There Is No Method To His Madness

There's no 4-D chess involved when tossing around anti-Semitic tropes and casual blasphemy.
August 22, 2019
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Donald Trump speaks to the media on August 21, 2019. During the session, he referred to himself as "the chosen one." (Photo by Jim WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday was … something.

Trump tweeted his thanks to and quoted a notorious conspiracy theorist who called him the “King of Israel,” and suggested that he was “the second coming of God.” Lest the megalomania (and religious ignorance) wasn’t flagrant enough, Trump followed up by calling himself the “chosen one.”

Because it was Wednesday, Trump also doubled down on questioning the loyalty of Jewish  Americans who vote for Democrats, and cited the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford in an apparently random attack on car companies. And he still had time left over to continue his insults of Denmark, after petulantly canceling his visit there because the prime minister wouldn’t sell him (I mean, the United States) Greenland.

These events seemed to rattle all but his most loyal turd polishers.

So, this is a good time to revisit our long, tedious debate over whether Trump is playing some sort of elaborate four-dimensional chess or is just plain nuts.

A few weeks back, I offered a theory that lizard-like-cunning could explain his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen. His attacks, I wrote, were likely to have the intended effect. 

As loath as I am to attribute Trump’s impulses to deep strategy, the latest attack reflects his reptilian cunning when it comes to playing the race card. His cynicism has no bottom because so far, it has worked for him, from birtherism to Mexican rapists to Muslim bans to the “very fine people” in Charlottesville. ..

Trump is baiting Democrats into rallying around the four progressives and emphasizing their centrality to the Democratic Party. And he is doing it by invoking a stunningly crude racist trope.

The reality is that this won’t hurt him at all with his MAGA base or the GOP. We’ve seen this movie too many times not to know that.

What about now? In Thursday’s Washington Post, Philip Rucker suggests that Trump’s Jews-are-disloyal riff was a result of his frustration over his unpopularity with Jews. It also reveals his almost boundless ignorance of what motivates Jewish voters.

But what about the “second coming of God,” and “chosen one” stuff? He’s just trolling us with a little blasphemy, right?

How about the fact that he quoted a conspiracy-theorist nutjob who has claimed that ” Barack Obama was not born in the United States, that Democratic National Committee staff member Seth Rich was killed by any one of a number of prominent Democrats, that a mass shooting in Las Vegas was coordinated by Muslims and that the person responsible for the death of Heather Heyer at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville was paid by a wealthy Democrat.”

Maybe he’s just triggering the libs.

Or not. Maybe… as Eugene Robinson suggested the other day, he’s melting down. We’ve gotten so numb to the crazy that we’re loath to call it crazy anymore. 

But there’s no strategy here, no plan, no rational political tactic on display. His elevation of Wayne Allyn Root’s comments and his own incoherent claim of being “the chosen one” demonstrate, at best, a profound ignorance of religion and/or lack of concern over blasphemous behavior at a time when he can’t afford to lose the evangelicals who (mysteriously) support him.  As he hemorrhages in the polls, there’s no upside for Trump in wallowing around in anti-Semitic tropes, or putting his erratic narcissism on display. 

It could be that some days he’s playing 4-D chess and others he’s simply losing it. The problem is that it can be hard to tell. 

To be sure, the turd polishers will make a comeback, but at least for a moment, there’s a notable silence among the usual suspects.

Because what we are seeing is Trump in Full … and they still own it. And it’s not going to get any better.

Charles Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.