I am not arguing that Trump’s historical mistake dooms his reelection prospects. However, if he does win, his victory may be less attributable to his instincts than to other maneuverings, such as voter suppression, which is in full force. To give just one example: in 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure restoring the voting rights of some 1.4 million people who had finished their felony sentences. However, in 2019, the state enacted a law compelling these people to pay all fees, fines, and other financial obligations before they can vote, a provision that in effect disenfranchises most of them. This action, in effect, has just gained the approval of the Supreme Court. Scores of other voter suppression drives are taking place in various states (for details see Emily Bazelon’s article in the New York Times Magazine). Also, Trump has all the advantages of a head of state. And he may benefit from the fact that Americans are learning to normalize coronavirus deaths, treating them increasingly the way we tolerate traffic fatalities, as the price we are willing to pay to zip around freely on our thoroughfares
If Trump is reelected, nevertheless, history may well say it was despite his strategic mistake, which will be impossible to forgive or forget.
Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and professor of international affairs at The George Washington University. His latest book, Reclaiming Patriotism, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2019 and is available for download without charge.