It’s easy to forget, with the unending cavalcade of life-altering news, that we are deep in the midst of an election year. There are just 146 days until Nov. 3, and it’s shaping up to be one like no other.
Around this time in 2016, Hillary Clinton had secured President Barack Obama’s endorsement, and a meeting at Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner was starting to spark some suspicions.
“That’s adorable,” said 2020 when asked for comment. Compare it to a global pandemic, nationwide shutdowns, an economic recession, nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, millions of Americans unemployed and mismanaged elections from Wisconsin to Georgia, all combining to overwhelm our systems and our voters.
Conventional incumbent presidents might offer up a plan for navigating all of this, or any of this. Conventional presidents might actually campaign on that plan to restore peace, justice, economic health, national security, unity and a general sense of feeling better. Conventional presidents might take this unprecedented opportunity of colliding crises to show some leadership.
Not President Trump. Instead of doing any of that, he’s reveling pathetically in the chaos like a pig in mud, rather than attempting to pull himself out of it, for either the good of the country or the good of his own campaign.
The pandemic has been marked by Trump’s denials and incompetence. Everyone but him was to blame for a virus that has taken more than 110,000 American lives, with spikes in infections now happening in more than a dozen states. He contradicted his own experts and pushed phony solutions and phony conspiracy theories.
He has responded to the horrifying death of George Floyd and the pain that has caused black America by militarizing Washington D.C., tear-gassing peaceful protesters for a self-satisfying photo op, pushing an insane conspiracy theory about an injured septuagenarian protester, attacking Floyd’s character, and glibly saying, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country.”
Lest you thought Trump was even a little interested in quelling black communities’ distrust of police and white America, he has tapped noted white supremacist Stephen Miller to write a speech on race relations — which is a little like asking Jeffrey Dahmer to write a cookbook.
Unsurprisingly, none of this buffoonery, cowardice and chaos has endeared Trump to most Americans. In the latest CNN poll, Trump’s approval is sitting at a paltry 38%, which, as Matt Drudge pointed out, puts him in Jimmy Carter territory.
Trump is also down a whopping 14 points to Joe Biden, which has prompted some seriously alarming behavior by the president. He reportedly spent the weekend calling friends and advisers in hopes that they would tell him the polls are wrong. “He’s asking people to agree with him that the polls are biased. But no one is telling him what he wants to hear,” according to a Republican briefed on the calls, talking to Vanity Fair.
So out of ideas is Trump that he is reverting to the old standards that whipped up his base the first time around. Over the weekend, he was back on the anthem-kneeling controversy he stoked in 2017. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished and flown high,” he tweeted, in response to Drew Brees’ apology for saying kneeling disrespected the flag. “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”
And the campaign is ramping up for rallies again, presumably in hopes that being surrounded by adoring supporters will at least soothe Trump’s aching ego if not actually expand his voter base.
That’s it, folks. That’s the whole plan to get America through these crises and white-knuckle Trump over the finish line: Cower in the chaos, delight in the discord, prey on the pain. Rinse and repeat until Nov. 3.
Between now and then, you’ll hear some people try to spin this as a “strategy” and others insist that this is a version of leadership. It isn’t. It’s just an unstable and desperate guy who’s wholly unqualified for the momentous challenges we’re facing and is hoping enough people won’t notice. We do.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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