The month of July 2020 has seen another torrent of bad news for Donald Trump, mostly created by Donald Trump himself. His approval ratings continue to decline across nearly every demographic group. Joe Biden is beating him nationally,as well as in the crucial swing states. Even Republicans are drifting away from Trump as his behavior becomes ever more bizarre and driven by desperation.
Perhaps the clearest signal that Trump recognizes the peril he faces politically is his activity on his favorite communications platform, Twitter. Throughout his presidency he has used Twitter to express his anger, frustration, and delusional (i.e. dishonest) take on reality. That has manifested in manic episodes of uncontrolled tweeting, exceeding a hundred posts on some especially bad days. But that volume has fallen off a cliff this month.
For July of 2020 so far (22 days), Trump has tweeted 508 times. That's down by a whopping 40% from the same number of days in June when he tweeted 875 times. It's also notable that in June only 2% (19) of his tweets were retweets. But in July that rocketed to 15% (75), or four times as many. Which means he spent significantly less time composing his own twitterature this month. On nine days his original tweets numbered in single digits. What's more, there was a noticeable drop off in Trump's tweeting about halfway through the month. From July 1 until July 11, he averaged about 28 tweets per day. From July 12 forward his average was only about 18 tweets per day. And once again, retweets were far more prevalent in his Twitter feed during the second half of the month. His original output was a third of what it was in the first half.
So is there an explanation for this shift in behavior by Trump? Among the more significant events that took place in this period is, first and foremost, the cataclysmic surge by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Many states are reporting record high infections and fatalities. That's despite Trump's false assertions that those numbers are declining and that the virus will soon “disappear” by magic. Trump's ludicrous dismissal of the severity of the crisis isn't playing well with the American people. An overwhelming majority don't trust Trump on the matter. Even worse, a majority regard him as mentally unfit to serve.
Which makes his decision to return to starring in the daily coronavirus briefings that were canceled two months ago all the more peculiar. Remember, they were originally ended because he was making an ass himself and driving his already abysmal approval ratings further into the gutter. And here are a few other probable influences on Trump's Twitter pullback:
- The news that Russia is putting bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan
- Demotion of his campaign manager, Brad Parscale
- Supreme Court rulings that could result in the release of his tax returns
- The widely disparaged commutation for Roger Stone
- Poor attendance and cancellations of his campaign rallies
- Continuing civil unrest and demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter
- The release of a devastating tell-all book by Mary Trump, his niece
That's enough bad news to tranquilize an elephant, even the Republican kind. And Trump hasn't had an effective or coherent response to any of it. He tried his usual tactics of insults, lies, and extremist bombast, but none of it has worked. Which leaves him with nothing but his Ministry of Propaganda (aka Fox News) to rely on for emergency support. And even that is getting pitifully useless.
Trump's enthusiasm for Twitter has been a hallmark of his presidency. He frequently insists that it is the only way he can get his message out without the interference of what he calls the “Lamestream Media.” So it's noteworthy that he is limiting his own output. In the past, controversy and bad news actually fueled his tweet production. So it's fair to speculate that now he may be suffering some degree of emotional depression resulting in a self-imposed social media isolation. And if we're lucky, his condition will deteriorate until he isolates himself entirely, sparing the nation (and the world) any more of the harm and anxiety for which he has been responsible for the past three and a half years.
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