That’s the collective reaction of a growing number of pundits, left and right, to what they are calling Trump Fatigue.
These prognosticators are making the case that much of America is growing tired of the president’s constant barrage of controversial comments, tweets, insults and declarations, and may decide in 2020 to opt for a calmer environment.
One giant caveat upfront: No one is more worn out by Hurricane Donald than people in the media business. It’s our job to cover every flap, dispute, taunt, punch and counterpunch, as well as to challenge any presidential misstatements and over-the-top attacks on POTUS. So there’s a bit of projection involved in assuming that regular civilians feel the way we do.
Still, there’s an element of truth in this regard: Trump dominates our national discourse like no other president in history. He does so not just in the political realm but in sports, entertainment and culture as he weighs in or picks fights on all kinds of topics. I’ve had plenty of ordinary folks tell me they’re tired of politics, they’re tuning it out, they want a break.
Of course, those who admire this president love the way he mixes it up and keeps his detractors—including what he’s now calling the Lamestream Media—on the defensive. It’s an easy way for him to put points on the board at a time when the China trade war is affecting the economy and he’s striking no legislative deals with Congress.
But he has also made a series of unforced errors in the last two weeks: The Greenland kerfuffle. Saying Melania knows Kim Jong-un. Calling Xi an enemy (along with his own Fed chairman) before switching gears and praising him. Pushing his Doral resort for the G-7. And still finding time to attack NBC, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, Axios (“whatever that is”) and Fox News (“Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”). All this is fueling the perception of All Trump All the Time.
Let’s start with liberal Times columnist Frank Bruni, who said he concluded that Trump “had commandeered too many of my thoughts, run roughshod over too many of my emotions, made me question too many articles of faith.
“I was sapped — if not quite of the will to live, then of the will to tweet, to Google and to surf the cable channels, where his furious mien and curious mane are ubiquitous. What I was feeling was beyond Trump fatigue and bigger than Trump exhaustion. It was Trump enervation. Trump enfeeblement.”
Bruni then argues that Americans of all persuasions are “woozy and wiped out.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is also tuckered out:
“‘Exhausting’ would be the word at the top of my list after Trump’s whirling-dervish performance. Yes, I’m shocked, confused, sometimes indignant about his erratic policy statements. But there’s a deeper feeling that others may share: I’m tired of Trump’s antics. They take up too much emotional space. Every day, there’s a new narcissistic boast, a new lie to correct, a new violation of what people used to call presidential ‘decorum.’”
He argues that “the public eventually gets bored with even the most novel act. It takes ever-greater energy to produce the same shock value.”
National Review editor Rich Lowry says in Politico:
“What all these controversies have in common is that they fill the hours while nothing much really happens. Is Anthony Scaramucci actually going to organize a primary challenge against Trump? No. Is Greenland going to be sold, or Denmark fall off as a U.S. ally? No. Is Israel’s fate going to rise or fall on the travels of a couple left-wing backbench U.S. congresswomen? No.
“There’s no doubt that the constant Trump static hurts him grievously among suburban, college-educated women. But no doubt that for his supporters the show is part of his appeal, an ongoing reminder of his fearlessness and opposition to the establishment.”
National Review also has a piece headlined “Even Trump’s Supporters Are Getting Tired of His Daily Drama.”
And MSNBC’s Chuck Todd told viewers that the president “just wears people down,” and that Trump fatigue is “the biggest single question overshadowing everything in politics right now, is the American public tiring of it.”
Another way to look at this question is whether Trump’s reality-show presidency has permanently altered the political landscape. That is, will the next president have to be a peripatetic presence on Twitter and grab the epicenter of every news cycle? Once FDR began fireside radio chats, once JFK did televised press conferences, once Bill Clinton went on late-night talk shows, these became the new normal.
Or does much of the public want to lower the volume on politics, which is what Joe Biden is implicitly offering as a return to the somewhat quieter Obama era?
As Lowry put it: “Even if Trump is hurting himself with his sensory overload approach to the presidency, the Democrats nominate someone dull at their own risk.”