This weekend was weird. The President of the United States of America held packed campaign rallies in the middle of a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people. Most at these rallies, which occurred in Nevada, a battleground state, did not wear masks or social distance. Many appeared to be not young.
The rallies occurred not long after Bob Woodward revealed that Trump had known the danger COVID-19 posed to American lives back in February, a full month before all states imposed a lockdown. What this means is a lot of white people showed up at a rally held by a president whose disinformation about the virus may have killed something like 160,000 Americans. CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner (Dick Cheney's former cardiologist) called the indoor event "negligent homicide."
But if you look at the polls, about 50 percent of white voters are not letting go of Trump no matter what he says or does.
It is this absolute, and absolute in the religious sense, in the sense of Job's refusal to denounce his God despite all of the bad things He permitted to happen to him, that makes Joe Biden's focus on the authenticity of his patriotism is such a big waste of everyone's time. No amount of patriotism or expressed devotion to the army or military families will convert a single member of Trump's rock-hard base. And this is why Bernie Sanders is right to be worried about the amount of energy Biden's campaign is directing to his image as a greater patriot than Trump. Forget all of that nonsense and focus on what most Americans are worried about: their shrinking purses and wallets, and their weakened protections from the accidents of life.
Joe has some pretty strong positions on the economy, and I think we should be talking about that more than we have,” the Vermont independent said on MSNBC on Sunday. “Joe needs to talk about what he intends to do to improve life for working families... What people want to hear is what Joe is going to do to raise the minimum wage, and he supports a $15 an hour minimum wage,” Sanders said.
Again, let's turn to the latest national polls: Voters are pretty much at the same place they were two months ago. Trump can only fall a little below 40 percent, and Biden rarely goes above 52 percent. Clearly, the extra votes Biden needs to obtain a victory that flies way above the GOP's voter suppression and election manipulation are not to be found in Trump's base. They are found in voters who are deeply worried about financially and physically surviving the pandemic.
Think about it: The unimaginable is actually happening right now, and has been happening for some time, and will not stop happening until the end of the election. A US president (white or black) whose decisions directly resulted in the death of something like 200K Americans is seeking re-election. Indeed, the idea of resigning has not even occurred to him. And he is still competitive. His path back to the White House has not gone up in smoke. It's very much there. “It’s really remarkable,” said a political scientist at George Mason University, Jennifer Victor, to Vox's Ezra Klein, “The stability of Trump’s numbers is almost unbelievable.”
According to Gallup’s presidential approval database, President Ronald Reagan’s numbers bounced from a high of 68 to a low of 35 percent during his tenure. George H.W. Bush peaked at 81 and bottomed out at 29. Bill Clinton ranged between 73 and 37 percent over his two terms. George W. Bush touched 90 percent and fell all the way to 25 percent. Barack Obama’s band was narrower but still stretched from 40 percent to 67 percent.
As for Trump, his highest approval rating is 49 and his lowest is 35 — a range of only 15 points across his presidency thus far.
What is going on here? What is Trump doing that even Ronald Reagan failed to do? He supplies the 60 million white Americans who will vote for him the kind of good stuff that can lift their spirits high above the economic collapse, the spreading virus, the pandemic dead.
Recall how those students in Arizona went apeshit when Trump said "kung flu.” Most us do not understand this kind of intoxication. Fifty percent of white Americans might get it, but certainly don't really feel it. But the other half does. Trump gave them what they wanted the world to hear: an undiluted jolt of racism. And now he is openly saying that people of color are destroying the white purity of the suburbs. Again, it's not a matter of whether it's true or not. In fact, the racial transformation of the suburbs has entered its fourth decade. The MAGA suburb in Trump's speeches and tweets exists beyond even the 1980s. It is certainly somewhere, not here.
So, what it all comes down to is this: Trump is dishing out old-fashioned American racism in public. (Klein senses this, but will not say it outright: "It is telling that Trump’s strategy for winning reelection doesn’t seem to be a new message or a new plan for controlling the coronavirus or restarting the economy. Instead, he’s running a racialized campaign against protests, riots, and disorder...") And apparently that's more than enough for many white voters to live on. It is a roof over the head. It is money in the bank. It's a belly full. It is a secure job. It has a potency that makes a Trumper fearless at an indoor rally with no distancing or masks in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.