Despite Trump wanting to make this election about Joe Biden, his dementia/fitness for office, and his corruption, every election for an incumbent is a referendum on the incumbent’s performance. Setting aside everything else from the last four years, the current situation with riots and vandalism going unaddressed presents a serious problem for the Trump campaign. Regardless of whether you think Trump should be stepping in and acting with force or not, his messaging is out of step with his actions, and he is creating a vulnerable point by doing so.
Trump has been tweeting “Law and order!” over the last few weeks and declaring himself to be the law and order President. There is clearly a breakdown in law and order right now while he is President, and nothing is being done about it. This creates the problem: if he can’t or won’t enforce law and order right now while he’s already President, why should we re-elect him to enforce law and order? What will change by re-electing him? Why should we who support him, or more importantly swing voters, expect anything other than more of the same?
This is the case he needs to be making right now. It’s not enough to say “law and order”. He has to act to enforce it, and that might mean legal means rather than armed force. Otherwise, the easy response from Biden is, “Why aren’t you enforcing it then?” If he can’t act, he needs to explain why, and again he must explain what would change if he is re-elected. Otherwise, he’s just mouthing empty platitudes. Without that explanation, he leaves an opening for Biden to say that Trump’s just tweeting ineffectually, and things will change if you vote for Biden because he will be a change from what already isn’t working (even though we all know it would be worse under Biden). When the known is chaos and disorder, there is an appeal in any alternative that promises change. Trump is making Biden’s job easy: “Look at this mess going on while Trump’s President. Do you want four more years of this?”
I haven’t seen any attempt by the Trump campaign yet to address how things improve by re-electing him: no addressing the topic, no plans for improvement, no discussion of what the roadblocks may be that are hindering him. Trump is Trump. We know he can lose focus, but he needs to be better served by his campaign staff. That likely requires a new campaign manager who can reboot the campaign and refocus it on what America needs to move forward instead of pandering to groups that won’t support him and undercuts his support with his base. It’s early enough that Trump can turn this around, but he’s had a rocky three months since the virus hit where there is a growing leadership vacuum in our government. He needs to start leading and giving people a reason to vote for him rather than relying on people voting against Biden, who is far less of a polarizing figure than Clinton was.