Published July 16, 2020
President Trump’s precipitous drop in the polls is due to his mishandling of the two crises that define 2020: the novel coronavirus and the killing of George Floyd. The recent surge in coronavirus cases presents him with his last — and probably only — chance to reverse that decline. The pity for Republicans is that his character likely makes him unable to discern this, much less respond favorably.
For years Trump had defied his critics’ expectations that he will politically implode. Prior to 2020, his mesmerizing high-wire act largely succeeded because the political challenges he faced meshed his character with the partisan temperament of the time. Republicans were fearful and angry and flocked to a man who promised to be the gunfighter who would save their town from destruction. Like the villagers in Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Seven Samurai,” they were willing to put up with bad behavior to prevent the bandits (read: progressives) from tearing up their way of life.
Trump’s bluster and divisiveness catered to Democratic prejudices and fears, too. Many had long thought that Republicanism was mere code for racism. Trump’s quick ascension to the head of the 2016 primary pack, in their eyes, merely confirmed their long-standing beliefs. His embrace of Republican Party staples such as supply-side economics and social conservatism also allied his distasteful character with positions that Democrats despise. They marveled that someone like Trump could survive without realizing that his abrasive behavior merely intensified long-standing disputes.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.