Some commentators used to call it President Donald Trump’s “superpower.” For whatever reason, no matter the quality of the opposition research hurled into the public eye about then-candidate Trump or President Trump, it would just not seem to stick. “Teflon Don,” they have called him. For a day, maybe even a week, his poll numbers would drop — but for nearly an entire term, he has nonetheless hovered at around 45% favorability. Ultimately, he has seemed “immune to the sort of gaffes that typically wound other politicians.”
But as the Democratic Party presidential primary rages on, it has become clear that President Trump doesn’t have a superpower at all. The game of politics has simply changed from that which we were accustomed. In the previous era, where politicians were polished and consumers of political debate were competent, politics amounted to a game of gaffe avoidance. The first one to give up the act was clearly the less competent contender, so we voted for the other guy.
Times have changed. Pseudo media outrage has made nothing outrageous anymore. Hyper-partisan reporting out of Washington and New York has deemed quality reporting increasingly irrelevant. Between that and an ever-changing social media landscape, people simply have shorter memories than in the past. Things only matter as they are happening and are quickly deemed ephemeral or meaningless. Brett Kavanaugh was only an alleged rapist until his U.S. Supreme Court nomination could no longer be defeated. Net neutrality only killed people until it didn’t. And so forth.
With the media’s malpractice and the general populace’s consumption of their product, the important stories that matter are often overlooked. As such, it often seems that nothing that is actually helpful comes from our frenetic, never-ending news cycle.
Let’s then return to Trump’s ‘superpower,’ which is not actually exclusive to him at all. If it were exclusive, for instance, then gaffe machine former Vice President Joe Biden would not still be the frontrunner for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination. He would be long gone by now. But despite all his manifold gaffes, he stays at the top with the hypocritical ‘anti-1%’ one-percenter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
It’s quite clear that the non-charismatic and, frankly, not particularly talented Joe Biden does not have any such “superpower.” Certainly, no charisma has helped him remain at the top, yet there he remains. The lesson to learn for voters, then, is that President Trump’s steadfast base of support and “teflon” status is the new norm — and is likely not specific to him.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) made the mistake of thinking that bad press does sticks in our generation. He gave up his Senate seat for no reason. Not only did he make a mistake — he knows he did. Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA), clearly more in tune with our political age, successfully weathered the storm and now is being affirmatively supported by the Left for having done so. By the time Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was busted for the same offense as Northam, no one seemed to care.
In a world where nothing sticks to anybody and memories are short, in a world where journalists are so gutless that they will lie about events that led to the death of Americans while also brutally under-reporting about the Afghanistan Papers, politics is different. In many ways, actually, it’s much simpler.
Welcome to our new world, appropriately ushered in with the start of a new decade. Where the candidate who jumps into the race with the most name recognition and resources will nearly always hold on to his/her base, where the primary debates are rendered essentially meaningless, and where we don’t even force our politicians to act anymore.
They don’t need to, after all, because nothing sticks, nothing matters, and even if something significant does happen, it will be neglectfully reported anyway.
Elliot Fuchs is a political consultant and writer. You can follow him on Twitter @Elliot_Fuchs.