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The Nostalgia Theory: Why Trump Persists
He wins when he's not campaigning
Many explanations of Trump's continuing poll support (in the primaries and the general) stress his ability to "suck all the oxygen out of the room." There's not much his rivals can hope to do about that. But I want to suggest a slightly different theory, which holds that Trump wins in the polls when he doesn't suck the oxygen out of the room. It offers some (slim) hope of beating him. I'll keep it short.
The theory rests on ten (10) propositions:
1. When we think of the past, we tend to remember the good parts more than the bad parts.
2. Many voters remember the Trump years -- at least the years before
COVID's arrival in 2020 -- as good years for them. The economy was strong; wages were up; we were not at war. This was particularly true for Trump's core working class constituency, but it's also true for lots of middle class Americans. It's true of GOP primary voters and general election voters of both parties.
3. Trump was also crazy throughout those years, making horrible personnel choices, lying, threatening his enemies and rivals with often-illegal reprisals, staging weird improvised stunts like the bizarre balcony posturing when he recovered from COVID, and otherwise driving everyone mad with relentless efforts to make it about him. These are the "bad parts" we tend to forget (see #1).
4. Trump is still crazy. Given a chance he'll remind us of it.
5. It follows that the more he is kept out of the regular daily news cycle the more popular he'll be. We’ll remember the good; we won’t be reminded of the bad. For him, there's no publicity like no publicity. Getting kicked off Twitter and relegated to his Truth Social app has helped him, because it kept him from being in voters' faces 24/7 with the crazy
6. The one exception to Rule #5 is if Trump is in the news cycle because of some external event where his responses are confined to a single topic and don't seem so crazy. Maybe they even generate sympathy, as is the case with his multiple, strained indictments by Democratic prosecutors,
7. The indictments seem to have made Trump more popular, maybe not just because Republican voters feel he's the victim of politicized justice. Given all the attendant formalities (surrender, motions, witness, subpeonas etc.) the prosecutions make it hard for Trump to find time to be crazy in his usual (#4) way. You might say the indictments have sucked out of the room all the oxygen that Trump would otherwise be sucking out of the room. If they prevent him from staging any kind of conventional campaign, so much the better for him.
8. As a result of 5, 6, and 7, Trump has shown tremendous resilience** in the polls.. He's off playing in another arena, the legal arena. Voters are free to remember #2 (good times) undisturbed. I couldn't stand the sight of Trump for the last 18 months of his presidency, but every now and then I catch myself drifting off in a hazy reverie thinking about the state of the union in 2018. (Even anti-Trumpers were probably happier in their 2018 Resistance than they are now.)
9. It was, in short, a disaster for Democrats to prosecute Trump. It maximized his nostalgic surplus, and not just in the GOP. In general election polls, he trails Biden by only 1.1 percent (in the Real Clear Politics average) and defeats him in the two most recent surveys.
10. The best hope for beating Trump, in this theory, is if the prosecutions somehow recede as a story—maybe if higher court decisions throw out the charges — or if Trump finds a way to break through all the trial coverage and be crazy about non-trial subjects.
I note he has rejoined Twitter.
**: Yes, the most recent post-debate poll from Emerson showed Trump losing a bit of support -- declining from 56 percent pre-debate to 50 percent. According to the Nostalgia Theory above, the debate should have helped Trump precisely because it sidelined him. If the Emerson result is replicated in other polls and other debates, the nostalgia theory is probably wrong. It’s disprovable! But note that the same Emerson poll showing Trump slipping in the primary showed him beating Biden in the general.
Creatures from the E-Lagoon: A lot of large, brutally hideous electric cars now flailing around on the streets of L.A. For example, this model of BMW:
What’s needed, to stand out in the stampede of Vaderist designs, is something like Marc Newson’s underrated 1999 Ford concept car. It’s not pretentious. It’s not angry. It’s attractive. It would accurately reflect that electric cars are — for better or worse — becoming friendly urban appliances. Someone should resurrect it: