After the anarchic and deeply disturbing scenes of the past few days, many will surely conclude that overwhelmingly, the American people will expel Donald Trump from the White House in the November elections.
What else can we do?
Our country is in flames, peaceful demonstrators being gassed to tears and beaten with police batons amidst looting and anarchy.
Twelve major cities have declared curfews, 17,000 soldiers have been activated, governors in at least 24 states have called the National Guard, and more than 11,000 people have been arrested since the first appearance of a policeman’s sickening streak white pinning an unarmed black man, George Floyd, to the ground kneeling on his neck, resulting in his death.
After the anarchic and deeply disturbing scenes of the past few days, many will conclude that the American people will expel Donald Trump from the White House in the November elections.
And if it wasn’t bad enough, we have the worst coronavirus death toll in the world, with well over 100,000 – almost double the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
Millions have already lost their jobs and millions more are expected to join them in a recession – or even a depression – as a result of the pandemic.
It is no wonder that many of Trump’s staunchest supporters are moderate about “four more years.”
But I studied Trump for 32 years, having first met him in 1988 when I investigated his casino operations in Atlantic City and discovered his friendships with the Mafia.
I know the man well, his motivations and his modus operandi. Let me tell you, it would be a huge mistake to assume that he lost the 2020 elections.
In fact, there are many reasons to believe that what is happening now will give him this second term.
As critical as I have been to him for a long time, I have always admired his ability to convince millions of people that he is a modern Midas, a “very stable genius”, to use his own phrase – and the only person who can save America.
It doesn’t matter that these claims are absurd as long as enough people believe them.
Despite his many flaws, Trump is remarkably resilient.
To keep the White House, he faces three challenges.
First, he must persuade the Americans that China is responsible for the deaths from coronaviruses, and state governors and local mayors – rather than his own chaotic administration – have mismanaged the pandemic. If the deaths, as expected, fall after the summer, he will benefit. If reliable treatment had appeared by then, it would help more. Second, social unrest must recede – as it will in the coming weeks.
Trump will argue that it was his rigorous policing policies that crushed the violence that erupted after Mr. Floyd’s death and simultaneously reassured voters that he was concerned about police abuse.
Its third challenge is the economy. It’s the easiest for him.
Even with more than a quarter of American workers receiving unemployment benefits – and after a slight increase in jobs yesterday – Trump can argue that the quickest way to jumpstart the economy is to cut taxes further and to remove even more trade regulations.
Most large corporations do not want Democrats to return to power, with the prospect of higher taxes and bureaucracy. They can help him now by announcing expansion plans and recruiting plans, promising even more if he wins in November.
More than 11,000 people have been arrested since the disgusting filming of a white policeman pinning George Floyd to the ground, kneeling on his neck, resulting in his death. In the photo, a protester raises his fist in front of a fire in the May 31 protests in Manhattan
Meeting these challenges is achievable. And he’s a role model with a man whose life has been characterized by the transformation of setbacks that would destroy someone else’s career and reputation in triumphs.
Trump never admits mistakes. His late mentor, the famous political fixer and mafia consigliere Roy Cohn (who was removed from the bar as a lawyer for trying to defraud his own client), taught him to attack the police and to make them bad guys. Whenever a judge rules against him, Trump calls the lawyer a bigot, an idiot, a bribe, or a “hater.”
The President understands that millions of white Americans have never embraced the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, too many people still want to be able to put minorities in their place.
They don’t want to sit next to an Asian on a plane, work alongside a Latino, and God shouldn’t have to run for a black boss!
Trump delights these fans by denouncing the “politically correct”. He is particularly brilliant at attacking this taboo, arousing the support of those who demand the freedom to use racial, religious and gender-based insults.
He also defends the particular American right that prevails in some states to walk around with military assault rifles slung and holstered handguns on the hip: a right that has been widely displayed in recent demonstrations against blockages and social distancing.
In this year’s election, Democrats expect heavily armed Trump supporters to mass near the polling stations where those who oppose the President will vote.
Their message will be clear – and some voters will be too intimidated to vote.
Trump is also working to block postal voting in some states, a process he uses personally but insists on fraud.
His campaign is currently lobbying for postal voting in states where the process could benefit him, but against that in the states, he risks losing.
All of this makes him a formidable candidate in 2020.
Then there is its main attraction.
America has the worst coronavirus death toll in the world, with well over 100,000 – almost double the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. In the photo, health care workers remove body from refrigerated truck April 8 in Brooklyn
His wilderness – his speech and alienating a world from most politicians and statesmen – resonates with people who have never dreamed of reading manifestos or detailed maps of presidential candidates.
Rejecting the Washington DC political bureaucrat, he keeps repeating rude slogans. When his opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton – and his predecessor in the presidency, Barack Obama – used sophisticated language, Trump sang his supporters: “Lock Her Up! “Build the wall!” and, of course, “make America more beautiful.”
When he shouts, “I love people with little education,” the same people applaud him, despite the insult.
He has long positioned himself as the champion of the Forgotten Man and that will not change in November. Denied his beloved gatherings in sports stadiums because of the coronavirus, he now uses Twitter and his combative press conferences to continue feeding his lines at his “base”.
Its dreadful brilliance lies in the fact that no other candidate has profited so much from the disappointment, the sorrow and the fury that many poorer Americans feel to be pressed to infinity, after having seen their manufacturing jobs go in China and their pay packages shrinking as the billionaire class – of which it loudly claims to be a member – has only gotten richer.
Ordinary voters do not scrutinize economic data. Yet they hear Trump continually bragging about having built the world’s largest economy. Jobs, he insisted, were growing in numbers under his watch until the virus hit and wages started to rise in real terms.
He even made the absurd and baseless claim that his over-promoted daughter Ivanka had created “14 million jobs – and increased.”
It would be almost a tenth of all jobs in America.
So while many of his supporters might admit that perhaps they are no better off than they were four years ago, they may nonetheless believe that having a Democrat in the White House would be worse.
Demographics also favor it: in the last election, Hillary Clinton won among voters aged 18 to 39, and Trump won among those over 40.
These older Americans make up over 70% of the voting age population and are more likely to vote than younger people.
Twelve major cities have declared curfews, 17,000 soldiers have been activated, and governors in at least 24 states have called the National Guard after protests over the death of George Floyd. In the photo, a protester stands in front of a burnt-out car in Texas on May 30
Thanks in large part to Trump, America is now more polarized, especially by generation, than at any time in its recent history. On social media here, many complain that family reunions have become impossible due to irreconcilable differences of opinion on the president.
Trump also benefits from a psychological phenomenon that has received scientific scrutiny in recent years. People are stubborn in their beliefs. Studies show that most of us repeat grades, even after we have been made clear that the facts do not support our beliefs.
Once Trump wins a voter, he seems to have an unbreakable grip on them: why else would his approval ratings barely budge throughout his tenure?
Throughout his life, Trump has always had amazing success in preventing harm, not just when he cheated on his wives.
He dodged any fallout in the 1980s when his personal helicopter pilot and the supplier of his casino aircraft fleet were caught running on an international drug trafficking network.
Trump continued to employ the pilot after his charge, later urging the judge to impose a lenient sentence.
Three decades ago, his lawyers negotiated an extraordinary private settlement in which his empire paid a total debt of $ 3 billion – more than $ 800 million that he had personally guaranteed – without being forced, as it is normally supposed to, declare personal bankruptcy.
This was followed by four corporate bankruptcies when he was CEO of a casino company – even though it paid him at least $ 83 million.
In 2005, I received the only federal Trump tax return the public has ever seen in the mail. I think he sent him to me – an investigative reporter specializing in economic and fiscal matters – only because he showed a huge income for this year of $ 153 million.
Following my reporting on the subject, the New York Times launched its own investigation into Trump’s financial affairs, uncovering mountains of business records and finding, among other things, that “President Trump was involved in questionable tax schemes in the 1990s ”.
For the rest of us, any of these lemons would have barred a future political career.
Sitting in the Oval Office today, it’s clear that Trump has concocted the ultimate lemonade.
He also benefits from deep rifts in the Democratic Party, which is torn between progressives who want European-style benefits such as universal health care, and business-friendly Democrats such as Joe Biden, the alleged candidate, who is tarnished by devious allegations.
Trump (pictured returning to the White House on June 1) is the fourth of 45 presidents who lost the popular vote but won the White House. Presidents are elected not by citizens, but by “voters” in each state, through a process called the Electoral College
Finally, in favor of Trump, there is the particular way in which American presidents are elected. Trump is the fourth of 45 presidents to lose the popular vote – the total number of votes cast nationally – but still won the White House.
Presidents are elected not by the citizens of the country as a whole, but by “voters” in each state, through a process called the Electoral College.
The “founding fathers” of the United States designed the system this way because they feared that the populace would one day choose a madman or a fanatic: it was a safety net against the popular regime.
The Electoral College favors the underpopulated rural states – which tend to vote Republicans – over the more populated urban states, whose allegiances are probably Democrats. Simply put, your vote goes further into Wyoming (572,000 residents) than California (40 million).
Unfortunately, the arrangement does not work perfectly, which is why a man like Trump, who has no respect for our Constitution or for democracy, can gain power even when most Americans do not want it.
In November, I expect Trump to lose the popular vote to up to 16 million ballots. Despite this, he will get a second term if he wins only 270 of the 538 votes of the Electoral College. (In 2016, he won 304.) Suddenly, his 43% approval rating does not seem so fatal.
Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “there is no second act in American life”. Trump’s biography belies this.
The fact that he succeeds when he should fail is a testament to his extraordinary skills as a con artist, easily the most successful the world has ever known.
New York gangster John Gotti, boss of the Gambino criminal family with whom Trump’s father did business, became known as “Teflon Don” because he was left with nothing: he was acquitted in three major trials criminals after participating, he later appeared in intimidation of witnesses and falsification of the jury.
Although he is not a criminal like Gotti, Donald Trump’s unsinkable reputation shows that he is a Teflon Don for our own time. Deceptions, lies and near-treason offenses, like saying he trusts Vladimir Putin over American intelligence agencies, just make him slip.
The lesson from the November elections is clear. Don’t write it down for a moment.
David Cay Johnston is the author of The Making Of Donald Trump and editor of DCReport.org