The Rose Garden and White House lawn events staged recently as substitutes for campaign rallies have been bizarre enough, with Donald Trump summoning a captive audience for his stream of conscious ramblings.
But the second event, delivered between trucks, apparently unveiled Trump’s newest campaign strategy for reversing his plummeting numbers in the polls. In typical Trump fashion, he evoked the looming threat of the coming apocalypse if he isn’t reelected. According to our president, if he fails to be reelected, “The end result will be to totally destroy the beautiful suburbs.”
This is particularly bizarre when one considers the fact that America is currently living through a real apocalypse, a public health apocalypse and an economic one.
While neither is of Trump’s making, 60% of Americans agree that Trump is doing a lousy job responding to the first two crises of his presidency that are not of his own making. Rather than changing course and heeding science and public health experts, however, this president apparently feels he can distract America from what it is actually suffering by evoking another dystopian fantasy.
What is his rationale for this strategy, despite the reported reservations of his own political advisors?
First, this is the exact strategy that has worked politically for Trump in the past; divide Americans through fear, spiced by a conspiracy theory with racial overtones. Remember birthism, the conspiracy theory that launched his political career?
Second, he needs the white suburban vote to be reelected, a vote that largely abandoned him and the GOP in 2018.
Third, as we have all come to know, Donald Trump virtually always opts for his perception of short-term political gains over longer-term substantive accomplishment in the service of the national interest.
Fourth, white flight has long been an engine for the growth of suburbs and since Richard Nixon this has been a mainstay of GOP political strategy.
Finally, because his administration’s response to the pandemic has been a failure, he wants to talk about everything except the pandemic and what, at least in his mind, can distract white suburbanites from the pandemic?
There are only two things: the health and welfare of their kids and the resale value of their homes.
He surrendered any credibility about school-age kids’ health with his demand for all schools to open despite the health warnings during surging COVID cases, especially in the Trump-country southern-tier states. Collapsing home values… Yeah… That’s the ticket, at least in Trump World!
Can this strategy work? I don’t think so. My house has gone up in value since the pandemic as the flight from cities is now driven by COVID fear, not fear of integrated neighborhoods. Moreover, the suburbs are much more diverse now than they used to be.
In fact, before the pandemic, the trend was more toward flight back to the cities than from the cities.
But even more than that, based on the polls, it seems that America is largely suffering from something else, Trump fatigue. For lots of Americans the Trump Reality Show has been much too exhausting, especially in the midst of a real apocalypse that shows no sign of abating before Election Day.