I Don't Know That This Helps the President
UPDATED: This morning, after I wrote this, the Park Service says tear gas was not used, just smoke. Some, however, dispute that no tear gas was fired, even though it does appear the Park Service did not fire it.
Were these normal times, I’d have said last night was the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, but I think he could get re-elected. I think the optical contrast between his speech and his walk would have done real and lasting damage in more normal times. But, I think the issue voters fret over in the November ballot box is still over the horizon — be it the alien invasion of July or the murder-raping seagull pandemic of late October. So there won’t be lasting damage and by November people will forget all about it. I just don’t think it helps.
It was disgusting and horrific to see anarchist protestors try to burn down St. John’s Church in Washington the other night, but also unsettling and unseemly to have the President declare himself on the side of peace-loving protestors as tear gas rained down on nonviolent protestors 100 yards from the President just so he could walk over to St. John’s and hold a Bible in the air.
Who thought that was a good idea? I’m used to marching to my own beat on this stuff, but I personally found it off-putting. I’m really glad he addressed the nation. I just think he should have gone about it differently. Maybe spend more time in the Word instead of holding it in the air for pictures.
The President has his base. He is not going to lose his base. They love him. But they are not enough to win re-election. In the key demographic of “who are you voting for if you hate them both,” Biden wins now and Trump won that demo in 2016 and won the presidency with it.
President Trump has run a series of good ads with a tag line along the lines of “you may not like him, but you like his policies.” It’s true. But women and independent voters increasingly don’t like his policies related to this sort of stuff because they are tired of the chaos and tie his polices to making the chaos worse.
Using the Bible for a photo-op at a church after having tear gas fired off at nonviolent protestors to clear a path will win the President the votes of people who are already going to vote for him. He had the opportunity to move the needle with persuadable voters in a significant way and he did not.
I’m just not sure what the strategy is. The man who is not a dictator and has no real power to call out the military to suppress riots took a dictator-like walk to a church and said he had the power to use the military in ways he cannot unless the governors ask him.
It baffles me. I would prefer most of the policies that have come from this administration to continue as opposed to the policies and nominees we would get from the Biden Administration. It just seems there is no strategy and that is the strategy. But a strategy that consists of day to day winging it can work against Hillary Clinton, the only politician more hated in American politics than Donald Trump. It probably can’t work against Joe Biden, a man a lot of people like even if they don’t necessarily want to support him.
Look, feel free to disagree and you paid subscribers feel free to chime in below in the comments and tell me how wrong I am. But last night didn’t work for me. I could give him the speech. But the speech and the church photo-op after the tear gas to clear a path after saying he was on the side of peaceful protestors? That was Fonzie jumping a shark.
If I could offer up a suggestion to the folks in the White House — keep the strong law and order tone. It works for him. I actually think the speech was mostly on point and will benefit from the left’s tendency to overplay its hand, which I think will happen. But also, show more empathy for Americans who, because of the color of their skin, are more likely to run afoul of the law.
It is possible to be a man of action and compassion and President Trump is running against the very man who helped emboldened and expand the militarization of the police and the targeting of young black men. Be law and order and be a reformer too. Capitalize on Biden’s record. Donald Trump ran as the great disrupter. But the place is totally disrupted right now and people want calm. So let the disrupter become the builder of something better than that which he disrupted.
We don’t need Donald Trump of “You’re Fired” fame now. Everybody’s been fired. We’ve got over 25% unemployment. We need Donald Trump of “build that ice rink under budget and ahead of schedule” fame. That Donald Trump wins big time in November.
My friend Chris texted me yesterday. He said the President’s call with the governors reminded him of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. I think there is a cautionary tale there for the President and, if he still has that Bible handy, he needs to open it and read.
Rehoboam, after the death of Solomon, went to Shechem where the elders and tribes of Israel gathered before him and said, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.”
Rehoboam listened to the old men of Judah who counseled him to make peace, lighten the load, and unite the tribes. Rehoboam then asked the young men of Judah for their advice. They said to add weight to the yoke, increase the burden, and punish the tribes.
Rehoboam went with the young men instead of the old. As a result, Jeroboam led all the tribes of Israel north and established a new kingdom. The divided kingdom lasted until the fall of Israel.
Had Rehoboam listened to the old men, he would have kept the kingdom united. Like my friend Chris, I worry the President’s messaging right now could lead to more divisions. As I noted, I think the law and order messaging works for him. I think he is comfortable with it. But I think it needs to be recast.
As another friend, Ryan, points out to me, the left fired up Occupy Wall Street in 2012 to give Barack Obama a way to contrast himself with Romney and Romney’s perceived corporate raider weaknesses with the public. Now, the left is firing up riots that only seed more chaos and disruption while the Disrupter-in-Chief is in the White House. They are turning the President’s strength into a weakness.
He needs to listen to the old and steady hands, not the advisors who think he needs to accommodate no one.