By Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy
President Trump’s electric rally in Wildwood, New Jersey proved one thing for certain: those Democrats who had hoped that impeachment and a Senate trial for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” would leave Trump deflated, and his supporters shell-shocked and crestfallen, have come up empty.
For one thing, Trump’s visceral connection with his Republican base is stronger than ever. 175,000 people in deep blue New Jersey tried to attend Trump’s rally, featuring freshly-minted Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew. It was held in a stadium that seats just 7,500.
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans remain at record highs, and his primary opponents in the race for the Republican presidential nomination are running on fumes.
But it isn’t just Republicans who are flocking to Trump’s colors. Trump, in the wake of four years of concentrated, vicious attacks from Democrats and the mainstream media, and in the midst of a bitter battle over impeachment and removal, is notching the highest approval ratings of his presidency. Democrats and liberals are beside themselves: every time they think they have Donald Trump on the ropes, he rights himself and delivers a series of counterpunches, leaving his would-be attackers dazed and confused. What’s more, the crowd inevitably rallies to Trump’s side. His legend grows, and his chances of reelection rise.
What’s truly gratifying for Trump supporters, though, and especially for those who have attended his rallies in person, is the fact that, despite all the slings and arrows that Trump and his movement have faced, the people surrounding and cheering the President have never lost their optimism and their sense of fun. Trump rallies are full of smiling, laughing people — people who embody and reflect the same boyish enthusiasm, self-deprecating humor, cheerfulness and tenacity in the face of vilification, and unalloyed patriotism, of Trump himself.
Trump is the happy warrior, the bearer of Reaganesque wit and positivity, and his supporters eat it all up and reflect it back to him. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and a testament to the basic goodness and hopefulness of the American spirit.
Democrats, if they hope to win in 2020, should start by admitting the obvious: their campaign of personal destruction aimed at Trump, his family, his administration, and his supporters has failed miserably. Four years after their slash and burn crusade began, Trump and his movement are indeed stronger than ever.
Democrats might be forced to try the unthinkable in 2020: give up on hate, and attempt to construct a positive vision for the country that would justify a vote for (God help us!) Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, or Mike Bloomberg.
Good luck to them! Donald Trump has been writing a tender, lighthearted love letter to America for the last four years. It won’t be easy besting a man who enjoys such a natural rapport with the American voter.
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.