Trump’s strategy: Derision and division

As Democrats gear up to combat Donald Trump in the November midterm congressional elections, they can expect another avalanche of slander, obfuscation and just plain lies.

The president’s game plan is essentially the same one that brought him the presidency in 2016, greatly augmented now by the Oval Office and echo chamber he captured then.

Five months before the first midterm votes of his tenure are cast, he is in full campaign mode. He has adjusted his slogan to “Keep American Great,” and claims successes domestic and foreign not yet achieved (or already abandoned).

Endlessly and even pathetically self-proclaiming his own greatness as an unintentional window on his own insecurity, he continues flog his defeated 2016 opponent as “Crooked Hillary” while pivoting to new political quarry.

With the Democrats’ cupboard barren of potential 2020 presidential candidates beyond undecided former Vice President Joe Biden, and in the absence of any fellow Republican daring to pop his head up, Trump has to settle on harvesting low-hanging fruit.

That for now would be California liberal firebrand Rep. Maxine Waters, dubbed by Trump as “an extraordinarily low-IQ person” and a clear non-starter in the 2020 presidential race. Indeed, Trump shows the same contempt for the leaders of his own clan in Congress, who have been cowed into what is now the party of Trump.

In the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Trump easily brushed off at least 15 other GOP pushovers on his way to his Republican coronation. Trump humiliated his only potential establishment threat at the time, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as a “low-energy” contender.

One of the also-ran pack, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, joined the Trump cabinet, leaving Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the only survivor willing to confront Trump on key issues and the only credible potential GOP challenger in 2020.

As one consequence, our bullyboy president has been obliged to become an equal-opportunity, nonpartisan assailant of anyone and anybody who dares confront him. He appears confident his anti-establishment base will hold and grow in the November voting.

With customary bravado, he now counters the so-called “blue wave” of energized Democratic organizing and spending aiming to seize majority control of the House and/or Senate this fall with a comparable “red wave” to sustain him.

This latest tactic is only another example of Donald Trump’s effective ability to divert attention from his hugely dysfunctional and controversy-generating administration with schoolyard name-calling against a variety of his critics. In this season approaching critical congressional elections across the country, he is now in full campaign mode, amid chaos within his own White House.

Hand-in-hand with his verbal and social-media assaults on the Democrats is his relentless poisoning of the public discourse. He repeatedly declares that mainstream news media are “the enemy of the people” that disseminate “fake news,” when it is Trump himself who is the foremost dispenser of news distortions, misrepresentations, outright fabrications and lies. No con man or snake-oil salesman in the movies, from Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry to Robert Preston as Dr. Harold Hill and Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz, has been a match for Donald Trump in the real world of today.

As the saying goes, we have seen this movie before, but this time not in celluloid. Where are the once proud Republicans needed to stand up for the Grand Old Party with an internationalist point of view?


Jules Witcover’s latest book is

“The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books.