Discover more from Bernard Goldberg's Commentary
Why Rush Limbaugh Is Wrong
I was listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show not long ago when he said that every presidential election for the past 20 years or so has been called “The most important election we’ve ever faced” – but that this one, the one coming up in November, might really be.
Then he said the election is not about Donald Trump’s personality.
Rush is right about the first part, the part about this being the most important presidential election in a very long time, maybe the most important in modern times -- especially now with the Supreme Court a bigger issue than usual. But he’s wrong about the second part, the part about how the election isn’t about Donald Trump’s personality.
I’m pretty sure I know what Rush meant. He meant, given what’s at stake, the election shouldn’t be about something so seemingly inconsequential as the president’s personality.
Instead it should be about truly significant matters -- about what kind of nation we would be if Joe Biden were elected instead of Donald Trump; about what Biden and the progressive left mean when they say they want to fundamentally change America; about which vision of America’s future we want to endorse. And now, about whether Democrats, if Biden wins and they take control of the Senate, will pack the Supreme Court with liberal Justices and make Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. the two newest states -- that will give the Democrats four more U.S. senators.
These are hardly trivial matters. But to a lot of people, neither is a candidate’s personality.
In Donald Trump’s case, his bigger-than-life personality affects everything. It’s not simply an image he projects. He is his personality.
And just as his base loves his personality, other voters have had enough of it.
Donald Trump comes off as a New York City tough guy, but in reality he’s incredibly thin-skinned, incapable of taking a verbal shot and simply moving on. That’s part of his personality.
He’s impulsive, which accounts for his many ill-considered tweets. That’s part of his personality
He almost never admits mistakes. That’s part of his personality.
His personality may be well suited to host a television reality show where pizzazz translates into ratings and conflict makes for good TV. But other traits count a lot more when you’re president – traits like honesty and empathy and leadership and competence.
Yes, the coronavirus matters, politically as well as medically. Polls indicate that the president gets low marks for his handling of the virus. And yes, the economy matters too. Unemployment was at historic lows before COVID-19 hit us. Now millions of Americans are out of work.
So yes, Donald Trump might be leading in virtually all the polls instead of trailing, if the virus never existed and the economy didn’t tank.
But in the absence of the good news he was hoping to run on, his personality – especially for non-partisan independent voters –may have become a bigger issue than it otherwise might have.
With no virus and a strong economy, they might have been willing to put up with his combative personality. Incumbents, let’s remember, almost always win a second term.
Joe Biden isn’t leading in virtually all of polls because he’s a charismatic figure who Americans think would make a great leader. Biden is leading because he’s running against Donald Trump. He’s leading because elections are often a referendum on the incumbent.
So whether it should or not, Donald Trump’s personality will matter. And before this is over, it may matter more than anything else.