In the closing days of the 2020 election that opinion polls show him likely to lose, President Trump has amended his famous 2016 campaign slogan, promising that, if reelected, he will “make America great again, again.”
That subtle tweak was debuted on July 17 by Vice President Mike Pence.
VP Mike Pence: “With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, we’ll Make American Great Again … again.” pic.twitter.com/owbVt8bEdx
— The Recount (@therecount) July 17, 2020
Since then, Trump himself has begun slipping it into his stump speech, as he did Monday in Arizona, a once reliably Republican state now considered in play in the contest between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
“You know it’s make America great again, right?” Trump told his crowd in Tucson. “I say ‘make America great again, again’ … again, again. We did it and now we had to do it again. It’s all right, it’s happening.”
Inherent in that revision is Trump’s apparent admission that the American greatness he promised in 2016 is still a work in progress.
“We built the greatest economy ever. We had to close it down,” Trump said. “We saved millions of lives by doing what we did. Then we built it back up, and now we’re doing record-type numbers.”
That stumbling block on the road to American greatness, of course, was the coronavirus pandemic, which, as of Tuesday afternoon, has killed more than 220,000 Americans, put millions of people out of work, sent the U.S. economy into recession and even sickened the president and his family.
Democrats are quick to point out that when Trump took office, he was handed an economy on the rise. Prior to the pandemic, job gains under Trump, while strong, trailed those tallied in the final months of Barack Obama’s second term. Biden, meanwhile, has frequently made the case that Trump’s inept handling of the pandemic has worsened the impact on public health and the economy.
“Amazingly, he still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix the economy, we need to get control of the virus,” Biden said in a June speech in Lancaster, Pa.
But as Trump did in 2016, when he vowed that “I alone can fix” what ailed the country, the president’s closing argument in the 2020 home stretch is that his reelection is necessary for America’s recovery.
“This election is a choice between a Trump super-recovery or a Biden depression, if he even gets to run,” Trump said Monday in Tucson.
To hear Trump and his surrogates tell it, Biden suffers from cognitive decline that will prevent him from performing his duties if he is elected president. For this reason, he is a “puppet” for those who really control the party now — Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other members of what Republicans call the “radical left.”
“He’s gonzo, folks, and the people that are running that party are radical, far-left maniacs,” Trump said of Biden at his Monday rally in Prescott, Ariz., adding, “They’re in charge, and they’re calling the shots.”
Yet while Trump’s attacks on Biden make up much of his stump speech, the president has also been obliged to defend his handling of the pandemic that has upended the lives of most Americans.
“We’re going to have the vaccine, but with or without it, and it’s happening soon, by the way — it would even happen sooner if we didn’t have these characters on the other side, the Democrats that are running all of these failed cities,” Trump said in Prescott. He didn’t explain the connection between Democratic mayors and the timing of a vaccine, which he has said he hoped would be ready by Election Day. Pfizer recently pushed back to mid-November the earliest date by which final results from a clinical trial of its vaccine might be available.
Yet for all the darkness Trump sees emanating from Biden and the Democratic Party, in their supposed efforts to thwart the economic rebound from COVID-19, he has begun peppering his speeches with optimism.
“Under my leadership, prosperity will surge, patriotism will soar, optimism will boom, the pandemic will soon end — it’s rounding the corner,” Trump assured his crowd in Prescott, which had mostly neglected to do what medical experts say is the one thing that could slow the pandemic: Wear a mask.
While Trump points to the future during his rallies, many Americans remain focused on his administration’s response to date on the pandemic. An AP-NORC poll released last week found that 65 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said Trump has not taken the outbreak of COVID-19 seriously enough.
The president, however, doesn’t limit his optimism to as-yet-unveiled programs such as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. He’s also bullish on where the country stood prior to the arrival of the “China plague.”
“Ultimately it’s going to all come together because it was coming together, but then we got hit with the China plague,” Trump said Monday. “We were going to all be well unified. People were calling me that you never expected. It was coming together because of success, and then we got hit by the plague.”
As the first undetected cases of COVID-19 began spreading across the country at the start of the year, House Democrats were making their case in the U.S. Senate to remove Trump from office for a scheme he hatched to elicit dirt on Biden from Ukrainian officials in exchange for U.S. military aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore Trump’s defiant State of the Union address to pieces as the nation watched. The mood in the nation’s capital was not exactly one of reconciliation.
Yet Trump remains nostalgic for a time when, at least in retrospect, his chances of reelection seemed brighter than they do today.
“Normal life will rapidly return. That’s what we want, normal. Go, take us back seven months,” Trump said in Arizona. “And next year will be the greatest economic year in the history of our country, that’s what’s going to happen.”
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