I had one of those epiphany thingees this morning:
All Donald Trump would have to do to guarantee his re-election would be to be a semi-normal, minimally functional human being over the next seven months.
I mean this is exactly the sort of crisis — a sort of slow-moving 9/11 — that is perfect for getting the nation to rally around the flag, very much including, of course, the almost automatically comforting Daddy figure in the White House. It’s a massive shock of external origins, perceived by people as a kind of invasion of our shores by a foreign virus — the central nativist metaphor becomes a literal thing! — that must be repelled by a sustained outburst of solidarity among Americans of all ideological and demographic persuasions.
But great news, kids: There’s no possible way this is going to happen, because Donald Trump is such a totally dysfunctional narcissistic sociopath that he can’t manage to do what literally every previous president could have done without even breaking a sweat.
All he would have to do, really, is to give a few anodyne sub-Churchillian speeches about blood, sweat, toil, and tears etc., while handing everything over to the vast array of extremely talented and dedicated people in this country who collectively have the knowledge and expertise to tackle this thing. That’s it! That’s all he would have to do, and he would get re-elected, because that’s how nations in general and ours in particular roll in times of genuine crisis.
Even the fact that he massively botched the initial response would be forgiven in a New York minute if he would just stop being a complete and total fuckup for once in his miserable life (After all pretty much every country, with the notable exception of South Korea, seems to have had a seriously flawed initial response, although generally not as bad as the USA’s). Just look what happened earlier this week when he sounded semi-normal for about 45 minutes. The DC press acted like they were at a Led Zeppelin afterparty when the guy with the primo Colombian showed up.
Above all, at a moment like this, people desperately want to rally around the man — and it’s no coincidence that it’s always been a man — who is not only the head of the government, but the symbolic embodiment of the nation itself. They’ll excuse practically anything, out of a profound longing for at least the appearance of competence and compassion.
But again, never fear: Expecting Donald Trump to hurdle the two-inch high wall of matchboxes that he’s been asked to leap over at this historical moment is akin to expecting him to broad jump the Grand Canyon.
A couple of days ago a commenter put forward the suggestion that stopping Trump is so important that it would be worth it for Pelosi et. al. to slow-play relief efforts, even if it meant a few hundred thousand extra deaths, just to get Trump out of office. This would be the equivalent of an especially horrific society-wide trolley problem, except for the fact that it’s a false dilemma, because the Democrats aren’t going to be able to undermine the administration’s efforts even if they wanted to. The Trump administration is absolutely certain to do that all by itself. Because Donald Trump is who he is, and he’s not miraculously going to become someone else, no matter how many of his fellow Americans he kills through his historically unparalleled combination of incompetence, greed, and corruption.
ETA: As Scott says, it’s not just Trump by a long shot — it’s the Republican party as a whole as well. But people would gladly forget that Republicans are bad at governing as a matter of first principles if they were given any excuse to do so. Trump doesn’t give them one.