Joe Biden used his convention acceptance speech to promise he could “overcome this season of darkness in America.” Speaking to a conservative group today, President Trump unveiled what appears to be his thematic response: Darkness? What darkness?
“Where Joe Biden sees American darkness, I see American greatness,” he told a conservative group in Virginia, “They spent four straight days attacking America as racist and a horrible country that must be redeemed. Joe Biden grimly declared a season of American darkness, and yet look at what we’ve accomplished.”
As messaging choices go, this is an odd one. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has leaned on three primary themes. First, Joe Biden is so senile he literally doesn’t know what he’s saying. Second, if Biden wins, he will abdicate power to an AOC–ruled hellscape in which taxes triple and anarchist goons burn down your cities and marry your daughters. Third, and most importantly, Trump is the best candidate to restore prosperity.
Trump has claimed that he personally created the greatest economy in the history of the world (he didn’t), the devastation caused by the pandemic was not his fault (it mostly was) and that, once it disappears, he will restore prosperity. As Mike Pence put it, “we’ll make American great again — again.”
“Make American Great Again, Again” is not obviously not an ideal promise for an incumbent to have to make. But there’s a reason Trump was resorting to it: Everything is terrible now. And Trump’s fans don’t even actually believe things are going well. The most recent Gallup poll asking, “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?” found 13 percent of the public satisfied with current condition and 84 percent unsatisfied.
You know who else besides Joe Biden sees American darkness? Almost everybody. A president who grossly mishandled a catastrophe in the most high-profile fashion possible, denying its seriousness day after day on camera while refusing to accept responsibility, doesn’t have a lot of great options. But telling the country that things are actually going well might be one of his worst possible options.