Trump isn’t very Good at Basic Politics

Remember how people used to think he was playing multi-dimensional chess?

“President Trump Departs for Louisiana” by The White House is in the Public Domain

Remember how people used to think Trump was playing multi-dimensional chess? This was never a theory I subscribed to, thinking instead that while Trump clearly has a flair for crowd manipulation and an advanced instinct for media manipulation, that he really doesn’t know what he is doing in his actual job as president. We have evidence that this is also true in terms of being a candidate for re-election.

For example, via Politico: Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call.

The 87-year-old casino mogul had reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he wasn’t doing more to bolster his reelection, according to three people with direct knowledge of the call. One of the people said it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who’s donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him. Adelson chose not to come back at Trump.

When word of the call circulated afterward, Republican Party officials grew alarmed the president had antagonized one of his biggest benefactors at a precarious moment in his campaign. They rushed to smooth things over with him, but the damage may have been done.

Adelson may yet pony up cash for Trump, but it is manifestly stupid to antagonize donors, especially donors with as much money as Adelson.

In general, the pieces notes Trump’s lack of efforts in this general area:

The Trump-blessed America First Action has been outraised and outspent by the leading pro-Biden Super PAC Priorities USA, which has been running an array of blistering commercials hitting Trump over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans point to an array of reasons for America First’s struggles. Some of the president’s aides point out that, much to their frustration, he has shown less interest in super PAC fundraising than Barack Obama did ahead of his successful 2012 reelection. He’s also shown a reluctance to do the kind of glad-handing, cold-calling, and grooming of billionaires needed to cultivate a well-funded super PAC.

Who would have guessed that Trump might not want to work very hard?

The piece also noted that donor reluctance may well be linked to not wanting to invest in what increasingly looks like a losing cause.

But, forget fundraising, the story that I have been thinking of all week in regards to Trump being bad at re-election politics is the expiration of coronavirus relief legislation at the end of July with no serious effort on the part of the Trump administration to get a second round of relief out into the economy.

Consider the following elements:

  1. A pandemic
  2. Job loss
  3. GDP contraction
  4. A Democratically controlled House willing to spend a ton of money
  5. A Senate minority willing to do so as well.

All of this could sum to a signing ceremony that the sitting president could use to help bolster his re-election chances and be able to show some semblance of caring for all the folks who have economic anxiety in certain swing states in these trying times. Indeed, if he/his team could be seen as having brokered a deal it would be to his benefit.

Indeed, it is Populism 101 that a populist politician uses office to find ways to spend government resources to help supporters in ways that should help the populist leader’s political fortunes.

Beyond even bolstering support, Trump is handing Democrats another reason for voters to vote for them and not Republicans. After all, in the middle of a serious economic downturn, the Democrats are willing to help and the Republicans aren’t. Whom does that help electorally in November?

Via the NYT: Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices

Until a few days ago, most analysts expected Congress to agree on a new emergency spending bill that would include at least a partial extension of the extra unemployment benefits, perhaps including retroactive payments for the period when the program lapsed.

But negotiations stalled, and in an appearance at his golf club in New Jersey on Friday, President Trump said that if no deal was reached, he would issue an executive order extending the extra benefits in some form. It is unclear whether he has the authority to do so, or how long it will take for states to start paying out the benefits if he does.

So, benefits run out, negotiations stall, and president plays golf. This is terrible politics, plain and simple.

And this isn’t going to be enough (also vie the NYT): Trump Threatens to Bypass Congress as Stimulus Talks Fail Again:

In a hastily called evening news conference after talks on Capitol Hill broke up without a compromise, Mr. Trump said he could sign executive orders within a week to delay payroll tax collections, extend an eviction moratorium, give flexibility to Americans who owe student loans and supplement unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Mr. Trump said in a ballroom at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where dozens of club members, some sipping wine, gathered to watch as the president claimed that the economy was quickly bouncing back.

It was not clear what power Mr. Trump might have to move unilaterally to extend jobless aid or otherwise redirect federal relief money as he sees fit because Congress controls spending. And Mr. Trump conceded that such a move was likely to be met with a legal challenge that would block any help from reaching the tens of millions of Americans who have depended for months on $600 weekly federal jobless payments that vanished last week in the absence of a deal to extend them.

“Probably, we’ll get sued,” Mr. Trump said.

First, this is not the kind of relief most people need. Second, I am not sure if he can even pull it off legally (as noted). And, third, the impasse is, as I understand it, in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans as well as Trump himself:

Mr. Trump has remained steadfast in his public opposition to any money for states and local governments, which he has falsely said would go only to states run by Democrats and does not have any relationship to the current crisis.

He can certainly try to blame Democrats, and many will believe him, but this is just stupid politics at the moment (and bad governance).

I recognize that the preponderance of voters who are likely to be helped by an extension of benefits would be voting Democratic, but given that Trump only managed to win the White House by roughly 78k votes over three usually Democratic states (MI, WI, and PA), one would think he would understand the value of votes on the margins.

But, of course, he doesn’t. As his management of the pandmeic has demonstrated (along with dozens of other examples), he doesn’t know how to govern and now he is demonstrating that he doesn’t know how to run for re-election (especailly with his main tool, rallies, taken off the table).

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    In the farthest corners of that Politico article the writers detail that Mr Trump’s initial objection to negotiating with the Democrats is that he’d have to deal with Ms Pelosi. He doesn’t like her for some reason.

    Such is statecraft in the Trump administration.

    9
  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    It’s the art of the deal, right?

    The problem that the Former Reality Show Host faces is that he has lost the trace. He succeeded in 2015&16 because identified the issues that R leaning voters truly felt important and he could manipulate just enough voters beyond the core to pull off getting elected.

    But he has lived in a bubble for 4 years, exposing himself to only sycophants who parrot back at him what he says and telling him that he’s right on. Sorta like the emperors new suit. Meanwhile the country has moved on and new issues are at the forefront of the voters minds and FRSH won’t/can’t address them.

    He’s the ultimate hedgehog or frog who doesn’t notice the water boiling.

    6
  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    When I write a book one of the earliest things I do is create a series bible in which, among other things, I post a character photo and a brief description. I Google images of, say, “angry old white man.” There’a a photo Mickey Rooney that I’d probably pick.

    Then comes the character sketch: He’s a psychopath with excellent predatory instincts but lacking in the IQ to really make it effective. He’s a rich kid who grew up with money but without love. He was a failure at school, but his father bought his way into college. He’s never more than skin deep, there are no unplumbed depths, he’s incapable of self-examination. His default emotions are rage and self-pity. He’s very good at hating but incapable of love or any of the ‘finer’ emotions. He has children but only bonds with one, and then it’s via an ill-disguised incestuous lust. Naturally he’s a misogynist who at some level knows he does not deserve love and thus assumes that all the women in his life are basically whores. He’s casually racist, lazy and personally incompetent and also lacks the judgment to choose capable collaborators. He’s a school yard bully who will attract only various mini-mes and toadies. Amoral, self-pitying, stupid, lazy and incapable of empathy, compassion or a sense of humor.

    If you build a character properly he/she will behave in all circumstances in ways that are predictable. Which is why nothing in the last four years has surprised me, including picking a fight with Adelson.

    18
  4. EddieInCA says:

    Dr. Taylor –

    My favorite tidbit from his “press conference” last night was his promise to enact an Executive Order which will mandate that Insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, which is actually current Federal law.

    The stupid hurts.

    Additionally, he was reading from a teleprompter, which means someone wrote that, approved it, and thought it was a good idea.

    The stupid. It hurts.

    Yet, 40% of the population will embrace it, regardless of his own administration going to court trying to dismantle the ACA.

    16
  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Michael, all due respect, but you cheated on this one. It’s been years since Trump has been in a legitimate business deal, but before he blew through all his fathers money and ended up in bankruptcy negotiations, he had a number of actual honest to god business deals with partners and legitimate banks and serious investors. They all went exactly the same way. Step 1) Hype it up, promising the world, the greatest the best everyone says so, yada yada yada. Step 2) Insist that he make all the decisions and dictate strategy. Make mistake after elementary and obvious mistake. Have no coherent strategy. Blow through everyone’s money with nothing to show for it. Step 3) Turn on your partner and investors.

    Michael, you shouldn’t claim credit for prescience when you have forty years of relentless failures to reveal the plot for you.

    14
  6. MarkedMan says:

    My post above got me thinking. Fred Trump was in decline after 1990. Was anything that Donald actually built done without his fathers involvement? I’m talking real construction projects, not the phony deals that someone else built and paid him a few dollars for his name to impress the chumps.

    6
  7. KM says:

    And Mr. Trump conceded that such a move was likely to be met with a legal challenge that would block any help from reaching the tens of millions of Americans who have depended for months on $600 weekly federal jobless payments that vanished last week in the absence of a deal to extend them

    This is a feature, not a bug. Instead of people complaining about Repubs not coming to the table and wanting to cheat people (400 or less a week, 40K or below only gets the stimulus), Trump gets to flip the script to “OMG those evil Dems are SUING to stop Good King Trump from giving you money you need. Vote for Trump!!!” This way, he looks like he *cares* even if he’s illegally abusing powers and gets to paint Dems as the obstructionist asses out to destroy unemployed people and families.

    He’s pulling the same crap with EO’s about making insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions. This way, when someone objects Cult45 can go “you America hater! WTF is wrong with you that you’re against X?!?!” even if it’s a pointless or redundant order not worth the paper it’s on. Gaslighting by morons, for morons.

    9
  8. CSK says:

    I mentioned this debacle with Adelson to a relative, who immediately responded: “This has Jared’s fingerprints all over it.” When I asked why, she said, “Because he’s a slimy stupid arrogant prick who thinks he knows everything. He probably told Trump, ‘I know this guy. We can get more money out of him.'”

    7
  9. Moosebreath says:

    “Republicans point to an array of reasons for America First’s struggles. Some of the president’s aides point out that, much to their frustration, he has shown less interest in super PAC fundraising than Barack Obama did ahead of his successful 2012 reelection. He’s also shown a reluctance to do the kind of glad-handing, cold-calling, and grooming of billionaires needed to cultivate a well-funded super PAC.

    Who would have guessed that Trump might not want to work very hard?”

    Also, who would have guessed that Trump might not want people to donate money to an entity he cannot directly control (i.e., find ways to put the money into his own pocket)?

    13
  10. CSK says:

    @Moosebreath:
    Bingo. You nailed it.

    4
  11. Michael Cain says:

    over three usually Democratic states (MI, WI, and PA)

    The Great Blue Wall in the Midwest that pundits love to cite had been deteriorating for years. By 2016, both WI and MI were Republican trifectas at the state level with Republicans holding a majority of the US House seats and one of the US Senate seats. The region has been shedding House seats (and the electoral votes that go with that) for decades — slowly but steadily getting older and more conservative. MI and PA are on pace to lose another seat each after the census. That trends pointed to a failure of the wall at some point. I didn’t think it would be 2016, but if Clinton had won then would not have been surprised to see it fail in 2020.

    Pundits, particularly those published by the NYTimes and WaPost, are also missing the opposite trend happening in the Mountain West. Colorado and Nevada are well past the tipping point and are Democratic. I think Arizona is going to surprise a bunch of them this year.

    10
  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    As it happens I had never paid Trump any attention. He was a clown on talk shows and I never watched his game show. He was Kim Kardashian as far as I knew. I agree the evidence was there but I paid no attention until he came down that escalator – an omen if ever there was one.

    5
  13. Teve says:

    @EddieInCA:

    . Taylor –

    My favorite tidbit from his “press conference” last night was his promise to enact an Executive Order which will mandate that Insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, which is actually current Federal law.

    The stupid hurts.

    I was scrolling Twitter when that happened and the bursts of celebration from Trumpers was astounding. Best President Ever! etc.

    1
  14. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    You would have had to have lived in the New York-New England area. Trust me, you couldn’t get away from the son-of-bitch. On the brighter side, Spy magazine did a wonderful job of eviscerating him.

    3
  15. wr says:

    @CSK: What’s the over/under on Trump accusing Adelson of trying to “Jew him down”?

    6
  16. Modulo Myself says:

    A couple years ago, Ben Shapiro was talking about how if the sea level rises people will just sell their homes and move. Trump is in the same position. Republican policies have the same real-world livability as a house under ten feet of water, and he’s trying to sell an underwater house. Nobody can help him, not even Fox.

    The only thing he can do right now is cheat, and honestly, the type of cheating that would work would be a legal battle challenging enormous numbers of votes which just happen to be those for Biden. I’m sure there are hack Federalist judges who might sign off on this, but nobody will ever believe it. Trump is gonna get killed in the popular vote and in the swing states. He is completely done. If he died tomorrow it would be one of the funniest days in American history. In order to win he will have to expect normal Americans to mainline the logic of people who actually would be grieving his loss, and I just don’t see anyone putting their names on that. This fall is going to be very bad and upsetting for normal people. Trump and his sleaze are spend several months explaining real reactions away as a liberal plot. His approval will hit 35 or 30% I think by the end of October.

    3
  17. CSK says:

    @wr:
    Under = 0
    Over = 10,000

    2
  18. de stijl says:

    @wr:

    New Haim stuff is out.

  19. Teve says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    A couple years ago, Ben Shapiro was talking about how if the sea level rises people will just sell their homes and move

    “this is a lovely split-level, attached garage, good school district, and only 6” deep.

    5
  20. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    3 feet high and rising.

    I had not thought about De La Soul in years. Thanks!

    And Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash had those guys beat by two feet.

    3
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    You would have had to have lived in the New York-New England area.

    To be clear, he was ever present in the media but was treated as kind of a clown prince. After he burned through his father’s money, no one in the greater NYC area thought of him as anything but a joke.

    3
  22. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    “That schmuck from Queens”

    All respect to Queens, btw. You shall not be judged by Trump.

    3
  23. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Oh, indeed. The man was always a joke. It was just that he was a joke that was impossible to avoid. I don’t recall my students at the Harvard Business School being unusually impressed by him. The were more taken with Warren Buffet.

    I don’t know if you recall any of the multitudinous Spy magazine features on Trump (and Ivana) but they were hysterically funny and cruel.

    ETA: Did you ever read the back story behind the famous NY Post “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” headline that Marla Maples was supposed to have said of Trump? It’s hilarious.

    2
  24. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    I miss Spy. Spy was great.

    1
  25. Kathy says:

    If you want a full list of the things Trump the Incompetent is incompetent at, the easiest way to do it is to say “at all things.”

    This is not true, but it’s 99% accurate.

    2
  26. Bill says:

    @de stijl:

    All respect to Queens, btw. You shall not be judged by Trump.

    The voice of Fran Fine then?

    2
  27. Monala says:

    @CSK:

    ETA: Did you ever read the back story behind the famous NY Post “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” headline that Marla Maples was supposed to have said of Trump? It’s hilarious.

    Please share…

    1
  28. Kurtz says:

    @CSK:

    My favorite was Spy sending checks for smaller and smaller amounts to see if he would cash them. IIRC, the last one they sent was for $0.16

    6
  29. CSK says:

    @Monala:
    My pleasure. Trump had called the NYPost looking for them to do a story on him, and the editor patiently explained that it would have to be something to do with sex or money. So, the next day, Trump called back and, while he was on the phone called out to Marla Maples, yelling something like “Wasn’t I the best sex you ever had?” To which she replied patiently, “Yes, Donald.” The person who ended up writing the story said she later doubted that Marla was even in the room with Trump; she thought he had imitated Marla’s voice.

    @Kurtz:
    The check to Trump was for 13 cents. And yes, he cashed it.

    6
  30. de stijl says:

    It is common knowledge that Trump paid Page Six for coverage.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @Kurtz: I remember Michael Moore sending checks to various Republican candidates in the 1996 primary. Bob Dole’s campaign cashed every one of them.

    From “Satanist Schools of America”? Cashed.
    “Abortionists for Perot”? Cashed.
    Etc.

    3
  32. Heather says:

    This press conference was a joke. If the president thought for one second it helped his chance of re-election he grossly mistaken. I’m just ONE of the millions relying on unemployment help right now. 15 yrs of paying into the system for my business, working my whole life from 12 yrs -50yrs and the govt.poor mishandling of the pandemic have decimated the travel industry. Expected to return to work in Oct. but that’s NO LONGER happening.
    I’m a young widow don’t have a partner to rely on. I’ve exhausted savings, I only get 150 from FL which the state only pays for 12 wks.
    We are surging with the virus is south Florida, and NO ONE is hiring. Anticipate we’ll see MANY more layoffs in the next 2 months around the country. UNTIL they get this virus under control, there’s no hope for the 40 million unemployed.

    3
  33. de stijl says:

    The eviction tsunami is coming.

    We can only moratorium it away for so long.

    This will be a hell of a crushing crest. We are not prepared at all.

    This is ourselves under pressure.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Actually we can address the eviction tsunami, but we won’t because the money always looks better in my bank account than it does in your wallet buying groceries for your children.

    6
  35. rachel says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    If he died tomorrow it would be one of the funniest days in American history.

    That depends on what he dies of.

    Not funny: assassination, terrorist attack, natural or industrial disaster

    Funny: a heart attack/stroke during a tantrum, slipping on a ramp and hitting his head too hard, choking on a hamberder, covid, eaten by a large land animal (eg, bear, lion or tyrannosaurus)

    2
  36. de stijl says:

    @rachel:

    I appreciate the “hamberder”. Your spell check probably freaked out. Mine is. Covfefe.

    In Manilla or Moscow. Disavowed and ignored. Embolism.

    2
  37. CSK says:

    @rachel:
    I’ll take “Eaten by a large land animal” for $100, Alex. Seriously, wouldn’t that mean there’d have to be some sort of state funeral for him? How would you keep people from dancing in the streets?

    5
  38. al Ameda says:

    @EddieInCA:
    @Teve:
    I mentioned to a sister and brother (Trump voters) that this was already the law under ACA and they flat out didn’t believe it.

    Get out the vote. I remain completely convinced that very very few Trump voters will not vote for him this time.

    1