For all the noise, for all the variables, and for all the chaos, there’s a rather straightforward explanation for why Donald Trump never did climb into contention for reelection at any point during his four years in office. That explanation: he entered office with an approval rating that was far too low to be viable, but he never was willing to make the kind of mainstream-appeal moves necessary to try to drive it higher, because he was afraid of alienating his own lunatic base in the process.
This was, obviously, a losing strategy for Trump; he got blown out by millions of votes and lost the electoral college badly as well. But oddly enough, the past few days have shown that Trump was right to worry about what would happen if he ever dared defy his base.
In the latest sign that Trump has slipped cognitively to the point that he no longer remembers or understands how his own con games work, Trump abruptly decided to simply tell the truth about COVID vaccines: they work. They’re safe. They keep you out of the hospital. The booster is a good idea.
Yes, Trump spoke all of this truth, and he didn’t even throw in any lies about the vaccines. Of course this was all so he could try to falsely take credit for President Joe Biden’s successful vaccine rollout. But what Trump forgot is that his base of gullible losers doesn’t want to hear anything unless it allows them to feel like smart winners, while allowing them to believe that everyone else is a bunch of gullible losers. Trump would have needed to throw in something false and convenient and conspiratorial in order to have any chance of convincing his base to let him get away with becoming pro-vaccine. But he didn’t do that, because his brain has apparently become a bowl of jello.
Accordingly, Trump cheerleader Candace Owens was left trying to suggest that Donald Trump is too old to know how to use the internet and therefore doesn’t know about all the online “proof” that COVID vaccines are a conspiracy. Keep in mind that this was from someone who was trying to diplomatically split the difference. Then there was Alex Jones.
You can debate whether Alex Jones is an unhinged conspiracy theorist, or merely portrays one in order to pander to and profit from unhinged conspiracy theorists. But either way, Jones played the part this weekend when he accused Donald Trump of being “ignorant” and “evil” for daring to say that COVID vaccines are a good thing.
Keep in mind that as utterly deranged as COVID vaccine conspiracy theories are, Trump’s base believes every word of it, because Trump’s mouthpieces have spent all year amplifying and repeating it. Now Trump himself is directly admitting that none it was true – and tacitly admitting to his supporters that they’re not smart and special for having spent all year avoiding the vaccine. This is a cardinal sin for a con artist whose entire scheme has always been based on convincing the biggest of suckers that they’re the biggest of winners.
Alex Jones’ response is a problem for Donald Trump for two distinct reasons. First, it confirms that Trump has stupidly crossed the kind of line that’s turning his own base against him. So much for the fantasy that he was somehow going to mount a comeback in 2024.
Second, there’s the problem of Alex Jones himself. He was recently subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee. He’s signaled his intent to plead the fifth, a sign that he expects to be criminally charged by the DOJ and doesn’t want to make it easier for them. Of course Jones could make that problem go away simply by flipping on Trump. Up to now that may have seemed unthinkable. But now Trump has committed the kind of messaging sin that’s left Jones feeling so betrayed, he’s publicly lashing out at Trump with reckless abandon. Trump just picked precisely the wrong time to give Jones motivation to go save himself at Trump’s expense.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report