Alan Zendell, June 26, 2020
Yesterday, President Trump told Sean Hannity, his primary cheerleader on Fox News that Joe Biden will be elected president in November because, “People don’t love me enough.” There’s a lot to parse in that brief statement.
Almost since he announced his candidacy in 2015, despite receiving more free media coverage of his campaign than all the other candidates combined, Trump has complained that he has been treated unfairly. First it was the “liberal” press, then it was nearly all the mainstream television news organizations (NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, AP, Reuters.) After he was inaugurated, when he embarked on a vendetta against everything associated with his predecessor, Barrack Obama, he attacked the courts for declaring his Executive Orders unconstitutional. Clearly, all of the above, in league with all Democrats, were engaged in a Deep State conspiracy to undermine his presidency.
His whining culminated a couple of weeks ago when he claimed that he had the worst press coverage since Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that maybe Lincoln wasn’t as great as people think, and he may have deserved it. That sort of narcissistic carping has been one of Trump’s hallmarks, but his remark to Hannity was different. It wasn’t about institutional opposition or a deep state conspiracy. It was about Donald Trump’s desperate need for adulation. Until now he has continued to claim that he represents all Americans, and except for the fake news and the rigged polls, it would be obvious that he is one of our greatest and most beloved presidents.
But something has changed. Even Fox News’s latest poll showed him trailing Joe Biden nationally, by 52-40 percent. That means 30 percent more people preferred Biden than Trump in their sample. Despite Trump’s propensity for lying and misrepresenting anything he doesn’t like, even in the delusional alternate universe he inhabits, there was only one possible conclusion. His base was shrinking. Either Fox News had joined the Deep State anarchists, or people just didn’t love him anymore.
A Siena College poll from June 24 was even worse news for Trump, pegging Biden’s advantage at 50-36 percent. That’s the lowest level of support Trump has seen, and it has now been followed up by polls in the Electoral College battleground states. Biden now leads Trump by between six and eleven points in key states Trump won in 2016: Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, which would give Biden a 330-205 Electoral College majority if the other states voted the way they did last time. And it might be a lot worse, as Trump also trails in Texas and Ohio, whose combined 56 electoral votes could make Biden’s margin of victory 386-149.
Trump could reach no conclusion except that people don’t love him enough, which sounded like a rare moment of transparency for a man who has never displayed the slightest trace of humility. Even so, he could have phrased his response to Hannity many different ways, but typically, what he said was all about Trump himself, rather than the reasons so many people are shifting to Biden or his own failures in leadership.
Trump cannot separate his need to be loved and adored from his role as president. Everything for him is personal. His need for loyalty and worshipful applause are completely disconnected from his actions, and that may be more prophetic than polls with more than four months to go before Election Day. Barring massive help from Russia and China, his only hope to win in November lies in turning things around in the battleground states. But first, he must understand why only slightly over a third of the country still loves him.
In order to do that he has to do two things: begin listening to his advisors and honestly look inside himself. But that would require him to understand that he is not always the smartest person in the room, that his vaunted gut feelings are no match for professionalism and wisdom gained from experience. It would also oblige him to see his divisiveness and hateful rhetoric for what they are.
I do not believe he is capable of either. The latest evidence was his last ditch attempt to kill Obamacare in an appeal to the Supreme Court. If successful, he would deprive more than twenty million Americans and their families of health insurance in the midst of a pandemic. Could anything be more cynical and lacking in compassion? And why? So Trump can brag that he unraveled Obama’s signature achievement, one that is still favored by American voters by about the same margin that they currently prefer Biden over Trump.
When Trump loses in November, perhaps he will finally understand.