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Yes, this will be a value-laden political point. I’ll get back to the Argument from Reason in my next post. For the time being, let me talk about the leader of the free world, Donald Trump. The point I want to make today revolves around the fact that his re-election campaign team have just paid over $400,000 for airtime in pro-Trump ad spots in the Washington area, primarily on FOX (though also including, to a lesser extent, MSNBC and CNN).

Let’s get some context: Washington has never voted for a Republican President, and Maryland hasn’t since 1988. These are blue, blue states. This money is absolutely wasted, particularly right now, in trying to convince voters in the area to vote for him.

So why use up this valuable campaign budget? (Though it must also be said that he has a massive war chest to dip into.)

The answer pretty much sums up much of what is wrong with US politics right now: to assuage the anxieties and comfort  the fragile ego of the toddler-in-chief.

Trump spends an inordinate amount of time watching TV (rather than running the country). Reports going back three years claim he watches anywhere up to eight hours a day. This report claims he watches, in lockdown, seven hours before getting to the White House late. This underwrites his obsession with mainstream media. He is glued to it. for half the waking day.

Rather than appealing to voters, Trump’s campaign team is appealing directly to Trump himself, hoping that he will see these ads and feel good about himself amidst a sea of negative polling reports and terrible news days, dumpster fires of political ineptitude.

Trump has already raged at and threatened to sue his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, for bad polling data and hired very dubious Republican pollster John McLaughlin to give him the analyses he wants to hear. The gap between him and Biden is growing (and, let’s face it, Biden ain’t all that and a bag of chips).

We know this not just from doing the sums and using our own common-sense, but from some leaks as well:

But two knowledgeable sources—one a Trump campaign adviser, the other an individual close to the president—said the D.C.-area ads had another purpose as well: to put the president himself at ease.

In recent weeks, Trump has grown visibly distraught at his prospects for re-election, with recent polling showing his standing in the race declining dramatically in the wake of a sustained coronavirus outbreak and resulting recession, and as demonstrators flood major cities to protest the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last month. Things have gotten so bad that after CNN came out with a survey on Monday showing Trump trailing Biden by 14 points, Trump’s campaign’s pollster crafted a memo—subsequently posted to the president’s Twitter account—accusing presidential pollsters of a deliberate effort to “counter the enthusiasm of Trump voters.”

With Trump stuck in that milieu of anxiety, his re-election team is hoping that the ads may put him at ease that his formidable political machine is hard at work defending him and attacking his enemies. Trump is a voracious consumer of cable news, and—the thinking goes—is likely to see the spots pop up between segments of his favorite shows.

These sources also said the campaign is hoping to counter-program recent ads by critics that have driven the president to public outbursts. The ads in question were the work of the Lincoln Project, a super PAC run by a group of dissident conservatives, and elicited furious reactions from the president’s Twitter feed. The Lincoln Project aired a recent, hard-hitting ad called “Mourning in America” on Fox News in the D.C. media market with the explicit goal of getting the president’s attention.

“[The] so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” the president wrote in a series of aggrieved late-night tweets posted early last month. “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad.”

The Lincoln Project, disaffected anti-Trump conservatives, have run ads that have been remarkably successful in one of their wins – getting under the President’s skin. We know this because he tweets about them just after they air. Because, of course, he’s watching TV.

This is the crazy world of politics we now live in where the most powerful man in the world has the temperament of a toddler who still has to be pacified by his carers with some nice, calming TV. His favourite show. You know, the one about him. Being great.

And yet, still his fans will fan him. Whilst fanning the flames of discontent and social division.

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A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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