Commentary: Donald Trump should be toast; but will precisely the problems that should sink him help keep him afloat?
Capping four years of incompetence, lawbreaking, and ethics violations, Trump has mismanaged the pandemic so badly the U.S. easily leads the world in per capita cases and deaths; and just when several troubling police shootings of Black people have awakened more whites to systemic racism than anything since the 1960’s, Trump is still peddling racism. Logically people would reject Trump to save lives and to diminish our society’s racism and divisiveness. Plus, Joe Biden capped the Democratic “convention” with the best speech of his life. Why wouldn’t Biden rout Trump?
Polls show people recognize Trump has screwed up big-time; but beyond the death toll, COVID-19’s big impacts are confusion, grief, fear, and cabin fever. Though most people respect the restrictions many state governors have imposed, despite Trump, many people are impatient, angry, and frightened. History shows that such people often leap into the hands of an authoritarian demagogue making false promises that it’s all okay, or that only he can fix it.
Could impatience with the restrictions that stall COVID-19’s spread, and fear of the unknown course of the pandemic, draw many to Trump’s simplistic worldview? Yep. From the frying pan into the fire. But it’s happened before.
Even some white people whose eyes were opened by the murder of George Floyd are not immune to Trumps’ thinly-veiled racism. The George Floyd murder was horrible; but if Trump says violence could reach my neighborhood, . . .
Substantively, in the debates, Biden should cut Trump into pieces. Biden knows his stuff; he projects a good nature and good intentions; Trump is lazy and doesn’t read. But Trump will freely assert whatever comes into his head, in oral bumper-stickers. He’ll project absolute certainty, and complete contempt for Biden. Biden’s thoughtful responses may get lost, or seem weak by comparison, or exceed his time limit. Fact-checking by networks or newspapers will seem dry and unconvincing – and be labeled an anti-Trump plot.
If you read transcripts of Biden's and Trump’s convention speeches, you’d laugh at Trump. While Joe was Mr. Good Guy, Trump (low-energy as he was) stood in front of a live crowd, at the supposedly non-partisan White House, with scores of flags and bigger fireworks. That image will stick. Most folks can’t or won’t compare their speeches’ accuracy.
Yeah, the polls are cheering, although some who fancy Trump don’t admit it. (Some of those people are friends of mine.) But polls only approximate what people think and feel.
Vote totals are different. Our undemocratic electoral college system means Trump could win despite losing the popular vote by 5%. Extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression mean 100 strong Biden voters may not translate into 100 valid votes for Joe. That’s particularly true with balloting by mail. Many mailed ballots get lost or disallowed.
So yeah, I worry. Trump is destroying our country.
I don’t predict a Trump win. But it’s clearly possible. Each of us should spend more time than we might wish on trying to do what we can to convince everyone we know to vote for Mr. Biden and make sure Biden voters vote early and accurately.
If you’re a Trump voter, look honestly at the man’s conduct.
Our democracy is at serious risk. Our founders (in Ben Franklin’s words) gave us “a Republic – if you can keep it.” We can. Will we?