Governing Is Hard, and Trump Can’t Do It

Living in the U.S. right now feels a bit like being on a bus stalled on train tracks and watchng the train coming. You know that there’s no way shit’s not going to get worse the remainder of the year, but there is little one can do. Because …

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque – RC1D94FA7CB0

Trump is back to hoping the pandemic just goes away. This is from yesterday:

I wrote yesterday that the Trump campaign will likely double down on racism and name-calling, because what else has Trump got? He doesn’t govern. He has no second-term policy plans. Eli Stokols writes at the Los Angeles Times:

President Trump on Wednesday suggested that painting the words “Black Lives Matter” on New York City’s Fifth Avenue would amount to a “symbol of hate,” complaining that such an action would be “expensive” and “denigrating [to] this luxury Avenue.”

That came shortly after a threat by the president to veto the Pentagon’s budget legislation should it include a measure to take the names of Confederate generals off military bases, which he denounced as being sponsored by “Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren (of all people!).”

That came only hours after his declaration that he “may END” a federal housing regulation aimed at desegregating neighborhoods, which he claimed has had “a devastating impact” on America’s suburbs.

And that came roughly a day after he re-tweeted a video of supporters in an almost entirely white Florida retirement community shouting “white power” from a golf cart.

Sinking further behind former Vice President Joe Biden in presidential election polls, Trump in recent days has indulged in a string of blatant appeals to racism.

Stokols goes on to cite polls showing this is out of touch with the large majority of the U.S. public, and that political strategists of both parties are baffled by the direction Trump’s campaign is taking. I don’t know why they are baffled, however. Trump’s entire shtick is to run as the strong man who will protect us against some awful scary hated thing, whether it be Hillary Clinton or nonwhite immigrants or (sometimes) China, except when Trump wants something from Xi Jinping, during which times China stops being an awful scary hated thing. I believe we’re back to being alarmed about China now, but it’s hard to keep track.

Nancy LeTourneau asks the question, What Are Trump’s Plans for Reviving His Failing Campaign? Trump’s poll numbers are terrible, not just nationally but also in the critical swing states. Biden is competitive in Georgia and Texas. LeTourneau writes,

With four months to go before the votes are counted, it has become clear that the president will need a herculean effort to counter those headwinds. His situation is unprecedented because no incumbent has ever trailed by this much at this point in an election cycle. So what are Trump’s plans for a comeback? According to reporters at the Washington Post, here are a few things that are being considered.

1. Remain in denial about the polls
2. Launch a shake-up of campaign staff
3. Deploy a campaign message about Trump as a builder (ie, “he’s building a wall”)
4. Push a “renew, restore, rebuild” theme about the economy (as the pandemic continues to rage)

Seriously, what else can he do? He’s not going to suddenly become an effective president. He doesn’t have it in him.

The Washngton Post article cited by LeTourneau adds this:

An urgent task for Trump and his team, advisers say, is to find a way to negatively define Biden — transforming the election into a choice between the two men, rather than a referendum on the president.

Trump has recently been asking advisers whether he should stick with his current nickname for Biden — “Sleepy Joe” — or try to coin another moniker, such as “Swampy Joe” or “Creepy Joe.” The president is not convinced that “Sleepy Joe” is particularly damaging, and some of his advisers agree and have urged him to stop using the nickname. In a tweet on Sunday, Trump tried out yet another variant: “Corrupt Joe.”

Biden seems to understand that it’s to his advantage that the election be a referendum on Trump. It’s possible something will happen between now and the election that will change that, but I can’t imagine what.

Trump thinks his ace in the hole is the economy, and if the economy continues to improve he’ll be back in business. The June jobs numbers are in now, and they appear not to be bad. But the numbers don’t reflect the re-closings that are happening in the hot spot states. Catherine Rampell, WaPo:

In June the U.S. economy added 4.8 million payroll jobs, which is of course great news for those newly hired. Unfortunately, it means diddly squat for those still out of work.

And many, many millions more Americans remain in that unhappy situation.

To help you visualize just how deep the U.S. job-market hole remains, once again I bring you the Scariest Jobs Chart You’ll See All Day. It plots the trajectory of job changes in this recession alongside those from previous downturns (and subsequent recoveries).

I think the chart is pretty clear, although Rampell adds more explanation in her op ed if you want to read it. Rampell continues,

There’s also reason to worry that our little “rocket ship” might slow down — or perhaps already has.

Thursday’s jobs report reflects activity in mid-June. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employer survey always covers the pay period that includes the 12th of the month.) In some senses, only a couple of weeks feels like ages ago.

Since mid-June, confirmed coronavirus cases have surged, especially across the Sun Belt. Some states have halted or even reversed their reopening plans, especially in the industries that reported the greatest job gains at mid-June: Leisure and hospitality, which according to Thursday’s jobs report shows as adding 2.1 million positions in June, accounted for two-fifths of the overall gain in total payroll jobs.

Some big states are re-closing right now because of out-of-control virus spread. Rampell also points to indicators showing that spending is slowing down even more now, possibly as people are getting a clue that this virus thing isn’t going away anytime soon. When the enhanced unemployment benefits expire at the end of July … crash. And it won’t be long before states start having to lay off employees also. The economy desperately needs more stimulus and other money injected into it, but that’s not likely to happen, because …

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

So, we’re screwed. See also The Fed is raising dire economic warnings. But they will go unheeded.

And then there’s the virus. I am predicting that in many parts of the country schools will have to remain closed in September. And then I hope somebody — maybe the Lincoln Project, since they’re better at negative ads than the Democrats — runs a video compilation of all the times Trump said the virus would just go away, or that he had it under control.

Trump obviously still thinks that if he ignores a thing, it will go away. But some things don’t go away.