Early in his “presidential” career (presidential describing the office, not his behavior) Donald Trump boasted he could literally shoot a guy in Times Square and his supporters wouldn’t care…
And for the longest time – and it has been a long, long, damning, destructive three and a half years – Trump’s shooting maxim held up – to his base. Said base represented only 40%, 45% approval – yes, dismal numbers; but sufficient perhaps for a second electoral college victory handed over by the slack-jaw, net-tax consumer, dependent-on-the-federal-government-handout-trough states. Indeed, the 40% or so, less educated, more impoverished, more dependent, older white, red hat, flyover state folks were just arguably sufficient to give the rest of progressive America four more years of a guy who boasts he could murder people and still hold his base.
And maybe the “shoot a guy in Times Square” jive was the perfect metaphor for the Trump base supporters. Because they’d stick with their cult leader through thick and thin – as long as it was “the other guy,” “someone else,” “s—hole country immigrants,” “evil liberals,” “losers who get caught” – who were the ones taking the bullet, getting thrown in cages, being belittled on Twitter, having their culture and country ridiculed, incurring Chinese tariff costs, paying the astronomical deficit bill, losing their non-Medicare health care.
It’s easy to follow the maniacal cult leader when his venomous seething spits at those you either hate, or at least, don’t understand or value.
But then, the cows came home. Chickens, far too late in returning, finally came home to roost. Gravity regained its relevance. And consequences again became the result of both actions and – inaction.
Let’s stress that thought: Consequences for ineptitude and corruption finally returned and resumed.
Those with eyes to see always knew Trump would be utterly disastrous; the bulliest bull in a global china shop. But Trump Republicans imagined a magical disrupter against a swamp. A Tea Partier’s golden teapot. Evangelicals faithfully fell for a perverse biblical prophet, acting like Satan, but bringing God back to America. Simpletons bought the easy MAGA slogans and Trumpist slurs that made difficult thinking unnecessary. And Trump’s cultish base coagulated and held firm like a hot glue stick – until recent events, as Trump’s radioactivity got too hot and too close – and now the base is melting, melting… and Trump’s approval numbers drip to the floor.
Last weekend we visited with a doctor friend and his very white, very Republican, flyover state wife. Long suspicious of anything Democrat, she’s done with the MAGA movement and has hung up her red hat. Burned it, more accurately. An MBA, she’s repulsed with the flagrant profligacy of the Trump “administration.” Forget the old Republican “fiscal conservatism” – that’s been replaced with money guns firing at will by the self-proclaimed “King of Debt.” She knows there’s hell to pay with the $5 trillion debt ran up in three short years – but her Republican party of today couldn’t care less. She’s disgusted by Republican fiscal duplicitousness and recklessness.
Her husband being a medical doctor, my friend is also done with the fully bungled Trump COVID-19 response. Months late to respond, then temporarily COVID-urgent, now fully COVID-disengaged, Trump has made Americans worldwide lepers – pariahs really, even excluded from European travel. That’s right, Americans are increasingly locked inside our own borders for lack of a coordinated scientific response to an international pandemic. Instead, we have “virus deniers.” “Mask liberators.” “Freedom fighters.” Resultingly, we face rising case and hospital loads that (again) have those with eyes to see quite frightened as to where all this might lead.
No longer are the dead and dying just in those “blue, liberal, evil cities.” Texas, Arizona, Florida, the South – all are now getting hammered. Everyone has friends who have gotten the virus. Most know folks who’ve been hospitalized. Too many have friends or family who have died. COVID-19: It’s not just for old folks anymore.
Trump’s bungling has brought us to the greatest, fastest, economic downturn in American history. The deepest unemployment. The quickest seismic shift in buying and entertainment habits. Everything changed, and our botched response guarantees that, absent fully new thinking, our recovery will be long, painful and brutish. Absent clear thinking by actual science believers; by true professionals, our COVID-19 related collapse would drag on for years, taking “the Trump base” down the drain with the rest of us. Indeed, “the base” has already been hit, and they’re not happy. Witness the “Tulsa rally.”
And now “the base,” along with the thinking world, has heard a media report indicate Trump received briefings that Russia paid Taliban mercenaries to pick off American soldiers in Afghanistan. If proven true, Russia directly paid hit men to kill our soldiers. Trump is reported to have been exposed to the information, and yet continued to cozy to Vladimir Putin. Perhaps Trump would have seen this as an extension of global realpolitik. Sadly, if true, Trump simply wasn’t paying attention – a trait for which he is now infamous.
The faithful base senses this for what it is: Effective dereliction of duty by their commander in chief.
My flyover state friend tossed in her MAGA cap. And she’s just the tip of the melting Trump iceberg. Running against a near-silent Joe Biden in his basement, Trump is down over 10 points nationally. He’s down by five to 10 points in most “battleground” states. Even on Fox News, there’s talk of Trump stepping down from his second-term run for fear of humiliation and that he’ll take the Senate down with him.
From the start, those with eyes to see knew Trump would burn everyone and everything he touched. He always has. Now, even those faithful, who once saw through a glass darkly in faith, have had their eyes opened and are increasingly disgusted at what they see in the one they once believed. They have had it with the carnage, incivility and international free-fall.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.