The American Federation of Trump-Haters and Never-Trumpers have arrived again at their quadrennial promised land: Trump is finished, a wounded monster lurching about, baited by his innumerable enemies, lashing out mindlessly in all directions. His COVID-19 experience is a gift from God; the diligent lackey Bill Barr is a whipping boy for the long-promised Durham indictments’ non-appearance; raving and interrupting good Joe Biden in their debate has backfired; all the self-serving blowhardism is just miring him deeper in the quicksand as he sinks inexorably out of sight. The Trump era will soon be just a bad dream as the Democrats and their look-alike Republican extras regain control and the 90 percent of the federal bureaucracy that is monolithically Democratic sees off another crusading yokel who came to drain their swamp. What a relief that this horrifying aberration is finished and can go back to being someone we laugh at and poke with sharp sticks, as we move the state slowly to the left, addicting more and more Americans to the munificence of America in its endless quest to be cleansed of its white superiority and capitalist avarice.
What is missing from this picture is the cautionary statement that it is an illusion. What we’re seeing is the media and parties and polls being pushed forward by the wall-to-wall Trump-hating assault team almost completely unattached from any serious canvass of public opinion. Even as almost all the polls come tumbling down showing a double-digit lead for Joe Biden, none of the states considered solidly red have moved, and Trump has, if anything, gained and in some cases taken the lead in the twelve potentially swing states that will determine the winner: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Yet even Rasmussen, a bold veteran pollster who has often been among the few upholders of Trump’s electoral viability, has collapsed and joined the mournful chorus of those projecting a crushing defeat for the administration.
The discordant note in this crescendo of Democratic triumphalism is that believable state polls show Trump leading in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio, and less than five points behind in the other six states except Nevada, where the margin is thought to be 6 percent. This is an election where it is all to play for. The formal and informal Democratic establishment convinced itself that the country had been repelled by Trump’s belligerency in his debate with Biden. There is no reason to think that the country was much impressed with it, but there is reason to believe that it wasn’t much impressed with Biden’s calling the president a “liar, clown, racist,” and telling him to “Shut up!” either. Trump had no monopoly on indignity in that debate and he easily won the exchange of points, including the heavy-handed but, in the circumstances, not altogether uncalled for: “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.”
Nor should it be assumed that the country followed the Trump-hating networks in comparing his jaunty wave from the White House balcony after he returned from Walter Reed Hospital after an extraordinarily rapid recovery from the coronavirus to a uniformed, jut-jawed Mussolini responding with a straight-right-arm salute from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia to thousands of black-shirted followers shouting up in unison “Duce, Duce!” The same commentator was reminded of “the Czar family,” presumably referring to the Romanovs (whose balcony appearances were seldom photographed), but more likely thinking of the British royal family, which appears on the balcony at Buckingham Palace on appropriate occasions. President Trump would surely not be insulted by comparison with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, the then princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and Winston Churchill, appearing on the balcony to receive the applause of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen on the day of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, May 8, 1945. It does require, however, in respect of all of these historical precedents, a considerable and malicious imagination to be reminded of them by Trump waving to a handful of White House employees, security personnel, and media from an altitude of one floor. The professional Trump-haters are prepared to identify his every word and action with something pretentious, contemptible, or dishonest, though often they are quite uncontroversial. As Dr. Freud famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
At some point, the majority of Americans will give Trump some credit for coming through the coronavirus as gallantly as he did, for accelerating the pursuit of the vaccine, and for the protection of the vulnerable, the revival of the economy, and the facts that over 99 percent of people infected with the virus survive it, none of which could be easily deduced from the relentless hysteria propagated by the Democratic media in order to justify an extended economic shutdown and lay the full responsibility for the economic consequences on the president’s allegedly incompetent response to the pandemic. Even media commentators who are not rabidly anti-Trump cannot resist implying that his excessive optimism at the onset of the pandemic, and some of the absurd and demeaning exchanges he had with members of the press at the daily sessions where he shouldered the vice president aside to speak for the commission, constituted mismanagement of the crisis rather than merely an inappropriate reappearance of the self-centered verbosity against the temptations of which this president is sometimes powerless. The distinction between substance and optics will assert itself.
The Democrats were never going to get all the way to Election Day while keeping their quavering and wobbly candidate in his basement, ostensibly for health reasons. And they are not going to get all the way there without a substantial number of thoughtful voters reflecting upon the fact that there is no Democratic campaign except frenzied denigration of the president and an irrational super-spreading of panic about a virus that is not seriously dangerous to the overwhelming majority of the public. The country will not fail to notice that this campaign has been conducted on the candidate’s behalf by an unprecedentedly biased and unprofessional national political media. And contrary to widespread caricature, not all those who will remember that Trump cut their taxes, practically eliminated illegal immigration, made it much easier through deregulation to operate a small business, avoided a furious green assault on the petroleum and automobile industries, renegotiated poor trade deals, rallied America and much of the world to the threat posed by China, revived the concept of nuclear nonproliferation, reduced drug prices, and eliminated oil imports are Archie Bunker look-alikes in MAGA hats swilling beer in front of their television sets. And some will remember the evildoing of those who confected the Trump-Russia hoax, the obstructionist chicanery of the authors of the impeachment trial, and the questionable conduct of the Democratic candidate and his family in dubious financial endeavors in Ukraine and China.
This mighty fest of mudslinging and defamation has undoubtedly denied the president the heavy reelection that he has earned. Having had as brilliant a first term as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, he deserves, as they did in 1936 and 1972, to take over 60 percent of the vote. He will not do that, but those who think he will be buried by 15 million votes are chronic Democrats replicating Talleyrand’s description of the Bourbons returning to Paris in Wellington’s baggage train after Waterloo: “They have forgotten nothing, and they have learned nothing.” They may learn an unpleasant lesson on November 3.