Could Trump benefit from mass US protests?

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Trump has proven adept at taking what seem like failures or threats and turning them into opportunities.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens as White House Director of Trade and Marketing Policy Peter Navarro addresses the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2020.  (photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

U.S. President Donald Trump listens as White House Director of Trade and Marketing Policy Peter Navarro addresses the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2020.

(photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

Two weeks of massive US protests that are now going global appear to be yet another of the many events that will lead to US President Donald Trump losing the next election. Democrats have asserted since he took office that he is unfit to lead, that he has led the country into disrepute and crises and that he has failed to handle a pandemic and even sold out the country to the Russians.

But Trump has proven adept at taking what seem like failures or threats and turning them into opportunities. He has slammed the press again and again and he has even fought with social media companies.

He has navigated an increasingly polarized America to make many things appear normal that were not normal years ago. For instance the handling of the Russia investigations did not appear to tarnish Trump’s image. Neither has withering critique from former staffers or even the jailing of former allies.

This is partly because distrust of major mainstream and legacy media has been fed by an increasingly partisan media cycle. With so many people in silos where they only hear from like-minded people, the perception that Trump is losing support is a feedback loop that is fed to those who already don’t like him.

Articles about how polls indicate that Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden is already doing better than Hilary Clinton was performing in 2016 seek to make Biden appear stronger. But if there is anything the 2016 election taught readers, it is that one cannot take polls for granted or the perception of invincibility.

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In fact up until election day in November 2016 the argument was not whether Clinton would win but by how much. Those analysts who even dared to say that she wasn’t ahead by that much were slammed. Huffington Post slammed Nate Silver on November 5, 2016 by claiming Clinton had a 98 percent chance of winning and that not saying so was somehow aiding Trump. Then Trump won.

Recent polls show Biden ahead, but not by that much. One claims he leads by 50% to 43%. That’s it. Considering that Trump is accused of letting 100,000 Americans die of COVID-19 and that he is now accused of fanning the flames of a massive protest movement over police brutality and racism, one might think polls would show his opponent way ahead. The fact is that even polling data conducted amid the protests does not show a massive swing against Trump.

It might be that Trump’s instinct to act tough and call out the military has gone over well with some or many of his base. He country is so divided on every issue, whether it comes to police or how to handle race relations, that the law and order image of Trump, even if I is eroded by comments by those like former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, could work in his favor.

Democrats appear to understand this and some tried to ignore the protests or discredit them by claiming the violence was fueled by “white supremacists.” There is little evidence that the Old Guard of the Democratic party feels comfortable with these youthful protests. They are worried it could sweep them away also. These are the protests that underpin the “squad,” or the more radical left part of the party. In the past when radicals dominated the GOP or Democrats it split the party and led them to defeat.

Trump has been good at trying to zero in on these weaknesses and split opponents apart. He is good at branding and labeling. This is the thing that makes his presidency seem like a kind of game show. But for his supporters these easy explanations tend to serve well. Trump says Antifa and radical leftists are behind the protests. That’s enough.

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Brand them extreme and then anyone who supports the protests will be tainted by extremism. Richard Nixon said that when it came to the Chambers and Hiss case, relating to spying in the US in the 1950s, that it was the lie that destroyed Alger Hiss. Once you can show someone is lying, the public will believe the rest. If you can show that the protesters are looters then you van tar their moderate supporters with that logic.

That Democratic voices such as Matt Duss appeared to embrace the “Antifa” libel by claiming that the D-Day invasion by US and British troops was in fact an “Antifa” group, doesn’t make Biden’s job easier. Most Americans don’t identify with Antifa.

Trump will be able to successfully show now that the COVID-19 restrictions were largely a left-wing agenda because he can point to the protests as an example of how liberal governors and mayors allowed protests but not prayer. This narrative is already being moved down the court. What seems like a crisis is an opportunity. Trump thrives on these crisis.

He wants to use them as wedge issues, to force the point. His supporters increasingly talk about civil war and civil strife, and the fact is that the mass protests which leave many Americans bewildered, can be seen as forcing that issue. Let the protesters graffiti war memorials and tear down historic statues, Trump’s logic may be that in the end what Nixon called the “silent majority” will rise up.

Indeed, Nixon rode that silent majority into the White House in 1968, the most revolutionary  year in US history when massive protests and civil rights movements all came together. 1968 was not the year of revolution in the end. It was a year of reaction. And Nixon was right. Trump was 22 years old in 1968. He certainly remembers. It may have been the first election he voted in.

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