I couldn’t believe the news as it came in late Tuesday night. Just after Air Force One departed from Omaha’s Eppley Airfield following one of the campaign’s ill-advised gatherings, the news had not yet sunk in for the 25,000 supporters. Their rides back to the parking lot more than three miles away weren’t coming. Thousands who were bussed in for the show were now walking back. The last ones got to their cars around 12:30 AM, temperatures were near freezing, and thirty attendees needed medical attention according to Omaha Police.
The metaphors are overwhelming, but Counting Crows ironically wrote it well in their 1993 hit song, “Omaha.” The line goes, “I think you’d better turn your ticket in and get your money back at the door.”
Ever since he took office, guys like me who have been watching, listening, reading and writing about this failed American experience have given exhaustive descriptions of its awfulness. If there was one characteristic that most accurately describes this man for me, it is that he is transactional. Many people read that word and mistakenly think it is not the worst insult an editorial writer could dream up. Even without the crutch of strategically added vulgarity, being called transactional should sting, a lot.
Is “unlikable” worse? Maybe not, but it is the primary reason why he is losing according to Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine. Alberta is no “lib” that the Trump cult should be trying to “own.” He has done stints at the National Journal, the Wall Street Journal and the National Review. In a Tuesday article, “One last funny feeling about 2020,” Alberta lists 16 reasons why the 2020 election is different than 2016. Yea, it’s a big list. But the most important observation was made before the list even starts. He wrote: “the driving force behind Trump’s impending defeat is his essential unlikability.”
Think about it in terms that basic. Do you have anyone in your life that behaves remotely like Trump in a generic way? I truly hope that for each of you the answer is no, but if it is yes, why is that?
Imagine going on a long drive alone with him. You know, spending hours alone in a car just you and him, and with spotty wireless coverage, like on I-65 between Indianapolis and Chicago for example. Really imagine it. The conversation would be exhausting, sure, but the worst thing would be the return trip. Each new day in Trump’s world brings new transactions to conquer in the moment and then move on to the next irritatingly meaningless quest. The last four years have been like that car trip for most of America. Oh, who am I kidding, the entire world is tired of him.
The president’s “associates” range from Kanye West to hall of fame golfer, Jack Nicklaus now. But those people aren’t “friends” of the Donald, who actually like him. They are players in one or more transactions. Just like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is. In fact, Trump probably sees receiving an endorsement from Nicklaus, and the presidential candidacy from Kanye as equally important as normalizing relations between Israel and Bahrain. All of his transactions have the same value–all short term and shallow.
Being president is just too big, too complex for someone who only focuses on winning the moment. Leading this country takes character, vision and a clear sense of values. It was clear to the majority of voters that Trump lacked those things well before the pandemic. He was losing the election before our first infection.
When the coronavirus arrived and the crisis became clear in March of this year, I recall thinking it was the kind of unforced crisis that would give Trump a chance at winning a transaction that would solidify four more years. He just needed to see the crisis as an opportunity to show the nation that he cared about us. I vividly recall thinking it was the political opportunity he needed the month following his impeachment acquittal.
The right path was spoon fed to him by scientists, and he spit it out like a baby in a highchair.
His unlikability comes from his transactional approach to life. And all of his deals are meaningless due to their uniform value, all designed to serve no one else but Trump. The results on Tuesday are not going to be about his failed attempt to lead through the pandemic, that’s just the latest scenery of a deeper void.
America simply doesn’t like him. That’s why he will be the loser.