Election 2020 Politics

Trump keeps choosing all the wrong battles

He followed that up Wednesday by posting a picture of himself at another storied setting — the White House Resolute Desk — promoting beans and other Goya products, in an attempt to needle liberals who pushed for a Goya boycott over its executive’s praise of Trump.

While the country and even many GOP leaders are calling out for leadership in the face of crisis, Trump is instead preoccupied with using his incomparable perch to push the same grievances he usually does.

But here’s the thing: Not even those seem to be working.

Trump has in recent weeks chosen a number of political battles that polls increasingly show do nothing to move the needle in his direction — and if anything show the limitations of his unceasing base strategy.

Let’s break it down, issue by issue.

Reopening schools

While Trump has said relatively little of substance lately on the coronavirus outbreak, he has focused like a laser on school reopening. But a new Quinnipiac University poll shows Americans actually oppose his approach on this by a 2-to-1 margin, with 61 percent disapproving of his plans to reopen schools and only 29 percent approving. Women disapproved, 69-23.

Polls have also long shown Americans favor a more cautious approach to reopening the economy than Trump has advocated. The combined result: Views of Trump’s handling of the outbreak have very steadily declined, and continue to do so.

Confederate flag

Trump last week expanded his defense of Confederate monuments to include the Confederate flag. In a tweet that baselessly attacked black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace for his reaction to the discovery of a noose in his garage stall, Trump wagered that NASCAR’s recent ban on the flag had hurt its ratings.

Not only was Trump wrong about its ratings, but his defense of those who want to fly the flag increasingly cuts against the grain in American society. The same Quinnipiac poll showed a startling move against the flag, with 56 percent calling it a symbol of racism and just 35 percent saying it was more about Southern pride. Even Southerners said 55-to-36 that it was a symbol of racism.

Polls have shown Trump is on firmer ground when it comes to opposing the removal of Confederate monuments, but this poll — along with the muted GOP reaction to Trump’s gambit — suggests he overextended.

Police killing black people

Trump has in recent weeks criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, cast aspersions about the true nature of the protesters, and played down the idea that there is a problem with police killing black people.

On all three counts, again, he’s on the wrong side of an emerging consensus.

CBS’s Catherine Herridge asked Trump on Monday, “Why are black people still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?” Trump shot back: “So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people — more white people, by the way.”

Black Lives Matter

And when it comes to the protesters specifically, polls have also consistently shown a majority of Americans support their cause, with a CBS News-YouGov polls showing people back the protesters 53-34.

Other polls have shown concerns about some elements of the protests, particularly among Republicans, but the overarching movement has been met with large and rising approval. And Trump’s decision to fight back against the mere idea that we have a problem with police treatment of black people has placed him on an island politically.

Defunding police

Trump has made this a centerpiece of his early ads attacking Biden. But not only has Biden explicitly said he opposes defunding the police; a poll shows the vast majority of Americans don’t believe it means what Trump has suggested — eliminating police.

A Monmouth University poll last week showed 77 percent of Americans understood the phrase to mean changing how police operate, while 18 percent said it meant getting rid of police departments. Even Republicans overwhelmingly disagree with Trump’s interpretation.

Again, a nod to Bump for this chart:

Law and order

Perhaps the main fixture of Trump’s campaign efforts in recent weeks has been law and order — a phrase that Trump has tweeted more than a dozen times in ALL CAPS. His campaign has run ads featuring images of violence and warning that this would be our reality under Biden.

The first problem is that these scenes occurred on Trump’s watch. They’ve occurred on the watch, more specifically, of a president who pledged that “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end.”

But beyond that, he doesn’t seem to be highlighting an area of particular strength for himself. The Yahoo-YouGov poll showed 51 percent of Americans said the country would be “less safe” if Trump was reelected, compared to 34 percent who said it would be “more safe.” By contrast, Americans were evenly divided — 39-39 — on Biden.

Trump’s reelection strategy was best summed up recently by The Post’s Jacqueline Alemany: “Trump’s spaghetti on the wall campaign is still seeking its special sauce.” But it’s not just that he’s trying a lot of different things that have nothing to do with solving the country’s current crisis; he’s also proactively choosing battles that place him on extremely shaky political footing. And they seem to have done nothing to improve his faltering standing in the 2020 race.

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