Donald Trump in Twitter’s Lilliput

“However, in my thoughts I could not sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive mortals, who durst venture to mount and walk on my body.” 

 —Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Donald Trump has slumped badly in the polls over the last weeks. There are the usual suspects for his periodic dips: his cul de sac Twitter wars over Joe Biden, obsessing over the utter dreariness of Joe Scarborough’s past irrelevant life, the constant effects of a 93 percent negative media that blames him for everything from the economic collapse to the rioting in Minneapolis, and public frustration of nearly three months of enervating COVID-19 quarantines.

Yet despite the terrible news, the odd thing is that when Trump relaxes and allows even a bleak news cycle to play out, then his policies weather well and usually help him—regardless of the 24/7 negative media editorialization.  

Given the doom and gloom, few appreciate that beneath the bleak media veneer, there are some signs of growing optimism. The stock market is recovering on hunches that a vaccine is on the horizon and antiviral drugs may soon be appearing. Viral deaths are falling due to the synergy of warmer weather, a likely constantly mutating and attenuating virus, some growing herd immunities, more outdoor activity, and better hygiene and medical protocols.

Democrat and Expert Pessimists Fall Short

Expert pessimists who warned of millions of dead, of never-ending infection, of no vaccine in sight, of 3-4 per 100 of the infected dying of the virus were not just wrong, but wrong to the degree that the entire national quarantine may itself have been a tragic overreaction.

The restart states so far have not experienced the predicted viral disasters, and are slowly showing the way back to recovery. Large blue states like New York, California, and Illinois are increasingly in untenable positions. One cannot critique restart states as near treasonous when they alone are creating real wealth that can be redistributed to subsidize the blue-states’ own fetal-position edicts. 

Governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, California’s Gavin Newsom, and Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker sound panicked, shrill, and incoherent. The tabs for their pre-viral, suicidal spending have come due. They increasingly are exposed as politically cynical in hoping to slow down the economic recovery to abort the Trump reelection, on the rationale that the United States will never fully recover, with over 20 percent of its national GDP rendered all but inert in these three states. The governors’ “never let a pandemic go to waste” logic is that prior to COVID-19 they lavished their population with big pensions, big welfare payments, and big entitlements, and now demand the federal government take money away from rebooted states to pay for their profligacy—or else. 

Joe Biden is, well, Joe Biden. He can neither speak extemporaneously nor on the teleprompter without embarrassment. In an age of #MeToo, he should not be left unattended in a room with women of any age, but particularly should be forced to socially distance at least six feet from teens and preadolescents. Biden may be dappled, pale, and hoarse, but otherwise, his remarkably agile septuagenarian fingers can morph on autopilot into opportunistic tentacles. 

Biden’s sole strategy is to stay put and chalk up one more day that he did not completely implode. He hopes to emulate the style of silent movies—mute gesturing while filmed without speaking, as music and subtitles provide the messaging.  

Biden counts on Trump daily tweeting out enough soundbites to supply fodder for the network evening news, the Drudge sensationalist headlines, and the Washington Post/New York Times/NPR/PBS echo chamber. So far, Trump is accommodating him. 

But otherwise, Biden’s tragic decline is undeniable, and the autumn pathway for a Biden campaign is to outsource campaigning to future appointees, stay incommunicado, and plead that the emergency conditions of the virus preclude debates, conventions, press conferences, barnstorming, and rallies. Biden’s strategy is a candidacy of suspended animation while siccing the media on Trump’s latest weird tweet.

Biden in the wake of rioting, the past disclosures about Senator Amy Klobuchar’s checkered career as a county attorney, and pressure from his base to honor his race and gender nomination promises, will likely select a more left-wing activist to join him on the ticket. Biden will hint the nominee will soon be president—even as she may frighten voters with agendas, which could not win in primary elections but could through selection in November.

Why Doesn’t Trump Let Them Eat Themselves?

Add all this up and it is odd that Trump does not allow rapidly converging events to neuter Biden’s campaign. 

The president understandably tweets, given that it is one of his only ways to reach the public without selective media censorship and editing. He understandably has good cause to be enraged given he has been a victim of a failed administrative state coup, a disgraceful partisan impeachment, the shameful witch hunt of Robert Mueller, and assorted melodramas ranging from pathetic efforts to invoke the 25th Amendment and the Emoluments Clause to being the target of various Hollywood celebrities’ sick assassination fantasies. 

So there is ample cause to wage a war against all on Twitter—except Trump’s own self-interest. And getting reelected hinges on not gratuitously distracting attention from the gifts that his opponents and the natural cycle of the news bestow. Both are attempting to deliver the election to him. 

Trump’s instincts have often proved prescient throughout the crisis. He sensed a travel ban was critical even in an election year’s politically correct climate. He assumed the real fatality rate from the virus was less 1 percent, not the 2-3 percent with which the bureaucracy terrified the population—and thus would be more analogous to a bad flu year, And indeed the virus increasingly seems to be emulating 1957-58 or 1967-68.

Trump sensed that he could stop the virus with a lockdown until early May and then had only a tiny window of opportunity in late May to reboot the country and save the economy. His mobilization of private enterprise to mass-produce protective, medical equipment, ventilators, and test kits is already paying off. When blue-state governors panicked and demanded instant tent hospitals, ventilators, and federal hospital ships, Trump tried to give them all that and more. He allowed Dr. Anthony Fauci—Mr. “Yes Yesterday, Maybe Today, Absolutely No Tomorrow”—have his spring in the sun, even when he went on left-wing media to sigh, to hint, and to grimace his displeasure with his boss. 

In other words, Trump performed well during the crisis. He knows how to jumpstart the economy, and will do more campaigning in a day than will Biden in a month. 

Despite the media focus on volatile polls, even the massaged and weaponized news cycle ahead will favor him in lots of ways. Blue states with tails between their legs will follow restarted states—the more so big-city rioting seems to be given an exemption, but going to church or out to eat is still taboo. Looting with near impunity and the impotence of authorities have utterly ended the logic and the authority of big-city mass quarantining: if the state is not going to arrest hundreds of arsonists and thieves without masks, it certainly cannot detain and fine a barber or florist at work with them. In a civilized society under medical quarantine, destroyers without medical masks cannot outweigh creators with masks. 

The Stubborn Facts Will Out if He Lets Them

Pent up demand, cheap energy and gas, nonexistent interest rates, and decoupling from China will spur the economy by November. The pettiness and incoherent dictates of all these blue-state local Nurse Ratcheds will weary the public. 

When the rioting cools, the four police officers involved in the death of George Floyd will be headed to trial for murder and manslaughter or accessories of some sort. Recriminations will also surface over who allowed rioters to torch small businesses in the style ofwe also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”  

Rioting for the most part took place in blue cities, in blue states, with blue police chiefs, mayors, governors, and state attorneys general. But, then again, those who are usually unlawfully killed by the police die mostly in blue cities as well. The reason is not to be found with Trump, but perhaps with the ancient liberal paradox that those who are loudest promoting destructive progressive agendas and protocols are usually those best insulated from the consequences of their own often destructive ideologies. Translated: mayors, governors, academics, and journalists are of an income and educated class that usually does not live in riot-prone neighborhoods and its livelihood rarely rest with opening small downtown businesses each morning—and so what such elites profess as penance, they rarely do or suffer.

The media is in its full mendacious mode—and is reminding Americans why they cannot trust it. The effort to fob blame for the rioting on “white supremacist” bogeymen is  ridiculous, given none of such accusations were supported by an iota of evidence, and millions of Americans have already watched live who looted, burned, and destroyed. Journalists’ further “Baghdad Bob”-type assertions that protests “were largely peaceful” were sometimes belied by the flames, sirens, and shattered glass in the backgrounds interrupting their very broadcasts. As a general rule, most of what was reported either was distorted or was so full of factual errors as to be rendered worthless news.

John Durham has a rendezvous in late summer with a number of felonious “wise men” who have broken the law with impunity and had dreamed up a coup fit for a South American caudillo. As more unredacted new transcripts appear daily—even hourly—Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe, and Strzok grow quieter. Progressives have lost the Russian “collusion” narrative, as Russia has boomeranged to the hiring by Hillary Clinton and the FBI of a foreign national who colluded with Russian sources to warp an election and destroy a transition. 

Even the old saw that the “Russians” stole the DNC was known to be unproven years ago, even as no one ever explained why CrowdStrike conveniently and rather than the FBI ran the investigation of the hack. As a rule of thumb, when one side doctors court evidence, deletes thousands of subpoenaed emails, wipes clean hard drives, alters FBI interview reports, leaks classified documents, unmasks and leaks redacted names, and the other does not, then “the thing speaks for itself.”

So Trump’s task is to tweet judiciously about elements of the economy’s rebound and his own initiatives, calls for calm, promises to restore law and order, assurances of a complete federal investigation of any police who broke the law and were responsible for the death of George Floyd, the need for national unity and to cite periodic breakthroughs against the virus, while allowing the subterranean Joe Biden to calcify as Joe Biden—and let fake news and failed people stew among themselves. Trump’s motto should be “Do no harm” to a news cycle that, even in its most biased and ideologically warped delivery, reflects the frightening wages of progressivism.

Only Trump can lose his election, and thereby ensure socialism for his supporters in the fall. And he can lose only by descending into the Twitter swamp and playing a gullible Gulliver to be tied down and lacerated by clever but six-inch tall Lilliputians. 

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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