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 TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE bit Fox News, the hand that has fed him, for reporting on polls showing that Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins 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 ClintonThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close 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 FauciTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter NY health officials to review any vaccine approved by Trump MORE personally funded the creation of the virus).

Team Trump fought a belated — and futile — fight to suppress publication of John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton's defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 HannityWill Chis Wallace's debate topics favor Biden over Trump? Former Florida attorney general calls Kyle Rittenhouse 'a little boy out there trying to protect his community' Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election 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 TillersonGary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November Kushner says 'Alice in Wonderland' describes Trump presidency: Woodward book Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE, James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies Trump says he wanted to take out Syria's Assad but Mattis opposed it Gary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November MORE, H.R. McMaster, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Former Intel chief had 'deep suspicions' that Putin 'had something on Trump': book MORE, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittJuan Williams: Swamp creature at the White House Science protections must be enforceable Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet MORE and Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceConspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Chris Christie Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.