Trump’s Solution to a Drop in the Polls: More Racism

It’s not part of some grand strategy. It’s just his gut instinct.

The country is in chaos and Trump’s reelection chances are growing dimmer by the day. He mishandled the onset of a pandemic and-even as the number of cases in many states continues to grow-wants to pretend like the whole thing never happened. Signaling that the toll coronavirus has taken on our economy is continuing, the stock market took a deep dive on Thursday. As if that wasn’t enough, the killing of George Floyd by police officers sparked a national outcry against police brutality.

So what does Trump do in the midst of all of this? His instincts are to ramp up the flames of racism and xenophobia.

The President remains convinced the racially tinged culture wars he stoked as a candidate in 2016 and throughout his presidency remain a winning strategy, people familiar with his thinking say. As polls now consistently show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by double digits, Trump has insisted on attempting to re-create the political formula that helped propel him to the White House.

That is basically an admission that the president knows that his ticket to the White House in 2016 was racism, so he thinks it will work once again. We’re already seeing those instincts in action.

While a call has gone out to rename military bases that were named after Confederate soldiers, the president has promised that it won’t happen on his watch.

On a day when even Nascar recognized the mood of the country by banning the use of Confederate flags, Susan Glasser is right to suggest that Trump is going all-in with losers.

I know it is hard to remember all the crazy things that happen in the course of a week in Trump’s America, but I will try hard to remember this one: a week when I saw troops in the streets and worried about a years-long economic crisis; a week when an untamed pandemic killed up to a thousand Americans a day; a week when massive nationwide protests suggested that our dysfunctional, gridlocked political system might finally actually do something about the plague of police brutality and systemic racism. And then there was the President, who chose to spend the week refighting the Civil War—on the losing side.

On Thursday, the president travelled to Dallas, Texas where one of the events was a roundtable discussion on race and policing. The problem is that a few key players were not invited: Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall, Sheriff Marian Brown and District Attorney John Creuzot, all of whom happen to be African American.

The president’s team is also discussing a plan to blame one of his favorite targets for the increase in COVID-19 cases. They’re floating the idea that it is all the result of travel from Mexico. Anyone else remember when Trump tweeted this?

Now, instead of blaming Mexico for crime, it looks like he’s planning to blame that country for an “infestation” of coronavirus.

But the most obvious move that signals Trump’s attempt to fan the flames of racism involves the date and location of his first campaign rally since the spread of coronavirus shut things down. I’ll let Michelle Goldberg explain.

It’s important to keep Trump’s instinct for escalation in mind when considering his decision to hold his first post-shutdown rally in Tulsa, Okla., next Friday — which is Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the end of American slavery. Tulsa was the site, 99 years ago, of a white rampage in the thriving commercial district known as Black Wall Street; with as many as 300 people killed, it was one of the worst incidents of racist violence in American history.

“The president’s speech there on Juneteenth is a message to every black American: more of the same,” tweeted Representative Val Demings, a Florida Democrat reported to be on Joe Biden’s vice-presidential shortlist.

Following the 2016 election, a lot of pundits suggested that Trump had a unique ability to tap into the mood of the country. While I don’t want to rehash all that led up to his victory in the electoral college, I’d like to ask those pundits what they think about that analysis now, as he demonstrates that he is completely oblivious to the mood of the country.

This is a president who actually bragged about his reliance of “truthiness” by saying, “I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” So I’m not going to credit him with any kind of grand strategy. His instincts are racist and he projects that onto the electorate, assuming that he can win once again by fanning the flames. Is America ready to prove him wrong? We’ll see.

Donate Now to the Washington Monthly and your gift will be doubled

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.