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Avoiding the Trump Trap

Summary:
As US President Donald Trump's popularity continues to drop ahead of November's election, he has sought new ways to stoke the public fear and panic that led him to victory in 2016. For his presumptive opponent, Joe Biden, the best strategy may be to make Trump's demagoguery a theme of his campaign. CHICAGO – With Joe Biden’s lead in the polls, many Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers are increasingly optimistic that US President Donald Trump will lose in November. But it would be a mistake to count Trump out. He has formidable advantages that will become more salient as the election nears. These advantages have nothing to do with his accomplishments or failures, and everything to do with his mastery of political

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As US President Donald Trump's popularity continues to drop ahead of November's election, he has sought new ways to stoke the public fear and panic that led him to victory in 2016. For his presumptive opponent, Joe Biden, the best strategy may be to make Trump's demagoguery a theme of his campaign.

CHICAGO – With Joe Biden’s lead in the polls, many Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers are increasingly optimistic that US President Donald Trump will lose in November. But it would be a mistake to count Trump out. He has formidable advantages that will become more salient as the election nears. These advantages have nothing to do with his accomplishments or failures, and everything to do with his mastery of political theater.

For liberals, a dominant view is that, thanks to Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it unleashed, Republican and Trump-leaning independent voters are coming to their senses. But this is a sunny reading of events. Trump won the election in 2016 by converting his professional and temperamental unfitness for the presidency into a political virtue. Defiance of the establishment gave Trump credibility among Republican voters, who believed that mainstream politicians ignored their interests.

Trump solidified his support by stoking fears that immigrants were overrunning the country and threatening the dominance of white Americans. He offered himself as a savior. That was enough.

As illegal immigration has receded from the public imagination, Trump has sought new ways to capitalize on voters’ fears. He believes he has found it in the specter of urban criminality.

Trump clearly expects to benefit from the chaotic confrontations between police and protesters in America’s big cities. No matter that most Americans sympathize with Black Lives Matter: if voters believe that crime and disorder will rise (as it has in places like Chicago) and that riots will erupt, their fears will take precedence over ideals of social justice.

Fearful people seek protection from powerful authority figures. No authority figure is more powerful than the sitting president of the United States, who...

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