Chaos: The Lifeblood of the Trump Administration
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Chaos might be the lifeblood of the Trump administration, but the chaos of this pandemic might just be the end of the Trump era.
COVID-19 is the final (hopefully) catastrophe of the Trump era, and it’s a big one. Looking back on nearly four years of this administration, it seems that Trump is immune to scandal, but appears to do best when cultivating chaos.
In the past, scandals have poisoned presidencies, leading to a diminishment of the office in the eyes of the public, disgrace or mistrust within one’s own party, and even impeachment. Recent examples of this include the Lewinsky affair (Bill Clinton), the Iran-Contra affair (George W. Bush), and Watergate (Richard Nixon). But where a cheating scandal once burned Bill Clinton, Trump emerges unscathed-- despite the fact that while Clinton’s affair involved a White House employee, his (arguably more tabloid-worthy) cheating scandal involved a porn star (1).
The truth is, Trump has had decades of practice dodging the bullet when it comes to gossip and disgrace. In fact, in his time in the public eye, he has proven a remarkable ability to not only weather the storm of a scandal, but turn it into an advantageous situation for himself. From sexual assault allegations dating back decades to provocative, on-the-record quotes like “all women are bimbos” to his four bankruptcies to his ties to the Mafia, the Trump scandal pot has it all (2). In fact, the scandals he has under his belt seem to actually arm him against future scandals, flooding the market with so many quotable tidbits of sexism, racism, and elitism that end up distracting the public. It seems to be almost irresistible for the public not to look wherever Trump points his finger, which means that as soon as aspersions are cast in his direction, all the President has to do is make a counter-claim, no matter how baseless.
In the same scandal that ransacked radio host Billy Bush’s career, Donald Trump was caught on camera patting himself on the back for assaulting women, asserting that he “grab[s] them by the pussy,” Trump merely pivoted, brushing the whole ordeal off as harmless locker room talk (2). In an intriguing kind of sidestep, Trump has managed to make this scandalous chaos that seems to follow him everywhere into his best asset. The whirlwind of chaos surrounding the President has opened doors aplenty for the Republican party-- they pushed Brett Kavanaugh through to the the Supreme Court, slipping his high school sexual assault scandal in with the ever-growing Trump scandal pot; they unraveled the Iran nuclear deal; and ticked off many more items on the “GOP wish list” (3).
So, a global pandemic and protests across the nation for racial justice definitely qualify as chaos, but how will Donald Trump and the GOP fare? Writing for The Atlantic, Thomas Wright speaks for most of us on the left when he admits that “deep down, we all hoped the country would get lucky and slip through these four years without a paradigm-changing incident” (3). Yet here we are.
The pandemic is a very demanding crisis, one that calls for “scientific literacy,” patience, trust in experts, and good old level-headed maturity-- hardly the traits that our president is known for (3). Early on, it seemed as though the President just might get away with his lies yet again, when he told the public in February that the pandemic would just disappear on its own one day, or in March when he claimed that a nation-wide shutdown would cause more deaths by suicide than COVID-19 could cause (4, 5). But by the middle of summer 2020, Trump’s lies finally seem to be catching up to him. Amid his “dragging polls” and desperate, tweeted pleas to delay the elections (dictator move #9999), the GOP seems to be increasingly fed up with Donald Trump (6).
Former aide to Marco Rubio and GOP strategist Alex Conant thinks “ a lot of Republicans are really fed up with the president's divisive strategy. People are just throwing up their hands with some of the rhetoric that's coming out of the president. It's really unhelpful not just to his own re-election, but also to keeping the Senate" (6).
Wright points out that the President’s mishandling of the pandemic has brought on “the final phase” of his presidency: the “vicious downward spiral” phase (3). This time, pointing the finger to someone else’s (perceived) wrongdoings did not save him-- he tried “accusing journalists of murder, pulling out of the World Health Organization, trying to prosecute Obama-administration officials,” and more, but his efforts only “made things worse” (3).
Donald Trump's botched efforts to control the narrative on Black Lives Matter protests across the nation have only contributed to his tailspin (7). Public outrage peaked as Trump retreated into the bunker under the White House seemingly out of fear of protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue, especially when he claimed it was simply an “inspection” of the bunker (7). Not to mention his false claims that Muriel Bowser, mayor of D.C., refused to get local police involved with the protests and that tear gas was not used on protesters in front of the White House, both proven to be blatantly false (7). Trump’s attempt to pick himself up and dust himself off when the chaos didn’t go his way involved a photoshoot with a bible in front of a church in D.C., an effort proved futile by the well-documented aggressive attempts to clear protestors from the area and the negative reaction of several well-known clergy-members and religious politicians (7).
CNN's Michael Warren reported: "Even some of Trump's Republican allies in Congress expressed disagreement with Trump's decision to attend the church. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a Southern Baptist, told reporters Tuesday he was not comfortable with the images of protesters being dispersed by force before Trump visited the church, while Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, an evangelical Presbyterian agreed in a statement. 'I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop,' said Sasse" (7).
In conclusion, chaos might be the lifeblood of the Trump administration, but the chaos of this pandemic might just be the end of the Trump era. In the words of Angelica Duenas, “maybe if [Trump and his government] listened to the health experts and prioritized people over profits, we would be in a similar place as New Zealand right now” (we wish!) (8).