Admit It — Trump’s Boring Now.
Trump rallies used to be unpredictable. Muslim bans, Mexican rapists, the wall. It was all so novel. Supporters and haters alike would flock to their TV sets to see what new campaign promise or witty slogan would be uttered next. Ratings-obsessed media companies happily obliged, as Trump received almost $2 billion in free media during the last presidential election cycle.
But Trump didn’t like the rallies because of the free media. He liked them because they scratched a narcissistic itch.
That was back when Trump was interesting, when he was fresh. He was a new animal at the local zoo.
Now his act is stale. The president is obsessed with ratings and crowds and is garnering neither. His Tulsa Rally, which was billed as a great American comeback, fizzled out embarrassingly. The small venue laid two thirds bare. According to the New York Times, Trump “stood backstage and gazed at the empty Bank of Oklahoma Center in horror.”
A full 14 minutes were devoted to a comedic bit about walking down ramps and drinking water, niche programming even for Trumpian standards. An overflow stage, built to address the raucous rally goers who couldn’t fit in the arena, was promptly dismantled. A picture of a disheartened Trump returning to the White House quickly went viral. Today we learned that Michael Glassner, who oversaw the rally, was “reassigned” to a nondescript legal position within the campaign.
There was much handwringing and finger pointing following the colossal failure. K-pop subterfuge, coronavirus concern, disruptive protesters were all, at various points, the reason for the rally flop.
But couldn’t the explanation be much simpler? Couldn’t Trump just be boring now? His rallies have transformed from id-filled fervor to low energy catnaps. Now he seems to only replay the hits — grievances and other familiar hymns that only his most ardent acolytes hum along to.
Trump was listing various names of the coronavirus in Arizona a few days after his Tulsa rally. “Kung Flu! Kung Flu!” His base knew the call-and-response. (It reminded me of my favorite call-and-response — the dishwasher rant.) They watched the previous rally and were up to date on his Twitter feed. His rallies are a test, and they passed.
Trump is at his most politically dangerous when he is dictating the conversation. Recently, and perhaps adding to his boringness, he is constantly playing defense — the coronavirus, protests, the Russian bounty scandal. Long gone are the exciting days when Trump would lob a grenade into the political atmosphere and relish in the mayhem it caused. The mayhem he caused.
We are all living in the Trump show, and even a duller Trump can shine. But things are different now. “They’re coming for your statues” doesn’t resonate, and #BeijingJoe didn’t trend. Trump resembles a phenom pitcher who could rely on a dominant fastball and never had to develop an off-speed pitch.
It’s hard to even muster outrage anymore. When Trump retweeted a video of a supporter chanting “white power,” the media pretended to be appalled for half a news cycle. The shtick has grown stale. Even white voters are leaving him.
When asked about a potential second term, Trump had no policy goals, agenda, or theme.
Maybe the thought of Trump Season Two bored even him.