The King is Tired
As the fictional arch villain Tywin Lannister once said, “Any man who has to proclaim, I am the king, is no true king.” This immortalised sentiment could find no more fitting demonstration than in Donald Trump’s recent claim that “I am your President of law and order”. The irony of such a claim – whilst the country he serves is literally burning - seems completely lost on him.
The formerly formidable President is looking ever more like an impotent, despotic and desperate figure, lurching somewhere in between bizarre tweets and bottles of bleach. The president’s strategy of fighting fire with fire accelerant is just the latest in a series of actions which range from unconventional to dangerous. He’s been tweeting into cyberspace from his White House bunker or playing golf - also probably in a bunker – while Rome burns. Law and Order! Jobs! ANTIFA! Democrats! Carpet bombing the social media platform with anything that will stick in a desperate deflection ploy. His response to these riots has been of the same pedigree as his response to the COVID-19 outbreak. He has lost control of the streets, COVID-19 restrictions have been abandoned whilst the virus is still rife, and unemployment has risen faster than it did during the Great Depression.
With the threat to the fabric of American society being very real, the country needs a strong leader who can heal divisions. Someone trustworthy – although a premium in politics - is the principle which collective action is contingent on. It is blaringly obvious that Trump embodies not an ounce of either quality.
Black Lives Matter
Trump’s reaction to the BlackLivesMatter protests and subsequent riots has been truly and inescapably abysmal. He has spoken about honouring George Floyd but remained silent on the context of systemic racial injustice and police brutality in which his murder occurred. Throughout the unrest he has maintained a threatening discourse: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, or saying that Washington demonstrators would be greeted by “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons”. With what logic can a riot which was started by police murders and beatings, be stopped by further police murders and beatings?
Furthermore, he has alienated the very State Governors he needs to do his bidding for cheap political point scoring. He has said unless they get tough, they risk “looking like a bunch of jerks.” He has threatened to send the US military in unless they do something about it. He has claimed a quasi-Nostradamus status, in that every Governor or statesman who has made the ‘right choice’, has done so on his advice and predictions.
Perhaps most bizarre, was Trump’s decision to walk to St John’s Church and pose outside with a bible. The reason for exploiting a religion he has never followed for a PR stunt is beyond me – and if rumour is believed, beyond senior White House advisers too. Especially considering he was once asked on air what his favourite bible verse was after claiming it was his favourite book, and he could not name ONE single verse. Also, who is going to tell him about the “thou shalt not commit adultery” part? Had it been a Chinese or Russian premier who had used rubber bullets, tear gas and flashbangs to clear PEACEFUL protestors and journalists to make way for a religiously fuelled photo opportunity, we would not even be having this discussion.
“Jobs, what jobs?”
If there’s one thing Trump gets its trade, and if there’s two things it’s trade. The trade issue is one of the reasons for the significant crossover of support between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Because of tough tariffs, the past three years have seen a relocation of manufacturing jobs back to the USA from Asia, as well as a boom in the construction industry. However, Trump’s flaccid response to the Coronavirus crisis has made this all for nought. While the UK introduced a furlough, which will now run into October, the US decided to hand out a one-off cheque of $1200 dollars to every American.
The average monthly rent in the USA for an apartment is upwards of $1400.
Unsurprisingly the job losses have been literally unprecedented. 36Million Americans are now unemployed, of whom at least 3Million have filed for welfare. This is the epitome of understanding the price of everything but the value of nothing. The failure to introduce sustainable and sensible job retention measures has led to millions of workers losing their jobs and becoming dependent on the state, damaging their mental health, damaging society, and draining the treasury coffers.
Yet Trump fiddles still. On the 22nd of May he tweeted out attacks on the Attorney General of Michigan for being too tough on Ford. His finishing touch on the tweet was his now famous social media refrain, ‘JOBS!’.
Tilting at Windmills
Trump’s Coronavirus response started strong. He cut off foreign nationals from travelling from China back in January, a call which many countries wish they would have made, and for which he has been unfairly criticised.
The might of American industry has also been impressive, especially in terms of the production of ventilators and PPE. But there are so many failures alongside these successes that the overall response seems totally schizophrenic.
The Trump daily press conferences became a farce. They preached social distancing and the wearing of masks, while standing shoulder to shoulder and sharing a podium. Even the journalists were packed in like sardines. People follow examples, and they like their role models to practice what they preach. Neither Trump, nor (amazingly) the world leading medical professionals who surround him managed to put their own advice into action before the entire nation’s media.
Not that it mattered much because these press conferences descended into farce before long. Trump used his bully pulpit to bludgeon journalists and get into lengthy back and fourths debating the term ‘Kung Flu’. This devolved further into trench warfare with Twitter, as Trump hunkered down in the Trump Cave, tweeting furiously until he worked up such a sweat, he had to relieve it through the signing of an executive order to reprimand Twitter.
If you read the text, it does nothing. It’s spitting in the wind. Tweeting JOBS! While people line up at food banks. Tweeting LAW AND ORDER! While cities burn.
The Zombie President
Is this the final nail in the coffin for this Zombie president? Trump’s instinctive motor functions of tweeting and golfing are still intact but his ability to effectively lead, exert power or even use his brain seem to have given out.
Trump is and always has been a salesman, hence why his campaigning has always been so effective. Unfortunately, governing the world’s most powerful country cannot be done by one massive campaign. Eventually you must, you know, actually govern. In his administration, everything that has gone tits up has been someone else’s fault. Perhaps infallibility is the one doctrine he does actually share with the Pope. What is worse, according to senior White House sources, his inner circle has become increasingly compliant and people are afraid to tell him what he won’t want to hear.
But, the business model of the Trump presidency is built with durability in mind. To him, all publicity is good publicity. The continuous conveyor belt of controversy means they come at such a high frequency; you physically cannot keep up. However, the mind boggles at any attempt to rationalise his actions in the last week, even by his own chronically inept standards. His advisers are rightly concerned that his outbursts will damage his ratings, especially among independent voters and suburban women.
With any luck, by 2021 the Trump presidency will be confined to a future history syllabus of when the world temporarily lost its mind, and an impending electoral backlash in November looks increasingly likely. Although, that is what everyone said last time…