Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential bid announcement has rattled Donald Trump – and the pressure will only mount from here
The US president’s ‘jokes’ about Native American genocide in relation to the Democrat senator provide a glimpse into his growing fears about his waning base
There’s nothing like getting your excuses in early. Or, if you’re Donald Trump, the insults too.
Having claimed, absurdly, that the Democrats “cannot legitimately win” the 2020 presidential election, the president has now repeated offensive remarks about Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry, and seemingly made a thinly veiled joke about the Trail of Tears – a series of forced relocations of Native Americans in the 1800s, regarded by many as a genocide.
There will be much more of this sort of thing to come before polling day in the autumn of next year.
It is nothing new. The whole world – his targets are many and geographically widely dispersed – has grown weary, if not inured to the president’s childish outbursts. Some are, worse still, intended to wound, others are careless, some are misspelt.
All, like his policies, speak to a brittle, spiteful personality that simply cannot accept that he cannot always get his way, and that something called the Constitution of the United States was designed to counterbalance the powers of the Office he holds.
It is a rich irony that Mr Trump has had so many capable and defiant women to disdain his tantrums. From Hillary Clinton to Stormy Daniels to Nancy Pelosi to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and now Elizabeth Warren, they are belittled and mocked by the president, but, to borrow a phrase, nevertheless they persisted. The old misogynist deserves it.
It is interesting that the president should feel so nervous, apparently, about a female Democrat taking him on when the election is still so far away. She has shown herself to be a formidable campaigner – she took on and beat a Republican incumbent for the Senate in Massachusetts in 2012, albeit in usually Democrat country.
She is also a sharp-eyed lawyer with a feel for the populist pitch, and no ally of free trade. Even so, she trails the other possible Democrat contenders, including Joe Biden, the undeclared frontrunner.
Like many a bully, under the bombast and the braggadocio, Mr Trump is an insecure man.
He fears that the economy will not deliver for him as it has done thus far. He fears his base will feel betrayed by that, and by his failure to build that ridiculous wall on the Mexican border.
He fears that the multiple wounds from the Mueller probe and other revelations will make him seem an even bigger embarrassment than he already is.
For he knows that American politics are not only partisan and embittered, but also that they remain very tight. After all, in 2016, Clinton won more votes than he did, he suffered some setbacks in the midterms last year and, to say the least, all is not well with the integrity of his administration. He is getting rattled.
Mr Trump will face a more determined and spirited opposition from the Democrats than he has in the first half of his presidency. The Democrats, with women in the very vanguard, have used their newly acquired power in congress to take the fight to the White House.
They are pursuing independent lines of investigation into Mr Trump’s business affairs, tax returns and potential conflicts of interest.
They have opened up debates on health care and climate change, no longer leaving Mr Trump’s tweets unchallenged. They have refused funding for the Mexican wall. They have stared him down during the government shutdown.
After a period where they were left dazed and confused by the defection of many traditional blue collar voters to Mr Trump’s insurgency, they still need to do much more to make inroads into the president’s base.
But they do also seem to have recovered their mojo and are learning how to go on the offensive, symbolised by the viral “Pelosi clap” during the State of the Union address. At last, the Democrats are learning to lose their fear of Mr Trump. Now they need some winning policies, and a candidate who refuses to be intimidated by the man with the orange tan.