• Ben Henschel

Trump's New, Fun (and Xenophobic?) Campaign -- and why (unfortunately) it just might work

Updated: Jan 11

Just when the Democratic party thinks they're ahead -- like when the president of the opposing party says something racist on Twitter and is ridiculed by the world -- they rapidly find themselves on the losing side somehow.

It's almost like instead of admitting defeat, ever, Donald J. Trump either says something equally outrageous to distract, or defends himself ferociously calling on nostalgic tropes of patriotic and nationalist values that his base wears on their sleeve. It's like he does it to galvanize them, get them as rowdy as possible with 2020 in close sight. Almost as if he feeds off the "Trump's a racist" news cycle that the world's seen over the last few days.

Because he does. It's tactical, irresponsible, un-presidential and xenophobic -- but if you take empathy out of the mix, it's smart.

The press Trump's been given has been quite the opposite of commending, but he's never been about good or bad press. He might say he is, but he's not. It's all food, fuel for the wildfire. This bit of press -- coupled with the now ubiquitous presence of a certain four Democratic congresswomen -- offers Trump a fastball, 25 mph, just a bit off center.

And when it comes to nationalist racism, Trump swings like a madman.

Trump, right now, is running against these four Congresswomen. Maybe when a new face of the Democratic party (almost undoubtedly the nominee, when the time comes) rolls along, we'll be past the leadership age of "the squad" -- the aforementioned four Congresswomen including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ayana Pressley (D-MA).

Trump's approval rating has stagnated at a depressing 42.5%, per FiveThirtyEight. The squad's are worse.

Good news: Thursday, Trump said that Omar was polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%. Those are wrong, he pulled them from an Axios poll that, one, wasn't regarding overall approval rating, and two, Axios broke the cardinal sin of polling -- leaving out the specifics of how it was conducted.

Unfortunate news: The squad's numbers are still small. Really, really small.

A more accurate approach can be found in the squad's net favorability ratings, which measure "the public's overall sentiment toward a politician," whether "favorable (positive), unfavorable (negative) or neutral," per SAGE Research Methods.

Pressley has the most promising numbers (and the only positive ones) with a net favorability of +4. But Tlaib sports a -7, AOC is slightly more unpopular with a -8 and Omar takes the cake with a -9.

Scary, right?

Then take into account that his campaign has entirely shifted focus towards them. And who better to? With a weak stance in the public eye, and very, very limited reach in Washington as freshmen lawmakers, Trump seems to be a few leaps ahead.

At a rally on Wednesday night, Trump supporters could be heard chanting "SEND! HER! BACK!" referring to Omar as Trump eyed the room -- important to note he didn't prevent it. Afterwards, after consulting his daughter, an esteemed political expert, he condemned the chants and said "I didn't say that...[the supporters] did."

Look no further than the fact he did not speak out and shush the chant away. Instead, he contemplated what pushing back would do, thought of the potential backlash and his inability to afford resistance from the strongest of his base, and decided to let them die down themselves.

That's how this campaign will continue to go. Trump's supporters call for a radical resistance against the establishment, the nation's "enemies" and those among us -- specifically those who aren't white.

The more racist, controversial, news-controlling -- the more his base will resonate. So as long as the squad acts as the disapproved front of the Democratic party, Trump will have a recently unprecedented opportunity to swing voters without a single dig towards a blue candidate.

Question is, will Democrats wake up?