Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet

Less than four months before the presidential election, Team Trump seems dazed and confused. Held despite warnings from public health officials, the big rally in Tulsa, Okla., was poorly attended. Concerns over turnout factored into canceling a rally in New Hampshire. Revelations that White House staff, Secret Service personnel and members of the president’s entourage who attended recent events tested positive for COVID-19 embarrassed the administration. Most important, Team Trump’s response to this summer’s surge in coronavirus cases and the protests following the killing of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by police officers has been inconsistent and incoherent.

On July 5, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE bit Fox News, the hand that has fed him, for reporting on polls showing that Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE has a substantial lead in battleground states. “We are leading in the real polls,” the president tweeted, without evidence. Declaring that Fox was “getting into CNN and MSDNC territory,” Trump recommended that his supporters switch to OANN, a far-right platform that has promoted false claims that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' What Trump got wrong by pushing coal Trump is fighting the wrong war MORE is secretly bankrolling antifa, that California legislators want to ban sales of the Bible and that the coronavirus was created by the deep state in North Carolina (citing a “citizen investigator” who believes Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPublic health expert: 50 percent effective coronavirus vaccine would be 'better than what we have now' Overnight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically Fauci's DC neighbors put up 'thank you' signs in their yards MORE personally funded the creation of the virus).

Team Trump fought a belated — and futile — fight to suppress publication of John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE’s book “The Room Where It Happened,” alerting potential readers to the former national security adviser’s claims that the president always put his own personal interests ahead of national security. And apparently Team Trump didn’t learn. An ill-considered effort to block the release of a memoir by Mary Trump, the president’s niece, has helped propel her book to the top of the bestseller list. In “Too Much and Never Enough,” the clinical psychologist describes her uncle as “much as he was when he was three years old: incapable of growing, learning or evolving, unable to regulate his emotions, moderate his responses, or take in and synthesize information,” a man who values human beings “only in monetary terms,” subscribes to “cheating as a way of life,” and now “threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.”

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The administration’s apparent plan to urge Americans to “learn to live” with the coronavirus, complemented by the president’s false claim that 99 percent of cases are “completely harmless,” has not played well, especially with older voters, who provided the margin of victory for Trump in many states in 2016. According to recent polls, many Americans over 65 now find Trump coarse, disrespectful and divisive. Feeling at risk from COVID-19, they believe his administration has not prioritized public health over reopening the economy.

Trump has vowed to veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act — despite bipartisan support in Congress and from Pentagon officials — if the legislation authorizes the Department of Defense to remove the names of Confederate officers from military bases, ships, aircraft, streets and other federal property. And Trump has blasted NASCAR, the NFL, and the owners of the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians for succumbing to political correctness. That said, perhaps in a tacit acknowledgment that a substantial majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of race relations and protests, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany recently told reporters that he “was not making a judgment one way or the other” on flying the Confederate flag.

Asked by Sean HannitySean Patrick HannitySunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE for his second-term agenda, Trump replied, “Well, one of the things that will be great — you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. But the word experience is a very important word. ... Now I know everybody, and I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, you know, an idiot like Bolton.” The president did not mention a single proposal policy, or priority. He did not indicate whether Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban MORE, James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Most VA workers find racism 'moderate to serious problem' at facilities l Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war: report Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results MORE, H.R. McMaster, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet America's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE and Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Chris Christie Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet Tom Price: Here's how we can obtain more affordable care MORE were great people or idiots.

Offered a redo by Sinclair Media’s Eric Bolling, Trump rambled for 380 words, the gist of which was “It’s very simple; we’re going to make America great again” (a campaign slogan he stole from Ronald Reagan). 

In one respect, however, Trump has been utterly consistent.

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As in 2016, and throughout his presidency, he is betting the ranch on a nasty campaign that will convince fearful and frustrated whites that protesters for racial justice, who have for the most part been peaceful, are Marxists, anarchists, looters, rioters and terrorists who, along with their Democratic enablers, pose an existential threat to “our” values and institutions.

This time around, it appears, far fewer Americans are buying what Trump’s trying to sell.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.