These three little words ‘Time will Tell’ quickly became the big take-away headline from President Trump’s press briefing Friday, in the White House’s tranquil Rose Garden.
For the first time since November 3rd, Trump hinted that he might have lost the election. Increasingly, the numbers grow against the incumbent: 236 vs. 306 Electoral College votes and a 5.2 million vote deficit so far. This near-admission of defeat came after his numerous flurry of legal filings alleging voter fraud were being systematically tossed out of courts across the land. Is that long-awaited concession finally near at hand?
Trump may soon be banished from the Oval Office but ‘Trumpism’ remains alive and well. In retrospect, Republicans did surprisingly well in the race. Despite his four years of questionable management of the presidency, Trump garnered seven million more votes than in 2016. Republicans gained seats in the House and likely will retain control of the Senate. Similar positive results were achieved in state legislatures. Pollsters who confidently predicted a Clinton victory in 2016, failed again this time around; no Biden “landslide” showed up on November 3rd.
My own admittedly amateur observation was that, without COVID’s shattering of Trump’s “healthy economy”, (his primary argument for re-election), he would have beaten Biden.
Why the continuing popularity of Trumpism? While certainly not a political scientist, I can point with confidence to two primary factors: Seventy -one- million Trump supporters bitterly resented being treated with condescension by the “Washington elite.” This belittling began with Clinton’s infamous remark during her 2016 run for office when she labelled them as “Deplorables.” To be fair, she actually described only “half” of them as being deplorable, but that pejorative word still stung and stuck.
Similar ridicule of Republicans was much evident during this election cycle. While I never watch the foul-mouth Bill Maher on HBO, I found nothing else available last night on TV to relieve my monotony of a basement treadmill workout. So I checked out his Real Time show. Maher’s first guest was Jenna Ellis, an articulate legal advisor to Trump. After a contentious debate where neither party listened to the other, he ended his interview by referring to her as “that girl” and explained the Evangelical Christian support of Trump as natural coming from people who believe a lot of other “nonsense.” The audience instinctively laughed at his reference to “Evangelicals.”
Caitlin Flanagan, the well-respected award-winning writer for The Atlantic, was Maher’s other guest last night. Definitely not a fan of Trump, she still was able to admit that Democrats and their Washington elite supporters, including supposedly neutral TV commentators on CNN and MSNBC, have been unfairly dismissive of the wide swath of Republicans who live in Middle America.
Maher did manage to identify a second reason for Republican survival on November 3. He castigated the Democratic Party leadership for giving too much voice to its left wing fringe who frightened voters with cries of “defunding the police,” open borders, government medicare for all and voting rights for criminals still in jail. Trump cleverly played on these fears of “Socialism” to win a surprisingly large
Latino vote in Florida from ex-Cubans and former Venezuelans who had fled from Marxist-leaning governments.
In 2024, time will again tell. Let’s assume Trump does not run again to reclaim his throne. What will happen when these seventy one million loyalists are wooed by another Republican leader, this time one with Trump’s charisma, but adding intelligence, the ability to be articulate and much wiser discretion in use of Twitter—a seemingly kinder, gentler version of Donald, yet still motivated by Trump’s scary agenda?
President-elect Biden will have four years to bring many of these outsiders into his enlarged, Democratic tent. Raising the minimum wage, resurrecting the healthy economy with good jobs post-COVID, safeguarding the Southern border (while treating refugees more humanely) and reigning in his left wing fringe, will return many working class voters to their natural home in the Party. Above all, he must treat these “deplorables” with respect. They are not all fanatical right wing, gun-carrying, racist, sexist, Neanderthals. They too are patriotic Americans who love their country.