The pandemic has enormously complicated Donald Trump’s reelection plans. Opinions about his management of the crisis are becoming more negative, at the same time that the economy is collapsing. But the president is not going to abandon the fight. On the contrary, he keeps pushing forward and is betting on polarization more than ever.
Trump needs to retain the support of his social base. But he also needs to mobilize voters who did not turn out in 2016, but who, on the basis of their nature—white men, not well educated—are closer to him than they are to Biden.
To that end, the president has revived his attacks on Barack Obama and his critiques of “Sleepy Joe,” who he has repeatedly tried to link to China, his favorite adversary in the international arena. And just this past Monday, Trump exploded in opposition to governors for not “dominating” those who are condemning police brutality and racism.
Far from calming things down, Trump used a phrase from the 1960s with racist overtones: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” It is crucial for the president that the election is not about his management, but is an emotional outburst.
Even though the polls give Biden the lead, they also show that Trump’s rival does not generate much enthusiasm. While more than half of the president’s followers say they are very enthusiastic, only a quarter of Biden’s followers say the same.
This is the context in which we have to understand Trump’s fury against Twitter for the warnings imposed on his tweets. When he needs to stir up passions even more, there cannot be anyone standing in his way, much less those who have been permitting him to carry a message to his base that is often out of touch with reality.
Like any good populist, Trump needs an unmediated vehicle that rewards the simplicity of the message and fuels passions. In the polarization on social media today, in the shouting match to make their positions known, it is precisely the one who yells the loudest who has the upper hand. And frequently, that person is the president.
It is an uphill fight for Trump, but he cannot be counted out. Rather, we are waiting for him to radicalize himself completely, for the sake of staying in power.
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