Donald Trump famously joked during the 2016 campaign that he was so popular he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and get away with it. To be clear, I don’t think he could, but you never know because most Knicks fans wish someone would shoot us at this point.
Critics pointed to the joke as proof that then-candidate Trump was running some kind of cult. The truth is he was then and he is now but the star of the cult isn’t Trump, it’s America. And as was the case in 2016, no one in the media seems to be in on the joke but him.
Donald Trump has been selling maximum-strength America since the moment he came down the escalator and it's a lot more potent than any of his critics seem to realize. Yes, the guy has a weapons-grade ego, and he leads the league in wild pitches on Twitter every year. He also has a true political superpower in that he’s far more in touch with the average voter than any of his enemies could ever dream to be.
That was the lesson we were supposed to have learned from his historic upset of Hillary Clinton: highly paid TV analysts prioritize completely different issues than blue-collar workers do, hence the result everyone found so shocking.
While the media spent 2016 obsessing over the Trump Twitter feed, he knew voters were focused on issues that directly affected their lives, like a vow to bring back jobs and renegotiate bad trade deals. He recognized that voters are a lot more inspired by a candidate who talks their country up, especially after eight years of an administration that often used identity politics to talk it down.
Which brings us to the race we’re in now.
Like Hillary Clinton before him, Joe Biden is going all in on a social pressure campaign with a slogan that pits Trump as the enemy in a fictitious “battle for the soul of our nation.” He may as well have stuck with “I’m With Her” because for one, it says nothing about a quantifiable plan to help people and two, he’s clearly riding shotgun to Kamala Harris at their press events.
Make no mistake about it, Democrats and their allies in the media have learned nothing from 2016. Rather than giving voters something to root for, they spent their entire convention giving voters someone to root against. They brought out some of the most respected and influential politicians in the world, and also John Kasich, who doubled down on the president’s character issues, despite the fact that for most voters, that horse left the barn years ago. (It’s just as well because the barn was likely to be burned down at a peaceful protest if it was anywhere near a Democrat-run city)
The average American knows President Trump isn’t throwing a perfect rhetorical game. Which explains why after four nights of “Orange Man Bad” at the DNC, Joe Biden got zero bump in the polls, a stat that puts him in the elite company of John Kerry and Mitt Romney, two guys who will only end up inside Disney’s “Hall of Presidents” if they shell out a $100 for a ticket.
Donald Trump has a better shot at a second term than anyone realizes because he’s once again going full throttle on American excellence, vowing during his acceptance speech on the White House lawn to get the country off the mat after it was knocked down by a deadly pandemic.
Rather than asking voters to focus on the America we WERE, the president brought out Black supporters like civil rights icon Clarence Henderson, who was an instrumental figure in making us the America we ARE.
Critics rightfully pointed out that it went too long and it lacked the energy of a normal Trump rally. What they completely missed was the potency of the storyline he repeatedly drilled into voters' heads about “the Great American Comeback.”
Here’s the electoral contrast in a nutshell: Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans aren’t bashing America for awful parts of its history like slavery and segregation. Things we’ve worked incredibly hard to overcome, I might add.
Rather than asking voters to focus on the America we WERE, the president brought out Black supporters like civil rights icon Clarence Henderson, who was an instrumental figure in making us the America we ARE, which is a place where South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s family could go “from cotton to Congress in one generation.”
Scott, grandson of a sharecropper, grew up to be the first African American elected to both houses of Congress. He didn’t say we have a perfect country, but at a time when the left is desperately pushing divisive terms like “White privilege,” he pointed out the unique “American privilege” everyone in this country has right now, thanks to the sacrifices of civil rights forebearers like Clarence Henderson.
He pointed out that his prosperity was attributable to "the evolution of the Southern heart" that allowed voters to judge him by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.
But the one thing he emphasized above all else is that for all of its flaws, America is a country worth rooting for, something Donald Trump knows better than anybody.
Yes, he may be the ultimate showman, but the star of the show is not him, it’s the Greatest Country in the World.
And that just so happens to be the greatest inside joke ever told.