Trump Is Desperately Trying To Keep A Job He Doesn’t Want

While the country grapples with COVID-19 and racial injustice, President Trump's racism and disinterest in governing are being put on full display.
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a Fourth of July celebration Friday, July 3, 2020, at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a Fourth of July celebration Friday, July 3, 2020, at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

If your only source of information about the United States was President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the nation’s most pressing problems were vandalism of statues, names of sports teams, and a racist incident at a NASCAR garage he insists must have been a hoax. Scroll past the replies of countless bots, gifters, and sycophants bowing before the not-so-charismatic leader of their cult, and you’ll find quite a few Americans asking why Trump isn’t focused on COVID-19 as it keeps raising its disastrous death toll, and whether he intends to do anything about Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Now, we could just say that President Trump is a racist tweeting about racist things, but that would be like going out of our way to point out that Earth, like all planets, is round. All evidence points to this, so much so that it would be ridiculous to debate it. So, instead, let’s consider not just why he’s so worried about waging a war against change and incites his fellow bigots, but why these topics preoccupy his mind despite the much bigger fish he has to fry as president.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy gave an iconic speech committing America to landing on the Moon by the end of the decade, highlighting that “we choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.” In the vision he laid out, the U.S. would explore space for the same reason athletes try to break world records and scientists try to cure cancer. Americans are at their best when they use their enormous wealth and power to accomplish things others lack the resolve and courage to even attempt. And Kennedy, for all his faults, was committed to the idea that being a superpower means accepting incredibly difficult challenges.

In many respects, he was right. Global scope and power requires the desire and will to take on big, multifaceted, nuanced problems that may take years to resolve. A worldwide pandemic is a hard problem. Runaway inequality started by bad tax policy and quickly exacerbated by artificial intelligence, robotics, and globalization is a hard problem. Centuries of racial tension and their grim consequences is a hard problem. But that’s what leaders of a superpower do. They try to solve these problems because they want to make the country, and the world, a better place. Or at least that’s the job description.

Trump, however, can’t deal with difficult problems, nor does he want to. He was bored by briefings warning of a new disease headed for American shores and contributed greatly to our lack of preparedness for the virus when it did reach us. He then badly bungled the response to it, arguing that one day, it was all just magically going to go away because he didn’t know how to tackle this problem and didn’t want to, using daily pandemic briefings as his political rallies and public therapy sessions rather than actually manage or lead the effort against COVID-19.

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He ignored reports of Russia paying bounties to Taliban squads for killing UK and U.S. troops thanks to his cozy, subservient relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who plays him like a fiddle. He was literally laughed out of a NATO conference and the UN when he tried his hand at foreign policy. And his run at healthcare was — and pardon the profanity but like many Eastern Europeans in this situation, I’d be at a loss for proper terminology otherwise — nothing short of a complete and utter clusterfuck as a growing chorus of lawmakers complained off the record about Trump having zero interest in the details of a law he demanded be passed.

Given all that, we can reasonably conclude that Trump isn’t tweeting about statues and sports because he’s a master of distraction trying to oh so deftly manipulate the media. He’s tweeting about them because they’re problems that are easy for him to understand, and he’d much rather argue about culture war fodder between rounds of golf rather than take on pandemics or try his hand at geopolitical chess games which confuse and bore him. But even in these more or less clear cut issues, he manages to be pathologically tone-deaf and pick the worst side every time.

As his waning poll numbers indicate, defending Confederate statues and unleashing tear gas and military police on protesters for a photo op, aren’t exactly winning political stances. People like police officers, but they’re not fans of police departments evading accountability for routine displays of brutality disproportionately targeting minorities. Americans like statues and talking about their history, but they’re far from eager to celebrate its worst parts. And while his base either embraces or is perfectly fine with racism, that base is a rapidly shrinking pool of voters and roughly three-quarters of the country says that racism is a very serious problem.

Let’s also recall that in 2016 he approached John Kasich, then the governor of Ohio, to be his running mate and do all the work of a president while he “makes America Great again,” and according to numerous leaks, he was not expecting to actually win. He wanted headlines, popularity, and maybe the title, but definitely not the actual job because that’s how he ran his companies. Instead of handling actual business, he looked for his name in the news, defrauded customers, and obsessed over fabric swatches while losing nearly a billion dollars in one year.

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All of this prompts the question of why Republican lawmakers are still lining up behind a man whose attempts at shirking his duties and highly questionable state of mind made America a cautionary tale, then a laughing stock, and now, an object of worldwide pity and sadness. The answer is twofold. First, he is their base distilled into a single person. Second, at this point, the GOP platform is nothing but rehashes of the Southern Strategy which gets updated with ever more paranoid conspiracy theories every four years.

Republicans today rely on holding power by keeping Americans at each other’s’ throats, pushing wedge issues to win their 50.1% of the vote through blatant voter disenfranchisement, and then moving heaven and earth for their wealthy and powerful donors to pocket huge donations for the next two, four, or six years in a spectacular act of political auto-cannibalism. They’ve got nothing else. And when the absolute last thing a political party wants is Americans voting more easily and getting together to address the country’s problems, you know it’s rotten to its very core.

It’s been a pretty steep fall from the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt to the party of QAnon and a president who refuses to tackle real, serious crises because he’s simply unable to comprehend them and lacks the attention span to read his briefings, but here we are. If anything should really scare us as Americans, it’s this complete and utter dereliction of duty by Trump and the menagerie of spineless enablers who were elected to be our leaders. And it’s placing his puerile, bigoted tweets in proper, full context that makes them all the more revolting.

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Opinion // Coronavirus / Donald Trump / Government / Racial Justice / Russia