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Trump's 2020 Strategy: Culture Wars Forever!

It's all culture war from now till November, with the likes of Tucker Carlson leading the charge.
Trump's 2020 Strategy: Culture Wars Forever!
Image from: Stuart Carlson

This Axios story is headlined "Scoop: Trump Regrets Kushner Advice," but it's not really about Jared Kushner:

President Trump has told people in recent days that he regrets following some of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's political advice — including supporting criminal justice reform — and will stick closer to his own instincts, three people with direct knowledge of the president's thinking tell Axios.

... One person who spoke with the president interpreted his thinking this way: "No more of Jared's woke s***." Another said Trump has indicated that following Kushner's advice has harmed him politically.

Why it matters: This could be the final straw for federal police reform legislation this year, and could usher in even more incendiary campaign tactics between now and November....

Trump never really wanted criminal justice reform, according to people who have discussed the subject with him privately....

Trump now says privately it was misguided to pursue this policy, undercutting his instincts, and that he probably won't win any more African-American support because of it.

I'd think Kushner was in Trump's doghouse if I hadn't read a different Axios story yesterday:

Scoop: Kushner changes top Trump campaign staff

Michael Glassner, the man who organizes President Trump's rallies, has been "reassigned," and Trump's 2016 Arizona chair Jeff DeWit will join the campaign as chief operating officer to oversee the final stretch to election day, three sources familiar with the situation tell Axios.

... Jared Kushner engineered these moves.

As the current story notes:

Several conservative allies of the president have reached out to him and advised him to reduce Kushner's influence over his re-election campaign.

Yes, but: No adviser to the president has more power over the White House and the campaign than Kushner. And nobody we've spoken to suggested that fundamental dynamic will change.

So Kushner is still in power, just not when his ideas conflict with what Trump regards as his own unerring gut instincts.

Following those instincts, Trump has apparently concluded that he shouldn't even send mixed messages anymore -- it'll just be the culture war non-stop from now until November.

That's not much of a change from what he's been doing, of course, and he's getting clobbered in the polls. But he thinks there's a different poll that counts for more.

"He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that's going to come out in droves in November," said a source who's talked to the president in recent days.

The president also pays close attention to Fox News' Tucker Carlson. A few weeks ago, in a brutal monologue, Carlson blamed Kushner for giving Trump bad advice.

"In 2016, Donald Trump ran as a law-and-order candidate because he meant it," Carlson said. "And his views remain fundamentally unchanged today. But the president's famously sharp instincts, the ones that won him the presidency almost four years ago, have been since subverted at every level by Jared Kushner."

It hasn't escaped Trump's attention that Carlson has recently been the highest-rated host on cable news. Trump, generally skeptical about polls, views television ratings as a kind of substitute poll, according to a person who's discussed the subject with him.

It's true -- Carlson's ratings have been very good lately.

Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson closed out television’s second quarter with one for the record books: his Tucker Carlson Tonight finished the quarter as the highest-rated program in all of cable news for the first time since the show’s launch, delivering an average total audience of 4.331 million viewers. In the process, Carlson broke a record held by his colleague, Sean Hannity, for the highest-rated quarter of any cable news program—ever.

Four million viewers is a lot of viewers - but Trump needs about 60 million more votes than that to win reelection. Trump doesn't seem to understand that he has these Carlson fans already -- they're going to vote for him. He needs other voters.

There's also this scheme brewing, which is being described as outreach both to the base and (unconvincingly) to swing voters:

... President Donald Trump has begun to raise both publicly and privately the potential boon another nomination to the [Supreme Court] this year might provide.

It's an alluring prospect Trump believes could galvanize both his loyal base but also provide an opportunity to improve his standing among those voters whose support he is now hemorrhaging, people familiar with Trump's thinking said.

That includes women, who Trump believes might be swayed if he nominates a female justice.

So maybe he does want to do outreach beyond his base after all (or maybe this is spin from people who hope he does).

This passage is from a CNN story, which mentions Amy Coney Barrett, an extremely anti-abortion federal appeals court judge who's been on Trump's Supreme Court short list for a while. Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money thinks the pick might be another conservative female appeals court judge, Neomi Rao, while Robert Costa of The Washington Post mentions a male appeals court right-winger, Amul Thapar, who's close to Mitch McConnell.

Personally, I don't believe the latter two judges have a chance -- Trump may be fine rubber-stamping the judicial picks of Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society for lower courts, but for the Supreme Court, he won't pick someone of non-European descent. (He'll justify this by saying he wants someone from "central casting.") So it'll be Barrett.

And all this really could happen:

All of the possible picks will be culture war picks. This will be extraordinarily divisive. Barrett, as noted, is an anti-abortion hard-liner; she also believes John Roberts should have voted to overturn Obamacare in 2012 and opposes the Affordable Care Act's requirement that insurance plans cover contraception. In addition, a member of a Catholic group called People of Praise that's been compared to a cult and that requires every female member to have a same-sex adviser called a "handmaiden" -- or at least that was the term used until it became an embarrassment to the group.

This is how Trump plans to win in November. I don't get it.

Published with permission of No More Mr. Nice Blog

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