Donald Trump went on prime-time TV Tuesday night to build public support for the very same racist immigration policies he prosecuted relentlessly in the midterms and for which the very same public he hoped to persuade clobbered him at the voting booth. In other words, he has no new ideas, broke no new ground, and frankly, gave a speech so predictable that most outlets had fact-checked it in advance. So the public, which wasn’t with him before, didn’t hear anything new and his desperate address will almost surely fail to move the opinion needle one eensy-weensy bit.
Unfortunately for Trump, he’s also burned through nearly all his publicity gimmicks too. On the day Nancy Pelosi officially became House Speaker, Trump was so desperate to dampen her glow that he manufactured an impromptu political stunt by parading border agents through the White House briefing room. It proved so lackluster, it was completely overshadowed by Democrats’ newly minted control of the lower chamber. The next day, Trump tried again, holding a totally bananas Rose Garden press conference (at which Mitch McConnell was nowhere to be seen) that proved to be nothing other than sadly unhinged. And also predictable. Finally, Trump upped the ante with something he’s never done before—a prime-time address from the Oval Office. It could be “The Greatest,” he must have thought, except that he rolled out the same old anti-immigrant tropes he spewed on the very first day of his candidacy.
Now that Trump isn’t the only entity controlling headlines in Washington anymore, he’s discovering something revelational—you can’t repeatedly deliver the same stupidly unfounded lies over and over again and still command the news cycle. Next to Pelosi and her Democrats, Trump looks like a fool who doesn’t have the creativity, knowledge or chops to govern. And guess what, he doesn’t. He got a free ride for two years from a group of Congressional Republicans who haven’t had a fresh idea since the Reagan era. By that standard, Trump was practically a genius, even if he had no clue how to legislate. No matter—he wasn’t any worse at legislating than Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, frankly.
But now that he’s all out of ideas and all out of gimmicks, Trump’s just a deflated bag of old tricks. Here’s where the real fun begins.