So today I ate lunch today at a local Trump campaign meeting, an unexpected encounter that answered a few questions about the national mood. (For those who don’t recall, here’s where I stood four years ago. No significant change to report.)
Meanwhile, here’s a headline being passed around Twitter: Couple indicted on involuntary manslaughter charge for allegedly terminating pregnancy. Mom and Dad ordered misoprostol from an overseas pharamcy, used it to induce an abortion, and sure enough it worked.
Exactly which Ohio laws were violated I couldn’t say, but there’s not a single candidate running in the democratic presidential primaries who isn’t campaigning in favor of the procedure this couple decided to try at home. There is not a single candidate who has reservations about a 28-week’s gestation baby being delivered (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t agree there are legitimate reasons that might be medically necessary) and intentionally put to death (nope, not medically necessary).
At the March for Life last month, as I stood there irritated at the security lines in place because of Trump’s appearance, there was a lady near me who was as gung-ho a cheerleader for the president as you could want. She had a homemade sign that everyone kept wanting their photos with, and she beamed and posed and tried to get the crowd chanting, and fortunately for those of us who don’t love being stuck in the middle of a pep rally, that didn’t ever last long.
I got past security in time to hear the president’s speech, and this is what I heard: President Trump is planning to win in November.
He’s not playing. That was one heckuva well-written speech. Whoever his writers were, whoever coached him on the delivery, hire those people. You won’t find better.
If that was the warning shot, the State of the Union was a canon hitting broadside. Did you find the showmanship tacky? Did nothing stink of reality-show quite like making a military family wait to reunite even one minute longer than necessary? Bad news for the upper crust: Reality TV sells. Donald Trump may be as vulgar as they come, but he is a better salesmen than you.
In 2016, Trump was selling an emotion. He sold the idea that he stood for the common man against the liberal elite, and he had the salesman’s luck of getting to compete in the general election not against the other common-man candidate, who likely would have won, but against the opponent who was the epitome of everything True Believing Trumpers love to hate. It doesn’t matter whether Trump, or Sanders, really is the friend of the ordinary folk. What mattered was that people identify with it enough, and be sour on the competition enough, to win the electoral college.
In 2020, the game has leveled-up. Trump is four years more experienced in selling his product, and he hasn’t wasted his time. Donald Trump has been filling his sales display with merchandise people want to buy. A sample of pro-life here, a tester of health care pricing transparency there, a dose of political assassinations and a fresh new batch of landmines for those who go in for such things. While every single Democrat in the primaries is digging in heels on the right of parents to abort their babies with Down Syndrome, Trump has proposed a budget that increases federal spending on persons with cognitive disabilities. Does that make him a pro-life hero? No. It makes him a politician who knows what it takes to win.
This is what it’s like to sit at lunch with local Trump campaign organizers: You meet at a clean, efficient, locally-owned restaurant. You order the gorgonzola salad, and it’s better than most restaurant salads by a long shot, and not over-priced either. Before you eat, one of the leaders tells a joke and then says grace. Guess what? Deplorables like being allowed to pray. Trump people may or may not be religious at home, but being insulted over your religion? That’s fighting words.
So then there’s lunch, and people just talk, mostly general chit-chat, not even political. At the end of the meal, the local organizer runs through her to-do list. There are some rallies planned, they’re gonna be short and fun and it’s a good time. Would a few people like to work on combing the obituaries and working with voter registration to make sure no dead people vote this year?
Then the guy who said grace stands up and tells the story of how, by being friendly and approachable and sharing an objective list of Trump’s accomplishments, he’d gotten an opponent to change parties.
I spent an hour and a half with the local Trump reps, and there was not a moment of negativity. There was kitsch, for sure. There was a drawing for a MAGA hat, there was a big ol’ muscle-man Trump banner, there was a little theme music playing during clean-up. This works not because most people who are going to vote in November want a president’s head stuck on Rocky Balboa’s body. It’s because if you are positive, law-upholding, and no matter the voter’s priorities you can point to two or three accomplishments fit the bill, then the people who don’t go in for kitsch will ignore it. It’s a big tent. Trump might be a sales guy’s sales guy, but he’s got something in inventory you’d like to buy.
Meanwhile, the opposition is sniping at centrist voters one non-negotiable at a time. There are a lot of people who don’t want 28-week-old babies intentionally put to death — or at least want it to be done discreetly under guise of “no extraordinary care.” There are a lot of people who are okay with parts of socialized medicine (Trump has not overturned the part of the ACA that provides medicaid for low-income families) but don’t want nuns being made to pay for birth control, and the middle class fined for failing to buy insurance they can’t afford. There are a lot of people who don’t give a rip what grown-ups do behind closed doors (and indeed if more people did care, Trump would not have gotten elected) but they don’t like minors being pushed into sex-change surgery and don’t like seeing small business owners bankrupted over left-wing sting-operations. The message from the bulk of the left is that if those things bother you, good riddance.
The message from Trump is that your president might not be a perfect man, but who is? And he’s going to do some of the things you want, and he wants not just your vote, he wants you.
Unless something big changes, it’s looking like four more years.
Photo: President Trump smiling over a signed executive order, courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.