Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)Donald Trump just doesn’t get America in 2020. That’s obvious given a campaign strategy still mirroring a 2016 campaign playbook that played to White grievances with promises to stop migrants (“Build a wall”), bigotry (calls for a Muslim travel ban) and empty promises of making America great again.
Dean Obeidallah That approach barely carried the day for Trump. He didn’t win the majority of the popular vote, but his win in three battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes put him over the top in the Electoral College. Yet as poll after poll is now showing us, what might have worked with a strong economy in a time of relative calm is a loser in the face of a deadly pandemic and economic catastrophe. The United States in 2020 is vastly different from four years ago. Unsurprisingly, a Fox News poll released Sunday found that the top issue of concern to Americans — by far — was Covid-19. Coming in at No. 2 was the economy/jobs/ unemployment. (Trump’s top 2016 issue of immigration came in at ninth, with only 2% saying it was “the most important issue” in 2020.)Read More Yet Trump has all but given up on discussing Covid-19, except to spew the type of misinformation he gave to Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday, where Trump dismissed a national mandate for wearing masks, saying, “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wore a mask, everything disappears.”We've never been here beforeThis is the same week Trump’s head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told America that if everybody wore a mask for four to eight weeks, we could get the pandemic under control. Trump’s comments like these are presumably in large part why a new Washington Post-ABC poll released Sunday morning found only 38% approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and 60% disapprove — a net drop of 28 points since March.Trump, instead of being laser focused on Covid-19, has embraced a campaign strategy that feels like a repeat of a (horrible) TV show from four years ago. On Sunday morning, he was tweeting out his usual stale fare of “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” If Trump couldn’t make America great in his first term, why would his second term be any different? Then there’s the bigotry and White grievance politics that were a staple of 2016. In 2020, Trump has simply changed his focus from smearing immigrants with lies about Mexican “rapists” to attacking Black Lives Matter (BLM) as a “symbol of hate.” Again this shows how out of touch Trump is with the rest of America. A Pew poll conducted in June found two-thirds of Americans are supportive of the BLM movement. What has happened to Trump's messaging mojo Same goes for Trump’s defending Confederate monuments and Confederate flags as being about “heritage” and “free speech.” While Trump remains locked in the past, the rest of America is moving on. NASCAR has banned the flying of Confederate flags at its races and on Friday Trump’s own Secretary of Defense effectively banned Confederate flags from US military bases. Even Trump’s new signature issue of crime, marked by his repeated tweeting of the words “Law and Order” and talk of crime in urban centers, doesn’t rate with most — except perhaps as a racist dog whistle that he will save White America from the threats he suggests Black and brown people pose. Indeed, in Sunday’s Fox News poll, crime came in as 16th in terms of being an important issue, with only 1% of voters saying it’s a top issue today. Get our free weekly newsletter
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The latest polls bring home the point that Trump is woefully out of step with America. A Washington Post-ABC survey out Sunday shows Joe Biden leading Trump 55% to 40% among registered voters.Trump’s bigoted campaign may have worked in 2016, but today people want a leader who will address the life and death issues of Covid-19 and the economic calamity the US is suffering. Trump has shown Americans he isn’t that person. And that’s not likely to change between now and November.