The Democratic party, mired in infighting only a week ago, has reunited over racial division. New Jersey senator Cory Booker stated in a speech on Wednesday in Charleston, S.C., that the recent acts of white nationalist violence received a stimulus ‘from the highest office in our land, where we see in tweets and rhetoric, hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country.’ Joe Biden took direct aim at President Trump: in an impassioned speech in Burlington, Iowa, he declared, ‘in both clear language and in code, the president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.’ A day earlier, Fox News host Tucker Carlson tried to douse the controversy over white nationalism by averring that the phenomenon is a ‘hoax.’
Even Trump hasn’t been temerarious enough to embrace that line of thinking, at least not yet. Instead Trump has slowly roused himself from his usual supine indolence to condemn white nationalism. On Monday, reading from a teleprompter at the White House, he suggested that it was a bad thing (though new reports indicate that a Trump State Department official has been moonlighting as a white nationalist agitator). Trump further explained on Twitter on Tuesday that he’s the ‘least racist person.’
At the same time, Trump has once more been wading into the racial fray. Beto O’Rourke, he said, has a ‘phony name.’ He reserved particular scorn for Biden who declared that he had more in common with George Wallace than George Washington. ‘Joe is a pretty incompetent guy,’ Trump responded. ‘I’ve watched his interviews, I’ve watched what he said and how he said it. And I would’ve have rated him very high in the first place. But Joe Biden has truly lost his fastball, that I can tell you.’ Trump’s latest riposte came this afternoon when he lashed out at Biden in a tweet delivered from Air Force One: ‘Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy. It will be over for them, not to mention the fact that our Country will do poorly with him. It will be one big crash, but at least China will be happy!’
Maybe so, but Trump was met with brickbats today on his visit to Dayton, Ohio. On Friday the White House will host a conference of tech companies to discuss how to suppress extremism online. But Trump is not slated to attend. He probably wants to go golfing. Plus he may be basking in the high honor accorded him by North Korea, which has apparently released a special commemorative stamp of him and the portly poltroon of Pyongyang shaking hands at the DMZ in June.
Those were happier memories compared to what Trump must now endure. Democrats are embracing a fight over values, the cultural identity of the country, and everything that makes American the land of the free and the home of the brave. But perhaps they are underestimating the potency of economic issues. Trump’s vaunted trade war has found Tariff Man shooting blanks. Beijing is unbowed. The stock market is crashing. American farmers are going bankrupt. And four former heads of the Federal Reserve issued a statement on Monday in the Wall Street Journal lambasting any attempts by you-know-who to meddle with the independence of the Federal Reserve.
Still, Trump’s poll ratings seem to suggest that to count him out would be premature. In the New York Times, Nate Cohn points out that Trump’s approval ratings may well climb higher as millions of voters say they view him more positively than they did in 2016. As their fusillade of criticism today indicates, however, Biden and other candidates seem to have gotten the message that Trump is no pushover. Trump may call him sleepy, but there was nothing bashful about Biden’s performance today. Quite the contrary.