This may be the one matter on which there’s heavy overlap between diehard Trumpers and people who work in political media. Most of the country hates Trump’s Twitter habit, with 68 percent calling it “inappropriate,” 65 percent calling it “insulting,” and a clear majority of 52 percent calling it “dangerous.” His foreign-policy tweets are especially dangerous, and there’s no doubt that he’s damaged his ability to forge bipartisan deals with Democrats by taking needless potshots at Obama and the rest of the party.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a frisson of anticipation when logging into Twitter early in the morning, knowing that the president of the United States could be tweeting about literally anything, no matter how strange or self-sabotaging. Is he going to start riffing on Obama’s birth certificate again? Might he be ready to flame Rosie O’Donnell? What if there’s a juicy segment on “Fox & Friends” about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart getting back together, a subject of considerable interest to Trump back in the day? You never know what unlikely subject will be dominating American political news on a given morning. And the longer Trump’s term rolls on, the lower the stakes get. By now, foreign intelligence services doubtless already have a solid psychological profile of him based on his tweeting. He’s alienated Democrats utterly at this point so there’s no cost in continuing to troll them. Most of his agenda will be frozen for the next 18 months, and at the rate Trump’s going, he may end up making enemies of enough Senate Republicans that the chamber grinds to a complete halt. If and when the GOP health-care bill fails, we’ll have fully entered the panem et circenses phase of the Trump presidency. And he’s a phenomenal ringleader. It’s the greatest show on earth.
A lot of his fans agree too, for their own reasons. A fascinating bit from a New Yorker story about Trump supporters in Grand Junction, Colorado:
“I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”
In Grand Junction, people wanted Trump to accomplish certain things with the pragmatism of a businessman, but they also wanted him to make them feel a certain way. The assumption has always been that, while emotional appeal might have mattered during the campaign, the practical impact of a Trump Presidency would prove more important. Liberals claimed that Trump would fail because his policies would hurt the people who had voted for him.
But the lack of legislative accomplishment seems only to make supporters take more satisfaction in Trump’s behavior. And thus far the President’s tone, rather than his policies, has had the greatest impact on Grand Junction.
Right. Increasingly, The Trump Show isn’t a distraction from the Trump presidency. It is the Trump presidency. The show, particularly when it involves the media as chief villain, is the point. Very little is getting done legislatively; what little has been done via executive order is bottled up in court. We’ve got Gorsuch, which was a big win, but if the health-care bill falls apart there’ll be nothing left to do until the midterms except to watch the daily outbursts, flaming, and troll wars and hope against hope that nothing serious happens abroad that requires significant American leadership. For the moment it really has become the presidency as reality show, pitting the Trumps against an amazing array of friends turned villains and villains turned friends (or both simultaneously) — Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Joe and Mika, the talking heads at CNN. The more paralyzed the government is, the more important it is for The Show to hold voters’ interest. That’s the only way it’s going to get renewed in 2020.
One other interesting bit to this clip: There are not one but two Trump voters featured who claim they have buyer’s remorse, one because of the president’s tweeting and the other because of his, er, travel ban. Did … the person who found the travel ban “cruel” not watch any Trump rallies on immigration during the campaign? What did she think she was getting?