Today, what Reagan once said of “the other side” could easily apply to the Republican Party, which in the course of four short years has remade itself in the backward-looking, intellectually incoherent image of Donald Trump.
There are still nearly 120 days to go until the November election — and it will surely feel more like 1,200. But at this point, polling both nationally and in the battleground states shows Trump falling further and further behind Democratic nominee-in-waiting Joe Biden.
What must be most worrisome for Trump’s strategists is the sharp slippage among two groups who supported him in 2016: seniors and white working-class women.
In recent interviews, when Trump has been asked why he wants a second term, and what he would do with it if he is given one, he has made it clear that he has no clue.
“Well one of the things that will be really great: You know, the word ‘experience’ is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience, I’ve always said that. But the word ‘experience’ is a very important word,” he told Sean Hannity last month.
How inspiring. Reagan’s second term, though scarred by the Iran-contra scandal, saw the achievement of some of his most ambitious agenda items: an overhaul of the nation’s tax system, a rewrite of its immigration laws to allow millions more to share in the American dream and a rapprochement with the Soviet Union that marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
Trump, by contrast, has no ideas — except to continue stoking the resentments and racism of his most ardent supporters. From the base of Mount Rushmore on Friday night and the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday, he turned the annual celebration of our nation’s independence into just another divisive and partisan moment.
At a time when the toll of Americans who have died of the novel coronavirus is nearing 130,000 and the number of infections is hitting new highs with each passing day, what was uppermost on the president’s mind as he began a new workweek?
Apparently not the pandemic. Over the weekend the president claimed falsely that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless,” and he continues to fantasize that covid-19 will simply “sort of disappear.”
No, Trump had another pressing concern. “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
Wallace is the only African American full-time NASCAR driver. A rope tied in the shape of a noose was found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway after he pushed the stock car racing association to ban the Confederate flag at its venues. It was later determined that the rope had been there for months, and was probably tied that way as a pull to open the garage door.
Wallace was not the person who discovered it or reported it to the FBI as a possible hate crime, yet the president is demanding an apology from him. At least as significant — probably more so — is the fact that the president is criticizing NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate battle flag, a symbol of hate and treason.
Trump has not yet had anything to say about Mississippi’s decision to remove that same emblem from the corner of its state flag. Nor has he acknowledged that Confederate statues and monuments should not be part of “our values, traditions, customs and beliefs” that he extolled at Mount Rushmore.
As the country tries to come to terms with the sins of its past and turns toward a future in which it moves closer to being the more perfect union that our founders envisioned, Trump is banking his reelection on clinging to a past that should have been left behind long ago. That is all he has to offer a nation in a time of crisis.
Four more years? Even four more months of this will be hard to bear.
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