When the Trump magic is gone

7 July 2021

5:23 AM

7 July 2021

5:23 AM

It seems the summertime auguries bode badly for former president Donald Trump, who has made a business of harmlessly splashing his feet in the Rubicon. He has reportedly made up his mind about running for president again in 2024 but won’t say whether he’ll cross the river yet — so you’ll just have to keep giving him your money to find out. Naturally, people are growing bored and frustrated with the spectacle.

QAnon supporters are probably Trump’s most fervent followers, and they received his recent rally in Wellington, Ohio, with a sigh of ennui. Apart from the standard artillery blasting traitorous RINOs, Trump railed against the rising tide of crime and ridiculed ‘woke’ generals. But the diehards snored. ‘Judging by the Trump-supporting normies I live with, they were bored with his speech,’ said one QAnon devotee, articulating the general mood of the online movement. ‘I support Trump but this is getting ridiculous.’

The Ohio rally was followed by a visit to the southern border, where Trump briefly excoriated President Joe Biden’s immigration policies before turning the spotlight on himself. ‘We did a hell of a job,’ he bragged. ‘Now we have an open, really dangerous border.’ Continuing on his quasi campaign trail, Trump hit the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Florida, where he thundered about the plight of his supporters after the events at the Capitol on January 6. ‘And how come so many people are still in jail over January 6 when nobody paid the price for the fire and carnage and death that took place in Democrat run cities throughout our country,’ he said, ‘including antifa, and BLM? How come, how come?’

The problem with Trump now is that if he intends to run for president in 2024, his platform apparently consists of complaining about issues he either created, exacerbated, or did little to nothing about while in power.

The former president surrounded himself with and continues to endorse ‘RINOs’, from Nikki Haley then to Tim Scott now. Trump responded to the crimewave he’s now campaigning against with the Platinum Plan’s concessions, which included more — not less — criminal justice reform, $500 billion in reparations, and the federalization of Black Independence Day, otherwise known as ‘Juneteenth’. Trump staffed his administration with ‘woke’ military brass, like former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who in November called on Biden to eliminate ‘America First’ as a guiding principle of defense strategy. Even as Trump prepared to visit the border, the Government Accountability Office reported that his administration completed just 69 miles of the wall system he promised Americans, undercutting his claim in early June that there were only ‘small remaining openings in areas of the almost 50-mile long wall.’ Even on immigration, his signature issue, Trump’s record is mixed.

The Migration Policy Institute credits COVID-19 with doing more to dramatically reduce legal immigration than any of the Trump administration’s policies. Approval of H-1B visa applications, for instance, reached their highest point under Trump ahead of the pandemic immigration ban. The National Bureau of Economic Research found in June that while Trump ‘reduced immigration among deported Mexicans and at least temporarily among Central Americans, it had no effect on the overall inflow of unauthorized Mexican workers.’ This matters because the narrative that Trump had ‘solved’ the immigration issue was being used by the end of his presidency to justify increasing the levels of seasonal guest workers and rationalize amnesty.

And to the question of ‘how come so many people are still in jail over January 6?’ the answer is simple: Trump didn’t grant them clemency when he had the power to do so, as he did with Charles Kushner, Democrat megadonor Salomon Melgen, or rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. There is no lobby for or political gain in clemency for the forgotten Trump supporters. Vice President Kamala Harris, at least, led efforts to get rioters and looters out of jail through the use of private dollars and foundations that funded legal defense teams. Trump has the wherewithal but not the will and still seems entirely self-centered, as Republican mailers indicate.

The subject line of an email sent to the unfortunate souls whose contact information is forever trapped in the infernal GOP database reads: ‘Trumppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp.’ The body isn’t much better. ‘President Trump is holding an EPIC Rally in Florida TONIGHT and we need your help,’ it reads. ‘We need the Florida Rally Blitz to be a HUGE success to prove that the American People still support President Trump and the GOP.’

A good question is whether Trump understands or, more importantly, cares why some Americans still support him.

Apart from his increasingly stale and contradictory campaigning, Trump faces another problem now: Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The former Navy officer has effectively navigated the truculent waters of everything from the pandemic — he resisted draconian quarantine measures — to crime — he signed a bill that empowers people to defend themselves against looters and rioters. DeSantis isn’t perfect, but he has proven himself competent in a way that Trump did not. In late June, DeSantis edged out Trump in a presidential straw poll, 74 percent to 71 percent. That likely grates on the former president’s pride, who recently asserted himself in the governor’s home state.

Ahead of the Sarasota rally, DeSantis’s team reportedly asked Trump to postpone the event out of respect for the tragedy in Surfside, Florida, where a condominium collapsed, killing and wounding scores. The ongoing search and rescue efforts continue to dig up more bodies in ruins, among which was the seven-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter. A Trump rally amid this crisis, DeSantis’s team argued, would seem tasteless and tone-deaf, especially when the tragedy has resulted in a rare moment of community unity despite the otherwise rancorous political polarization of the times. Trump’s team flatly rebuffed those concerns; his show would go on. Although DeSantis held his tongue, he did not attend the Sarasota rally — and Trump did not mention him there. It’s likely a matter of time before these tensions boil over.

Part of Trump’s success in 2016 stemmed from the magic of the unknown factor. You did not know what you would get but hoped that Trump would punish your enemies and reward your friends at the very least. That did not happen. Trump pledged economic populism in 2016; he instead delivered corporate tax cuts in 2017 and promised a capital gains tax cut in 2020. He extended clemency to the enemies of his supporters while they were hauled off to jail, where guards have allegedly beaten them. Still, it didn’t matter because policy took a backseat to personality and ‘plan-trusting.’ But the plan, if there ever was one, exploded, and Trump supporters are paying the price. All that remains is the persona of Trump that is losing its luster and energy — the ‘magic’ — with every blustering rally.

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