In an insightful op-ed in The New York Times on December 27, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, makes the point that Donald Trump is running a different campaign in his third drive to the presidency.
Trump’s argument is a simple one. You voted for Biden in 2020 hoping for more order, more normalcy, less chaos and instead you got less order and more chaos especially at the southern border.
I agree with Anderson’s hypothesis. While Donald Trump may appear chaotic and disorderly to many, his presidency is perceived to have been better than our current situation. Since Biden took office there have been two foreign wars, open borders in the south, a perception of economic flagging, and a general sense that no one is in control in Washington. This is reflected in Biden’s dismal approval ratings.
Anderson is basically reiterating an old Bill Cosby message. Parents don’t want justice. They want quiet. Americans are fed up with racial and gender strife, illegal migrants by the thousands, and billions in American treasure going overseas to fight wars even as American troops are under fire in the Middle East and Biden does nothing. The perception is that no one is in charge and that there is no order. That is not a winning message for Mr. Biden who won on the premise that he was the better choice to bring order to America. He did not.
There is, I think, a general hunger in Americans for order. Our institutions of higher education are viewed as being completely out of order making microaggressions, trigger warnings, and correct pronouns more important than world-class research and learning.
Part of this stemmed from the fallout from Covid when our lives were turned upside down and leadership in America made many bad decisions about keeping children out of school, extolling the virtues of masks, and, in general, driving American enterprise to officing at home. We’ve yet to recover. And what we have not recovered the most is trust in leadership.
I believe the same is true in our academic institutions where leadership cannot articulate right from wrong, and, in the case of MD Anderson, cannot even articulate a strategy to fulfill its mission.
Trust in leadership has been lost and the danger there is that people will trade freedom for order when thy vote. That sounds innocuous, but is anything but.
If Mr. Trump can sell America on the notion that he will create more order than Mr. Biden, then he will win in 2024 because that is what Americans need right now—a steady economy, a clear mission, and a sense that the country still exists by sealing the southern border and having the government retaking control of who gets in.
There is a very fine line between order and despotism and many of us are afraid Mr. Trump will cross the line as he did on January 6. However, Mr. Trump may well look better than Mr. Biden in the order category and the hope is that he doesn’t cross the line again—if he stays out of jail.
No one really wants another Biden-Trump contest, but that is what it is looking like it will be. Mr. Trump has the distinct advantage this time. Just as Mr. Biden had the advantage that he was not Mr. Trump in 2020, Mr. Trump is not Mr. Biden. That may be good enough to win.