Trump even fails at failing. Losing well is beyond him.
One month into his administration, President Trump landed at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. The event is hosted this year at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, the same stomping grounds as Katsucon, the annual celebration of Japanese anime.
The Commander-in-Chief rolled up there, bursting full of resentment, ready to deliver the good news to the gathered faithful: that he was the future of the GOP. Donald stood there, high above the congegration, a rabid Moses delving deep into his bag of limited dignity to tell the flock they had been richly rewarded. And so they had.
President Trump received a hero’s welcome on Friday during his first appearance as president at the country’s largest gathering of conservative activists, declaring his movement is “the future of the Republican Party.” … “Now you finally have a president, finally. Took you a long time,” Trump told the cheering crowd after taking the stage to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
But is this true? What has this right-wing maestro brought to his disciples? Has the hour truly arrived? What does he mean for the party?
We must agree wholeheartedly with the President: he is the future of the right-wing in America. During the moment of CPAC’s cheering, as breathless hosannas were doubtless coursing through the crowd like a dead body receiving electric shocks, public backing for the ACA had never been higher:
Support for Obamacare is at an all-time high, according to two surveys released this week as Republican leaders continue to press the case for repeal amid fierce resistance at many town halls. The latest Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 48% of Americans view the law favorably, compared to 42% who have an unfavorable view. This is the highest level of favorability measured in more than 60 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls conducted since 2010.
All the week previous, across America, elected Republicans had been chewed up at public meetings, where angry hordes of common citizens had threatened them with reprisal if they continued with their plans to dismantle the work of previous generations. It turned out people wanted health care, a social safety net, freedom from want, freedom from fear. A widespread pushback against the right’s philosophy was underway.
On the same day Trump had convinced himself, and a portion of the crowd, that he was their chosen one, the American megaretailer J.C. Penney announced it was shutting down 130-plus stores and heading into the limbo of shuffling late-capitalist collapse. Even at his supposed field of expertise—business, and the saving of jobs—Trump couldn’t put two and two together.
Penney said Friday that it will close 130 to 140 stores as well as two distribution centers over the next several months as it tries to improve profitability. The company said that it would also initiate a voluntary early retirement program for about 6,000 eligible employees.
Trump is not winning. He is losing, and will keep losing. In a twist of delicious irony, his travel ban has been stopped at the gates by the courts. Despite his all-cap opposition online, it is unlikely to proceed. If this is what success looks like, then the city of Troy is still standing.
In Washington, his aides are wanting in the finer arts of political maneuvering. Wherever they appear—on cable news, in print, on Twitter—his minions mouth wooden phrases and botched lines. His foreign connections are the stuff of high school fights. His transgender ban looks to be irrelevant, next to the actually-mandated dictates of Title IX law. His cabinet, with maybe two exceptions, has been shown to be a collection of ineffectuals: not once, or twice, but again and again. His Secretary of Education is a public laughingstock when she is being not hissed by cadres of teachers. His massive unpopularity astounds the nation:
“President Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking like a rock,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll. “He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level-headedness and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows. This is a terrible survey one month in.”
We owe Trump our drop-jawed open-mouthed reverence. Whatever emotion we would give to seeing the world’s tallest garbage pile or biggest oil fire, we should give him. It is his due. Beyond even my expectations, Trump’s capacity for failure is huge. It always has been. In the past, it was confined to New York and New Jersey, and the fields of education, real estate, entertainment, and solvency. He failed in each of those vocations, but his fumbling was limited: he was good press, even when he bungled. This time around, his losing has a much bigger stage to display itself, and it will.
What can we, the common people of America, make of such tremendous “success” as this? It seems strange that a man who insists he is a born victor did the opposite of winning—lose often, lose regular, lose on every front. The first several months are typically the salad days of any administration, when they have the sun on their face and the wind at their back.
But of course, he is not a “winner.” Not in the sense he keeps bragging about. It made perfect sense for this man to stand on this stage at CPAC. They lost to him, but he still courts them, much as he once courted the protection of the bankruptcy laws.
Even Donald’s victories, when they come, are tinged with the moth-eaten sadness of winning in a bitter fight with your spouse. Watching Trump speak about triumph is like overhearing a group of Wall Street brokers bragging about how young they were when they scored their first heart attack. Except in the case of the brokers, their heart attacks actually happened.
How has Trump won? At all? In any way? Even in the space where he has the most leeway, the Executive Order, he has been opposed at every turn. Here, at the moment of his greatest power, when he should be strongest, he is at his weakest.
Even when applied to the easy-at-hand analogies so beloved by Presidential mouthpieces, comparisons do not flatter Our Donald.
Trump has placed a portrait of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on the walls of the Oval Office. Biography.com reminds us that
Jackson was the first president to invite the public to attend the inauguration ball at the White House, which quickly earned him popularity. The crowd that arrived was so large that furniture and dishes were broken as people jostled one another to get a look at the president. The event earned Jackson the nickname “King Mob.”
But Trump is opposed by the largest crowds which have ever appeared on American soil. And unlike Jackson’s crowds, they are of all races.
When Andrew Jackson swept into office, he had the will of the voting public with him. The majority of the people oppose Donald Trump. Of Jackson, Albert Marrin wrote, “He had total faith in the goodness and wisdom of free people, whatever their wealth, occupation, social position, or education. To him, the people’s will was absolute, and the majority always right.” When Trump sees the people oppose him, he declares them to be paid protesters.
Trump’s loss is so widespread, that it is only right that he continues to lie about winning. If Trump was a graceful, reasonable individual, that would be a kind of victory. It is important for the sake of consistency that he lose in every single way, even at the contest of being a good person.
He was right to tell the crowd—you finally have a president Trump is theirs, and they are Trump’s. Far-right ideas are failed ideas, and they have their perfect avatar of failure in Donald J. Trump. Oh, Trump is a victory for someone. all right. Just not who they think.