When I look at Donald Trump is see someone who is analogous to a dangerous animal that has got used to being treated cautiously by those entrusted to look after him. But as he feels increasingly under threat, as his former allies either peel away or distance themselves from him and he gets more isolated, he will lash out more indiscriminately. As Matt Taibbi writes:
Well, it’s over now – right? He may have three and a half years left in office, but Donald Trump is finished. The Charlottesville tragedy was the final stake through the Grinch-heart of his presidency. If he didn’t deserve it so enormously much, it would be sad.
The mainstream GOP, whose institutional machinery Trump appropriated just long enough to win a national election, is long gone as an ally, its officials now fleeing the administration at top speed. The executive agencies, particularly the security services, are in open rebellion, leaking to newspapers every move the Trumps and their surrogates make. There’s no analog to this situation in American history – a presidential administration under prolonged siege by its own Cabinet agencies.
Trump’s presidency looked like it would be reduced to a Gilligan’s Island of family members, in-laws, the white-power Rasputin Bannon, hired help like John Kelly, and whatever soon-to-be-disbarred lawyers they’ve been able to find to rack up billable hours stalling the boss’s multitudinous criminal and civil messes. He has virtually no political help anywhere outside the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This is Trump’s legacy. Because of his total inability to concentrate or lead, he will likely never do anything meaningful with the real governmental power he possesses – if he had a tenth of the managerial skills of Hitler, we’d be in impossibly deep shit right now. But as an enabler of behavior, as a stoker of arguments and hardener of resentments, he has no equal. Under Trump, racists become more racist, the woke necessarily become more woke, and areas of compromise among all quickly dwindle and disappear. He has us arguing about things that weren’t even questions a few minutes ago, like, are Nazis bad?
Trump has shown, once again, that his power to bring out the worst in people is limitless. And we should know by now that he’s never finished, never beaten. Historically, he’s most dangerous when he’s at his lowest. And he’s never been lower than now.
I don’t know that I agree with Taibbi that Trump is finished. Trump has a zombie-like ability to remain standing even after receiving blows that would be fatal to anyone else, even self-inflicted ones. What I do know is that he has the capacity to inflict serious harm and the probability that he will do so increases with the sense of isolation and threat he feels that he is under. He will simply embrace more closely those whom thinks are still faithful to him, which means the racists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.
His rally in Phoenix last night was the kind of event that he likes because he was in front of adoring supporters who will cheer on any crackpot things he says and he was relentless in his pandering to them. And there was plenty of peevishness on display on his part as he rambled on in a 75-minute speech, lashing out at his growing list of enemies. He also indulged in what has become a standard right-wing trope, and that is whining about how everyone is mean to him. It is incredible how these people who talk so tough are the ones who complain most loudly when criticized.
But there are signs of weariness and lowered enthusiasm among his supporters. What might worry Trump, if he is at all observant, is that these rallies, while still boisterous, are showing signs of losing steam with the convention center seeming to be only about half full and some supporters seeming to get a little bored with hearing the same old song..
But as the night dragged on, many in the crowd lost interest in what the president was saying.
Hundreds left early, while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up a conversation with their neighbors. After waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally hall — where their water bottles were confiscated by security — people were tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn’t keeping their attention. Although Trump has long been the master of reading the mood of a room and quickly adjusting his message to satisfy as many of his fans as possible, his rage seemed to cloud his senses.
There is no doubt that Trump will continue to hold these rallies because he needs them to stroke his ego. He has an incredible ability to lie about the size of crowds at his rallies but let’s see what happens if and when even his supporters cannot swallow those lies.
What worries me is that he will become even more reckless in his effort to recapture his imagined past glory.