Unlike everything else I write, I don’t have any data to point to, no polls to bolster my argument. This is pure conjecture, but it is an educated guess as to the evolving contours of the race.
As Kerry Eleveld wrote yesterday, “Over the course of 24 hours, the central pillar of Donald Trump’s campaign strategy came crashing down … Trump’s air of invincibility has been entirely destroyed.”
Trump has studiously worked to present himself as “strong,” “resolute,” “a winner.” His campaign has been about vigor, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s lack thereof. “Sleepy Joe,” as stupid a nickname as it is, was fully intended to convey contrast: Trump, strong. Biden, weak.
None of that was on starker display than the debate question about wearing masks. “I will put a mask on when I think I need it,” Trump said, pulling out what might’ve been a Kleenex from his coat pocket. “I don’t wear masks like him,” he said, pointing to Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Here’s Trump — who just announced he and Melania are under quarantine for possible COVID infection — mocking Joe Biden at Tuesday’s debate for wearing a mask pic.twitter.com/Q9cFtqezwc
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) October 2, 2020
That Biden, what a weak piece of shit, so afraid of the corona that he wears a big mask. A Strong man like Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t let no virus scare him!
And yet he now lies in a hospital room, with comorbidities compounding his frail condition. Where is that strength he so laughably claims to have? Where is his, to use Kerry’s word, invincibility?
I always laugh at how liberals can’t handle good news, while Republicans can’t handle bad news. While many on our side react to a good poll by saying silly things like “act like we’re 10 points down!” their side will just follow along with Trump’s proclamations that it’s all fake news and the media, deep state, and swamp are conspiring to depress conservative turnout.
And they’re right. When a candidate is down significantly, like 10 points, it depresses turnout. Who wants to spend their precious time, especially in a pandemic, working hard for a loser? That’s why they work so hard to create their alternate reality, one in which Trump is totally cruising to reelection!
But what happens when Trump isn’t around to mobilize his base, tell them to stop paying attention to reality, and use hate, fear, and bigotry to rally the faithful? The Trump campaign certainly sees the danger:
New: Trump camp announces “Operation MAGA” to enlist “top-level surrogates, campaign coalitions & Trump supporters to rally behind the President & carry the campaign forward until the President returns to the trail.” VP, Trump Jr. & others will hit key states later this week.
— Monica Alba (@albamonica) October 3, 2020
Yeah, good luck with that. The conservative base doesn’t care about any of those people. There is only one person that matters. And that person, that supposed symbol of vigor and strength, is laid up in a hospital bed because of his rank idiocy and stupid. And while the Trump camp insists he’s fine and “in good spirits,” we know that’s bullshit because, you know, he’s not tweeting.
Will Trump be able to regain enough strength and vigor to at least tap a few buttons on his phone? I certainly hope he gets better. I need him to be alive to see himself become the biggest loser in American history. I want him to see his business empire crumble under incompetent stewardship and legal scrutiny, him and his children in prison, that bullshit facade of success crumbled to dust. Death would be too easy an escape. I am genuinely rooting for him to pull through.
But by all indications, this is not an easy disease to recover from. The road is long and hard. Will he have the strength to type bullshit tweets again? I hope so! Will he have the strength to muster up the kind of rage and sense of grievance that is so effective in riling up his base? That’s a whole different question, and it’s easy to see him having difficulties elevating the political temperature.
You take away Trump’s ability to manipulate his supporters’ lizard brain, and what do you have left? Even a small 5-10% erosion in intensity and passion among his supporters would prove catastrophic—not for Trump! He’s already losing. But for the rest of the Republican Party, already facing deep losses in the House, Senate, and state-level races.
You add deep electoral losses (like a defeated Sen. Lindsey Graham and a massive Electoral College Biden win) and a Trump too sickly to really work up the requisite level of outrage, and the chances of post-election violence we’ve been fearing are also severely diminished.
It really is ironic, isn’t it? Had Trump taken this pandemic seriously from the beginning, something he clearly understood (as he told Bob Woodward in those recorded conversations), today would look different. Imagine an America where Trump could claim credit for minimizing COVID deaths, having encouraged everyone to wear masks from the start, and shut down the country while ensuring a smooth and efficient distribution of PPE, ventilators, and other necessary equipment. Imagine further that Trump worked with Democrats to provide several rounds of economic stimulus, minimizing the nation’s economic pain and saving millions of jobs. As a result, schools could now reopen fairly safely, as they have in well-run countries like Korea, New Zealand, and Germany.
Trump could claim credit for all of that. And, as a bonus, he wouldn’t be laid up in the hospital too sick to tweet or call in to Fox and Friends. The Senate would be doing regular business, confirming more conservative judges including the big one, the open Supreme Court seat.
And who could punish Trump for any of this? Certainly not liberals, who were begging him to take the pandemic seriously. The deplorables? They’d happily do whatever Trump asked them to do. They’re stupid lemmings. The media would give credit where credit was due.
And we’d be running a much tighter race, one in which Trump had proven himself a genuinely strong and capable leader.
It’s genuinely tragic that none of that happened, and that we had to lose 210,000 souls (and counting) to Republican idiocy. And now, Mr. “I’m too strong to wear a mask unlike stupid Biden and his big-ass mask” is fighting for his life.
This isn’t the story that will motivate the deplorables to work harder to turn out the vote or disrupt the post-election transition of power. Quite the opposite, it smells of defeat and surrender.