described socialist and full-blown nutcase Sen. Bernie Sanders, who easily trounces Trump in all the polls that still bother to ask about the matchup, or any number of options ranging from faux-Indian and bona fide woman and liberal darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the idiot vice president of an awful president who somehow has the best poll numbers of any politician in the country at the moment. That Democratic Attorney General was caught having a recent on-the-tarmac heart-to-heart conservation with the former Democratic President whose wife is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, though, and her Democratic President of a boss has already endorsed her candidacy, so we can’t see the Democrats making the smart play.
That usually Republican-friendly Fox News’ poll has more than half of the Republican respondents saying they still want a nominee other than Trump, and there are still efforts afoot among some of the delegates and influential players and such once-respected conservative media as National Review and The Weekly Standard ourselves to make that happen, but we expect the party to once again miss an opportunity. The Republican “establishment” that Trump vowed to destroy has proved as effete as he always said it was, and that stubborn 17 percent of the country that doesn’t think Trump is obnoxious would make a win over even such a vulnerable nominee as Clinton difficult, but at this point it seems unlikely the party will choose any of the many potential candidates who would creditably represent the party’s past principles, and if even they were unknown it would be because they weren’t known for their own past 30-plus years of private sector scandals and widely noted obnoxiousness. We figure that such a candidate would easily trounce not only Clinton but her pesky self-described socialist and nutcase challenger or that idiot vice president as well, but at this point it’s a risky play even if the smart one, and the Republicans are up until recently the the risk-averse sorts.
We have no more idea how it will all turn out than we do about who will win the World Series, but by our scorekeeping America seems to be losing.

— Bud Norman