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Trump’s Reelection Kick-Off Fell Flat. Does He Really Want to Be President?

Trump laid down his marker on stolen land this weekend, and intimidated precisely nobody.

Donald and Melania Trump arrive onstage during an Independence Day event at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020.

A twin-bill tantrum by a petulant president served as a shabby replacement for actual fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend, as Donald Trump delivered a spectacle of divisive balderdash at the headstone of manifest destiny in South Dakota and at his own house of ill repute in Washington, D.C.

Between Mt. Rushmore and the White House lawn, Trump grabbed the American flag in his grubby hands and screamed, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” After more than three years spent demanding respect for that flag, Trump disgraced it — and himself — once again.

Confederate racists are Trump’s people now, entirely according to him. Armed COVID deniers are his people. The rest of us — we, the massive majority — are apparently an “angry mob” of “far-left fascists,” whatever the hell that is.

If you can believe it, this weekend was Trump’s re-election campaign kick-off, finally. His pathetic Tulsa event came and went with the bored murmur of hollow ballroom silence punctuated by the cackling of observing sparrows in the rafters. His follow-on rally in Arizona was exactly, precisely as exciting as an Irish wake on a Monday morning for a dead guy nobody liked.

Rushmore and the White House: A weekend for this failed president to vent his spleen while on stolen Indigenous ground and under the flitting shadows of overflying war weapons that, blessedly, drowned out his belligerent and bigoted prattle for mercifully long formations of time.

It is manifestly evident this president intends to go to rhetorical (for now, at least) war against most of the people who live here. He will do this to maintain the fealty of that small segment of the populace who love their guns more than their children and believe equal rights for others is the same as diminished rights for themselves. He will speak at maximum volume to the minimum crowd, because they love him for his blaring incoherence, as it so ineloquently matches their own.

The majority that believes systemic racism is a scourge to be excised from the body politic? “Marxists.” The majority that believes policing in this country needs to be defunded and reformed, so as to stop the ongoing murder of Black people? “Terrorists.” The vast majority that knows Trump’s bungling of the COVID crisis has put their lives and livelihoods in peril? “An anarchist mob.”

This is Republican political campaigning in the 21st century, Trump’s paean to the necessity of his reelection, and it is ruinous farce. The people he is screaming at are not enough to salvage his prospects at the ballot booth, and his allies in the Senate — now trembling in fear of late-Autumn unemployment — are all wondering if the Faustian bargain they made to get all those right-wing judges for the steep price of tolerating his ceaseless, clarion bullshit was maybe not worth the cost.

I think of Wile E. Coyote, six feet past the edge of the cliff astride a dead rocket, holding up a sign reading “Was This Trip Really Necessary?” before plummeting to the canyon floor below.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, to date, has only been required to lay back in a shiver of VP-prospect files and fire off the occasional postcard from campaign paradise: “Dear America: Not that guy! Love, Joe.” Biden may set the record for least calories burned in an election, if he hasn’t already.

It does raise the question: Does this doofus really want the job anymore? Trump has clearly had no fun in the gig since Tulsa, if not before, and enjoying the job was the only reason he showed up to begin with. Mike Pence is just sitting there like a duck that has been hit on the head, so why not?

“I shall not seek, and will not accept,” is the LBJ formula for saying “Nope” to the nomination. It really is just that easy.

In that circumstance, Trump will have from now until late January while still under the shroud of presidential protection to organize his legal defense for the shitstorm that awaits him. If he wants to start the OANN­-style “news” network he was talking about before he accidentally won in 2016, he has a ready-made audience waiting for the first broadcast.

Trump’s raving over this weekend of continued COVID horror could also be considered the commercial announcement of his intended network content, and the segment of the populace who still rally to his banner will watch it as if Jesus Himself held the remote. Trump would be set for life, even if he had to broadcast from a studio on the Volga River to avoid prosecution in New York State, where a President Pence’s pardons would not apply.

The normal-world alternative, of course, is that Trump leaves office in good order if he is defeated in November.

Raise your hand, please, if you remember what “normal” looks like. Yeah, me neither.

Former Colorado Democratic Sen. Timothy Wirth laid out on Friday an implausible but far from impossible scenario in which Trump cries fraud over the mail-in ballots in November and connives with Republican state legislatures to remain in office. Wirth’s warning is based on the script from a TV show, and as Trump is Captain Television, that connection unfortunately makes the scenario more, rather than less, likely.

At present, Donald Trump is getting run off the campaign road by a quiescent Biden, entirely due to Trump’s own glaring failures and gruesome behavior. This matters not at all under the warm July sun, alas; between the assumed COVID disruptions of election rights and the GOP’s concerted effort to attack the vote, this monstrous incumbent president has to be seen as a November gamer at all times.

In the end, I side with the great James Baldwin, who wrote, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Any agency, organization or government that claims “greatness” had better goddamn display it. This nation has fallen far short of greatness since the first European boot touched this soil, and certainly since our national sense of inflated moralism was inscribed on parchment in Philadelphia.

This is happening in a way all the advertisers and propagandists can no longer conceal or ignore, and there is a body count in the millions because of it. We the people are painting these self-evident truths on the streets in front of the citadels of power in broad daylight, at long last.

It is Trump’s bad luck that the reckoning for this long, long crime spree has come on his watch, but there it is. The uprising showed who is really in charge of this country; when push comes to shove comes to baton and rubber bullet and taser, it is the people who own the day and the night in all 50 states. Trump laid down his marker on stolen land this weekend, and intimidated precisely nobody.

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