Not content to be merely a child rapist and brutal mass murderer, the man we sometimes laughingly (and sometimes weepingly) call the president of the United States is also implausibly unoriginal and severely intellectually limited. The drum he incessantly bangs these days is that when he closed the border to China he “took tremendous heat.” Watch for that overused Trump word, “tremendous.”
Another word Trump beats to death is “disgraceful.” For example, an analysis from Columbia University points out that had the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing protocols been issued and encouraged sooner, almost all the lives that have been lost to date would have been saved. This is “disgraceful,” according to Trump, not because of the American lives lost on his watch, but because a “liberal institution” like Columbia could be allowed to promote “fake news.”
Trump’s use of the same words to describe the same things over and over is a key ploy. In Trump’s case it isn’t a purposefully clever ploy but a prominent feature of his unoriginality. We know that Trump uses the same words a lot, even in times when propaganda is clearly not his aim. He uses them because he’s an idiot with a limited vocabulary. But like so much about Trump, it works, at least as far as his base is concerned.
Of the China travel ban, Trump said, “Sleepy Joe Biden said I’m xenophobic, meaning I don’t like people, I don’t like certain people.” The word Trump mispronounces as “zen-ophobic,” doesn’t mean that. It means having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. And yes, like most bigots Trump really is xenophobic, pronounced “zee-nophobic.” But it’s revealing that he felt the need to define such a common word. It suggests he is not comfortable with it and assumes, wrongly, that most people don’t know what it means. Clearly Biden used a word Trump didn’t really know. Truth be told Trump still doesn’t know the word, as demonstrated, even though he’s had lots of time to look it up.
The self-anointed stable genius also likes the word “incredible.” He frequently overuses it as a superlative when praising himself. He’s absurdly unaware of its double meaning. True enough, “incredible” is frequently used to convey the idea of something wonderful, marvellous or magnificent. But its principal meaning is to convey the idea of something implausible or far-fetched, or, not to put too fine a point on it, a thing lacking credibility. The “stable genius” is unaware of any of this. The problem is most of the people comprising his base are unaware of it too, so it does him little harm where his base is concerned.
It has been said that Donald Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, a weak person’s idea of a strong person and a stupid person’s idea of a smart person. I think that certainly summarizes the hardcore element of his nearly indestructible base of supporters. The problem Trump faces in November is his base of supporters is all he’s got left, and because he’s stupid and won’t listen to the more politically sophisticated members of his administration, he continues to make the same mistakes. Trump still aims his re-election campaign solely at his base. That worked in 2016. It won’t work in 2020.
Michael Moore to the contrary, Trump isn’t going to win again in 2020. Trump won in 2016 because he had his drooling, cretinous, rally-attending, ignorant bigoted boobs to vote for him, true enough. But he also had the fence-sitters, the people who wanted to shake things up a bit, the people who saw nothing to lose. Those fence sitters were smarter than the MAGA hat-wearing Quasimodos who crawled out of the woodwork to vote for Trump, and those fence sitters are now almost all gone. They’re scared. Trump’s unoriginal, whiny, auto-apologistic diatribes don’t work for them any more. They’ve lost their curiosity and they want the hell out of this mess.
Michael Moore, who predicted Mitt Romney would win in 2012, is no latter-day Nostradamus. Moore is just another, tired, bitter, Bernie burnout who’s ill-advisedly decided to roll the dice one more time and hope he gets lucky. His luck just ran out.
We still have much work ahead. That Trump will lose is predicated on the certainty that we must vote for Biden. And so we must. As ever, failure is not an option. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.