It’s fair to say Donald Trump has a woeful habit of digging holes for himself, most recently evidenced by his unwillingness to promise a peaceful transfer of power should he lose. If you’re already a Trump supporter, this isn’t going to ruffle your feathers, but consider the most important voters – the undecided – and the flagrant disregard for the Constitution and law this attitude suggests.
The leader of a democratic country really shouldn’t imply by omission that there might be violence if voters reject him.
I have little doubt there will be a peaceful transfer should Trump lose, but by failing to promise it, he has once again shot himself in the foot among moderates, giving the mainstream media yet more ammunition to discredit his presidency as one marked by self-serving irresponsibility.
The problem of course for hostile media pundits and Democrats alike is the plain reality that whilst voters rightly recognise Trump as reckless with his words, they also know he is determined to re-establish law and order on the streets they walk. The current outbreak of violence likely appears to them as a much greater threat to the welfare of the average American than a president who won’t speak the words a journalist is imploring him to.
Secretly of course, the journalist was delighted that Trump, in his belligerence, refused to answer the question correctly, giving them all ample room to create headlines for a few days. It is a mess entirely of the president’s making, when he could have replied in the affirmative and then expressed unease about the mail-in ballot process.
Perhaps advisers told him creating a furore was the only way of then drawing attention to the threat of electoral irregularities, but this might be to overestimate their strategizing. More likely, Trump was once again mindlessly unaware of the consequences of what he would say, a habit that has done him much more harm than good in what has been an, at times, laudable performance as president.
The shift in Democratic attitudes to rioting by Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists, with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden eventually condemning the looting and burning, highlights where their greatest weakness lies in trying to persuade an onlooking and horrified American public that they can offer unity and calm at a time of chaos and tension.
The Trump administration’s recent effort to ban the implementation of Critical Race Theory at a federal level, which has seen government employees at multiple levels being updated and re-educated on dubious race-based talking points, has brought into sharp focus the struggle now ensuing for the hearts and minds of middle America.
Although long terms trends among younger voters do not appear positive in this regard for conservatives, the current administration will be buoyed by positive polling in the key states of Arizona and Florida, where Trump has taken the lead for the first time over Biden.
Whether or not the president has reached a tipping point in momentum ahead of November 3 remains to be seen, but the nationwide fatigue, fear, unrest and polarisation caused by toxic levels of political animus and countless examples of lawlessness seems to be benefitting the incumbent.
The sight of militias forming in formerly quiet cities and towns, with businesses, homes and cars being destroyed, has understandably made middle-ground voters question where their priorities should lie. There is nothing quite like the prospect of civil war to focus the mind, and, whilst this may be unlikely, the smell of revolution is certainly an unsettling one for anyone that is comfortable.
Trump would do well to tread carefully when the stakes are so high for his nation, if he really is intent on making his country great (again?).