We’re in a bad place when the president dragging a small business in front of 50 million people is among the more restrained “social warfare” reactions by politicians to Sanders getting booted.
In his defense, he was just blowing off steam after tweeting about far more important subjects this weekend:
Knocking the restaurant is bad — and good — politics for POTUS. Bad in various ways. It turns the restaurant into an underdog, maybe even a cause celebre, despite its jerky treatment of Sanders. It’ll lead inevitably to the business (or unrelated but similarly-named businesses) being threatened and harassed and puts him on the hook politically if some deranged fan tries something criminal. It mainstreams politician-led boycotts against businesses owned by people on the other side of the aisle at the very highest level. It’s actually unethical under federal regulations, in case anyone still cares about that. And it gives reporters a reason to remind everyone of the various health-code violations at Trump’s own “dirty” businesses. Mar-a-Lago alone has had 51 violations in the past five years, notes Lachlan Markay, who writes, “Compared to the Red Hen, some of Trump’s own restaurants seem like the bathroom of a dive bar the morning after a live show.”
But it’s good politics too insofar as the bulk of POTUS’s political interest, and appeal, is culture war. Not *all* of his interest — trade war’s a big part too, and immigration enforcement of course. But if you want to rouse righties to vote this fall, reminding them of how much cultural garbage the left is responsible for is shrewder than trying to convince people to care about trade imbalances or to reward the GOP for a tax cut. Axios knows what he’s up to and notes his rising poll numbers:
Trump thinks he has found a winning formula, his advisers tell Axios. And he might be right:
The more he trashes Mueller, and the more he trashes the media and the media trashes him, the more Republicans want to have his back.
And the more casual viewers see everything like the Russia probe as messy and muddy, not just Trump.
Our politics are becoming ever more tribal, and his voters are numb to the outrageousness.
It’s arguably the most cynical strategy imaginable. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be successful politically.
The point isn’t to attack Mueller or the media per se, it’s to attack any cultural enemy that’s landed in a spotlight, even a penny-ante one like the restaurant. The kneeling NFL players serve the same function. And it works in part because a certain type of angry and/or stupid Democrat like Maxine Waters or Dan Savage will overreact. One of Trump’s greatest assets politically is a cultural siege mentality among the working class; every prominent example of liberals actually calling for a siege adds value to it. A restaurant kicking out the president’s press secretary because she’s morally unfit to share the premises qualifies as prominent even though the stakes seem so pitifully small. I’d lay 50/50 odds that Trump encouraged her to tweet about it on Saturday after he heard about what happened, knowing what hay could be made of it.
But don’t overstate the importance either. Remember, all news developments in the Trump era are farts in a Category Five hurricane. They’re here and gone in a blink. Even a legit news story like the child separation saga is apt to be a distant memory by November. To the extent that it matters, it won’t be because voters go to the polls with the policy in mind but because it reinforces a visceral dislike they already feel for POTUS. That dislike will get them off the couch on Election Day, not any particular policy or Trump tweet. Trump is seizing on cultural affronts by the left to try to harness the same gut dislike for the enemy on the right to the same end. I’m surprised he hasn’t already tweeted about Waters. Soon!