Trump Tries New Jokes
The Trump show is a bit stale. Four years into the series, the writers seem to have lost creativity, motivation, or both. If one excludes phrases that literally didn’t exist four years ago, like Covid-19, it would be hard to even tell the difference between rallies held today and rallies held with candidate Donald Trump five years ago.
Donald “the newspapers write mean things about me” Trump is the victim, and if you ever forget that, he will remind you. Over and over again. Trump, the white male billionaire who inherited his fortune and doesn’t pay taxes, is aggrieved.
I’ve studied this slow-moving, downward descent into relative obscurity for awhile now. In “Trump Fatigue Syndrome,” I noted:
A side effect of Trump Fatigue Syndrome is stagnation. This occurs when the familiar tactics don’t work. Google Trends notes that searches for “Sleepy Joe” are a small fraction of what they were for “Crooked Hillary.”
Even on his preferred medium — Twitter — the president’s act has grown stale. In internet parlance, the interaction rate is how much buzz a post garners using metrics like reactions, comments, and shares. Trump’s interaction rate has dropped precipitously. His first month on the job, his interaction rate was 0.55%. Halfway through the first year, it slipped to 0.32%. Recently, it was measured as low as 0.16%.
Off Twitter, engagement remains a problem as well. Interest in political stories involving Donald Trump are down 37.8% since his inauguration, according to one study by analytics firm parse.ly.
The old shtick isn’t generating the reaction it once did. Trump, sensing his slip, seems to be adjusting. He and the brilliant minds of his campaign are rolling out new jokes and novel bits. Let’s take a look:
1. Kissing. Everyone and everything.
Trump wants to kiss you. Badly.
“I could come down and start kissing everybody. I’ll kiss every guy. Man and woman. Look at that guy, how handsome he is. I’ll kiss him. Not with a lot of enjoyment, but that’s okay,” he said at the rally last night.
It’s officially a bit. He said something similar at the Florida rally the day before, saying, “…I’ll walk in there, kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women.”
Kissing men? Trump may be the first president in US history to not get the vote of his own vice president.
It was an interesting line, but not good enough to warrant an encore renditioning. Trump also stands credibly accused of sexually harassing or assaulting 26 women, which added an element of cringe to the line.
Rating: 1/5 stars.
2. Begging suburban women to like him.
“Can I ask you to do me a favor: Suburban women, will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?” Trump proclaimed at yesterday’s rally.
Trump is the first politician I can remember who openly refers to his own political “base,” so when he highlights one voting demographic so clearly it’s less shocking.
Based on the delivery, he meant it to be funny, but it just came off as desperate. He grinned after it, as if to say to himself, “Donny, you did it again!” Somewhere on that Trump campaign payroll is a staffer getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for messaging. Instead of trying to change his demeanor, offer policies, or court voters in traditional ways, patient zero had a better idea — Let me just ask them to like me!
It doesn’t work that way.
Rating: 1/5 stars.
3. Saying Biden abandoned Pennsylvania.
Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one point in 2016. The last two polls (from Morning Consult and Quinnipiac University) have Biden up 8 and 13, respectively, and FiveThirtyEight projects an 88% chance Biden wins the state.
Trump seems confused by that.
“How the hell do you lose to a guy like this? Is this possible?” Trump asked rally-goers in Pennsylvania.
Then came the new line — “You know, they say he was born in Scranton, but he left! He left! He abandoned you!”
First of all, who is the they he is referring to? They say he was born in Scranton? You mean, like his birth certificate?
Second, Biden’s family moved from Pennsylvania to Delaware when Joe was 13 years old. Unless Trump thinks a 13-year-old Joe Biden could have supported himself and stayed, I don’t see how this makes any sense.
To understand why it doesn’t make sense requires background knowledge, however. So strictly as a political maneuver, this one is more effective. We’re getting warmer.
Rating: 2/5 stars.
4. Trying to lose senior support even more than he already is.
The Trump experience spawns some truly spectacular headlines. Here’s one from CBS News:
“Losing with seniors, Trump tweets meme mocking Biden as a nursing home resident.”
Fresh off of a video where he calls seniors his “favorite people in the world,” Trump appears to make fun of those who live in nursing homes. Trump won the elderly vote by about 7 points in 2016, but now polling shows he is trailing by more than 20 points among this same group just four years later.
Rating: 1/5 stars.
All of these Biden jokes are, of couse, a future self-own. Trump makes Biden out to be some incompetent, senile joke-of-a-man, and yet Trump seems destined to lose to that very person.
Trump used to be novel — the Muslim ban, the wall, etc. He needs new material. Just not this material.