The outline of the argument is simple:
1. Trump's entire shame is that he is America's Putin-like strong man addressing the unfortunate grassroots need for a strong father.
2. He doesn't win this election by voting, so he needs Proud Boy's militia guys to sow chaos after the elections and keep power.
3. He cannot maintain the anger and feeling of discomfort necessary to keep his followers excited when he is weak and frail and battling illness in a hospital bed.
Electively, this is less of a problem for Trump. He's already losing. But it is extremely devastating for Republicans who are already facing deep losses. Democrats in places like Kansas, South Carolina, and even Mississippi (!) Are facing huge challenges in safe Republican territory, and any Trump supporter who turns off the elections because their Big Daddy is actually a frail, broken old man is one more Obstacle that these Republicans must overcome.
And as for Trump, how can he deny an election if he can't project power and strength?
It is clear that Trump is very much aware of this challenge, which leads to extremely reckless and potentially self-destructive behavior.
For example, he decided to put his Secret Service detail at serious risk by staging a ridiculous photo op and driving around the block in his motorcade to wave to followers outside the Walter Reed Medical Center.
The comparisons to his PR stunt in Lafayette Square were clear and obvious – the one in which he forcibly cleared demonstrators to wave a Bible in front of a church in the park. While Lafayette Park was the brainchild of superspreaders Hope Hicks and Jared Kushner, I'd bet this is all Trump, but equally outrageous and ineffective.
He compounded the damage with his taped message from his hospital suite: “We're going to give some of the great patriots a little surprise. They have Trump flags and they love our country so I won't tell anyone but you but I will make a little surprise visit so maybe I will get there before you see me. "
His message was not addressed to well-wishers across the country or to all Americans. He was very focused on the kind of supporters who held a vigil outside of his hospital, the "great patriots," those with "Trump flags." It was microtargeting in its most absurd form.
Then there was Trump who pretended to "work". If by "work" you mean "sign blank slips", why pretend they're real? "
All of this stage art has one purpose: to maintain the appearance of strength, health, and vigor necessary to hold its unfortunate base. Everyone else looks at the whole embarrassing spectacle with horrified horror. So far, two surveys have been conducted entirely following Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis. YouGov was 44-37 just before COVID-19, 48-40 after COVID-19. Ipsos for Reuters was 50-41 before COVID-19 and 51-41 after COVID-19. Both are a net +1 to Democratic candidate Joe Biden, which doesn't seem like much and not much.
But it does suggest that Trump isn't getting "sympathy bounce," and why should he? The very act of endangering his secret service security detail is reason enough to deny Trump any benefit of the doubt.
The Secret Service is trained to take a bullet for Trump, not Trump.
– JeremyNewberger (@jeremynewberger) October 5, 2020
As I have said over and over again, people are determined. You won't see large fluctuations in public opinion. But we don't need large swings to dramatically change the results of these elections. If 1-2% of Americans swing away from Trump and Republicans, and maybe 5% of Trump's most ardent supporters stay home dejected at their looming loss and broken hero, then we're talking about getting 20 more house seats in the single-digit numbers. We're talking about a Senate that goes from 50-50 or 51-49 Democratic to 55-45.
A large Senate majority means an easier end to filibuster, statehood for Washington, DC and Puerto Rico (if residents so choose), and the passage of more aggressive measures on health care, climate change, economic stimulus, and all sorts of other democratic priorities.
And court expansion. In any case, court expansion.
A bigger democratic wave means we are taking control of more state legislatures, which means better legislation for millions, as well as a greater democratic say in redistribution at both state and federal levels.
So much is at stake which is why Trump panics at the thought of being trapped in that hospital suite. Because of this, he stages these photo op stunts to motivate his key supporters. He cannot afford to see slippage or loss of intensity. And Trump's Republican Party even less.
However, it is a gamble. Imagine Trump persuading his doctors to release him today. After all, he's the president – it'll be hard to lock him up against his will. What if he degenerates in the next week or two? What if he has to be taken back to the hospital, except this time on a stretcher?
We only have four weeks left. But we still have four weeks.
There will be more twists and turns to this story. It's almost inevitable.