Whether Ronna McDaniel came up with the headline for her pre-convention op-ed or USA Today supplied her one, it’s a true howler: “Democrats’ Doom-and-Gloom Convention No Match for President’s Forward-Looking Vision: GOP Chair.”
McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, devoted a small segment of her essay to Trump’s “forward-looking vision,” which is sort of a combination of empty boasting and shoulda-woulda-coulda rationalization:
Our convention is going to celebrate everything that makes America the greatest country on earth and everything we can achieve in the future.
Out will be Hollywood actors, in will be regular Americans who will help tell the great American story and how President Donald Trump has fought for them.
People who know his policies have made their lives better. The same policies that empowered what looks like the greatest economy since World War II are propelling the great American comeback following the pandemic.
But the bulk of McDaniel’s table-setter is about those evil socialistic Democrats, who are controlled by the radical left and cackle with glee at the tax increases and fracking bans that would surely destroy American prosperity for generations to come. And here’s the heart of the sunny, optimistic Republican message, so upbeat that it almost forces you to whistle a happy tune:
Democrats couldn’t even muster the courage to call out even once at their convention the looting and violence that continue to inflict chaos and mayhem in city after city, night after night.
Yes, four years into the Trump presidency, Republicans are still talking about the “American carnage” that in his inaugural address he pledged would “stop right here and right now.” It would be fortunate for any incumbent president if he could run as an insurgent outsider and blame all the country’s problems on someone else. But it has never, ever, worked before. That means to win reelection, Trump is going to have to overcome (a) historically terrible right track/wrong track assessments of the country’s direction (currently at 25 to 70 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics averages); (b) chronically poor-to-mediocre job-approval ratings (43-54 approve/disapprove); and (c) virtually identical poor personal-favorability ratings (42-55 percent favorable/unfavorable).
Yes, the RNC can be expected to harvest and exaggerate the slim evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached and passed its moment of maximum lethality, though Republican efforts to do this earlier turned out to be premature, and the likely fallout from forced school reopenings Trump championed may soon overshadow any good news. But it may be too late to salvage Trump’s reputation for handling this crisis with even minimal competence. His approval rating for handling the pandemic has been underwater since early April and is now (at 41-58 approve/disapprove) as stagnant as his overall job-approval rating.
Add in the fact that Trump’s reelection strategy, long before the pandemic, was always focused on exciting his narrow base and demonizing his Democratic opponent, and you can understand why the odds of an upbeat, “forward-looking” Trump reelection campaign is about as likely as a presidential address embracing such communistic, anti-God ideas as loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek. It’s definitely far too late for him to develop a credible second-term agenda, either. He doesn’t really believe he needs one, so manifest is his greatness.
And so the Trump 2020 campaign is doomed to a dark, hateful vision of American dystopia that will somehow take a turn for the worse if Joe Biden is elected. Clearly, he and his wizards have decided that a suburban-focused twist on Trump’s 2016 law-and-order stylings is the best and perhaps the only available way to turn a racist smear job into swing-voter candy. So at the RNC, you can expect to hear a lot of warnings that looting and raping will spill from “Democrat cities” into virtuous white suburbs if senile Joe Biden and his radical running mate are allowed into power. That along with the old-time Republican claim that Democrats will tax and spend the country into bankruptcy (hardly the most urgent of the nation’s economic problems at present) is all they’ve got.
Fortunately or unfortunately for the GOP, it has a leader whose capacity for mendacious hatefulness is unlimited. Perhaps with some luck it will be just enough to get him within a few points of Biden by Election Day and either another semi-miraculous inside straight in the Election College or a post-election effort to just plain steal a second term. It’s the only play the Republicans have.