The real lesson Trump learned from Charlottesville

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The president emerged from a low point of his presidency unscathed with his loyal voters, and has turned race into a key issue for the midterms — and beyond.

The content of President Donald Trump’s dig at basketball superstar LeBron James might have been standard Trump fare — questioning the intelligence of a prominent African-American who has been critical of him — but the timing of the tweet made it stand out on Friday night.

The post landed almost exactly a year after the deadly clash between white nationalists and Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the president refused to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis outright.

That moment temporarily left Trump on an island, abandoned by Republicans on the Hill and corporate executives who had previously played nice with the president on his business councils, and was a low-water mark of his presidency — one that, according to presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, “puts him in the dung heap of presidents who are completely insensitive of race in the United States.”

If that proves to be the case in the long run, a year out from Charlottesville tells a different story and is less clear cut. In fact, while Trump hasn’t changed, he’s no longer isolated, and his race and culture wars now pose one of the biggest challenges to Democrats plotting how to win back the House in 2018 and to take on Trump in 2020.

“The big picture is the fizzle,” said Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the Weekly Standard and a prominent Never Trump conservative. “He’s not in good shape politically, but he’s not in worse shape. Charlottesville didn’t change his numbers. Everything has just become more the way it was.”

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