Donald Trump in 2016 did not only run against the planted rumors of the fake Steele dossier, 90 percent negative media coverage, his own boisterous past, and the “Access Hollywood” tape. He also was campaigning against Hillary Clinton—and the nation’s quarter-century weariness with the Clinton scandals, crimes, money-grubbing, and hypocrisies.
For a quarter of the country, independents especially, a vote for Trump was not a referendum on a Democrat or Republican, or even love or hate for Donald Trump, but rather reflected a “Never Hillary” desire to be done with the very name Clinton.
So, too, in 2020 Trump will not be running only on his own record, or even his person but also against a living and breathing alternative candidate, one that both offers a precise antithetical agenda and displays a concrete personage.
Considering all of that, during the last week, Trump has been given great gifts in a way no one might have imaged just a month ago.
What are Donald Trump’s chances for re-election in 2020?
If history is any guide, pretty good.
In early 1994, Bill Clinton’s approval rating after two years in office hovered around a dismal 40 percent. The first midterm elections of the Clinton presidency were an utter disaster.
A new generation of younger, more conservative Republicans led by firebrand Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” gave Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Republicans also picked up eight Senate seats in 1994 to take majority control of both houses of Congress.
President Obama just said this about Donald Trump’s disparagement of the last seven years: “In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible.” Presidential candidates “don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive, but they’re quick to tell you who to blame . . . I’m here to say there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.” In 2008 candidate Obama, then in Trump’s current contender position, said this about a lame-duck sitting president, while more or less kept talking down both America and its then-current government for most of the campaign: The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents — No. 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic. In Obama’s world, when you attack a sitting president, you do so on grounds that he is unpatriotic; when you are a sitting president you defend yourself from those who do what you did, also on grounds they are unpatriotic. In Obama’s alternate universe, adding $4 trillion is unpatriotic and irresponsible, but adding $9 trillion “by his lonesome” is exactly what? And if Obama as a senator voted to shut down the government over that accruing $4 trillion, what should do the Senate do about double that amount?
Donald Trump has at least three things going for him.
One, the mood of the country remains foul and fed-up — and volatile to the point that conventional wisdom is hardly reliable. Two, Trump has turned invective and narcissism into an art form, and his simplistic putdowns seem to garner ever more attention even as they become more monotonous and banal — largely because they are directed at a despised media elite. Three, the Democratic party is in worse shape than the Republican party. Apparently Trump’s attacks can still safely be savored as long as the Democrats are imploding.
Why did the illegal-immigration issue launch Donald Trump’s campaign? Why did his recent tense press conference exchange with Univision’s Jorge Ramos please even some of Trump’s liberal critics? What is it about illegal immigration that has finally turned off so many Americans?
The rise and continuing popularity of Donald Trump reminds us that “class warfare” is an eternal constant of democracies, for as Plato said, every city is in fact two cities, “one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another.” But possession of wealth is not the only factor in this eternal conflict between the few and the many. The masses of course resent the elites’ greater wealth, but even more they dislike the assumption of superior wisdom and virtue that elites have always claimed as justifications for their status. It is this galling assumption and the anger it arouses in people that Donald Trump has brilliantly exploited.
The coarser and cruder Donald Trump becomes, and the more ill-informed on the issues he sounds, the more he coasts in the polls. Apparently, a few of his targets must be regarded as unsympathetically as their defamer.
Trump is rightly mocked for cynically spreading quid pro quo money around. But he quickly counters that his critics — from Hillary Clinton to his Republican rivals — have all asked him for such cash or for favors.
Trump preps little. He has no real agenda. And he makes stuff up as he goes along. For such a New York brawler, he has thin skin, smearing his critics, often in creepy fashion. How can a former Democrat, once a pro-choice, pro-amnesty liberal and a supporter of single-payer health care, remain the godhead of the conservative base for weeks on end?
Donald Trump — a former liberal and benefactor of Democrats — is still surging. But his loud New York lingo, popular put-downs of obnoxious reporters and trashing of the D.C. establishment are symptoms, not the catalyst, of the growing popular outrage of lots of angry Americans who are fed up.The fed-up crowd likes the payback of watching blood sport in an arena where niceties just don’t apply anymore. At least for a while longer, they enjoy the smug getting their comeuppance, as an uncouth, bullheaded Trump charges about, snorting and spearing liberal pieties and more sober and judicious Republicans at random.