Why Trump’s Losing

Why Trump’s Losing, by Rich Lowry, a never-Trumper Republican.

Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won with anything like Trump’s negative net approval rating. …

Trump is thin-skinned, self-obsessed, small-minded, intellectually lazy, and ill-disciplined. These never seemed to be great qualities in a chief executive, but they have caught up with Trump over the last six months in particular. They have played into his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. When times became more serious, he remained as unserious as ever.

COVID has been the main factor worsening his political condition. …

He relies on gut instinct and gets his information from what he happens to see on television or hears from friends. He is extremely disinclined to acknowledge mistakes, process bad news, or think beyond the news cycle. The structure his staff has built around him is designed more to manage his ego and shield him from bad news than to yield wise decisions. His understanding of the relationship between the president and other political actors is rudimentary, causing him to alternate between passivity and assertions of total control. …

Trump hasn’t conveyed steadiness, resolve, empathy, and seriousness of purpose to the public — the sort of thing that other political figures, whatever their ideologies and even competence levels, have done to their own benefit — because he does not possess them. He does not give much sign of even recognizing that the public would appreciate them. Reassurance is not his brand. “Fighting” is, and Trump especially enjoys taking public shots at people who, by virtue of their position, cannot fight back. His most successful recent such campaign has targeted Dr. Anthony Fauci — if it counts as success for Trump to persuade many of his supporters to distrust one of his own advisers. …

Some well-wishers urge Trump to talk about a second-term agenda, but he cannot do it credibly when he has done so little to advance a first-term one. Immigration and health-care plans are always just about to be unveiled, but never are. “Infrastructure week” has been deferred so often as to become a running gag. What he is really offering is four more years of enraging liberals. That promise, at least, is something he can deliver on.

Trump won last time in large part because he was blessed by an equally unpopular opponent in Hillary Clinton. …

Trump’s most consistent argument against Biden has been that the Democrat is declining mentally — which has the disadvantage of lowering expectations for Biden that he can then exceed.

More recently, Trump has been emphasizing the idea that Biden would be a tool of a rising Democratic Left. That’s probably his best line of attack, but it also indicates his challenge. If his campaign has to warn about Biden and Ilhan Omar in its email pitches, it’s because talking about Biden alone isn’t scary enough. And the correct strategic judgment that Trump can win the race only if he makes it a choice between him and Biden rather than just a referendum on his own performance constantly runs into the candidate’s desire to make himself the sun and the moon.

While policy hasn’t been his focus, Trump has done some good and important things with his presidency. He has been much better than conservatives initially expected on abortion and religious liberty, judges, and deregulation. If nothing else, he has represented a reprieve from Hillary Clinton, who, even if she had been a weak president checked by a Republican Congress, inevitably would have scored some progressive victories difficult or impossible to reverse, especially on the Supreme Court.

The never-Trumpers hate Trump because he took the Republican Party away from them, and threatens their donor money.

Trump fights, while the never-Trumpers for years betrayed the right by playing poodle to the left. Consider the issue of immigration, for example. The never Trumpers were happy with high immigration from the third world, because their donors wanted cheap labor, they wanted cheap household help, and because they didn’t want to be called “racist” by their colleagues on the left. But that immigration, quite predictably, is changing the character of the US to make it less white, less exceptional, and less “American” — and much more left wing, pro-big government and pro-welfare.

So, like the article above, the never-Trumpers make a big fuss about the “character” of Trump. Ok, no one is perfect, but they harp on about character because talking policy would reveal how much they have become lapdogs of the left. We’re not hearing a lot of “high immigration is ok, regardless of who comes in, because the US is a proposition nation” anymore, because the cat is out of the bag. At least Trump fights for the interests of his voters.

Unfortunately for Trump his enemies, such as the never-Trumpers, control much of his party. He hasn’t been able to implement much of his agenda — such as “build the wall” — because of the opposition from the swamp and from his own party.