This past weekend for the first time since 1933 the World Series was played in Washington DC. Although many Nationals fans would probably prefer to forget the weekend, it was nonetheless a momentous occasion for baseball and for Washington. On Sunday night, which was the third and final game played in Washington, President Trump decided to make an appearance. Trump, who was a pretty good ballplayer as a youth, decided to eschew the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. Instead he watched the game, or at least some of the game, in a private box surrounded by staff and Republican members of Congress. When Trump’s presence was announced, the crowd erupted into boos and many chanted “lock him up.” Additionally, some fans unfurled a banner supporting the effort to impeach President Trump.
Game five of the World Series happened to be the first game, and Trump’s first public appearance, since US forces found ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Baghdadi killed himself by detonating an explosive vest. This was a big blow to ISIS and, as Trump pointed out when he announced Baghdadi’s death, made the world a safer place. This was a victory for the American military of the kind that almost always resonates well for the sitting President.
It should also be remembered that while baseball touts itself as America’s pastime, it is not equally beloved by all demographic groups. Baseball fans skew whiter, older and more male than the overall American population, although the sport is extremely popular with some Latinos in the US, notably Dominicans. Moreover, not everybody can afford World Series tickets that cost hundreds of dollars. This was reflected in the crowd at the game on Sunday night. It was an affluent, older, white, male crowd watching the game the day after a despised terrorist was killed by the US. This should have been a home run for President Trump, instead it was a humiliation.
Since assuming the presidency, Trump has made very few appearances in public places. This allows the President to preserve the fantasy that he is popular with the American people while preventing him from confronting just how widely disliked he is
The most significant thing about Trump’s experience on Sunday night is not so much that he got booed, but that he went to the ballgame in the first place. Since assuming the presidency, Trump has made very few appearances in public places. He has spent a lot of time at the White House, on golf courses that he owns and at rallies for his supporters. Previous presidents have gone to public places such as restaurants, sports events and cultural institutions, but Trump has done none of that. This allows the President to preserve the fantasy that he is popular with the American people while preventing him from confronting just how widely disliked he is.
This is also behavior that we generally see more from embattled authoritarians than from democratic leaders. Trump seems to be genuinely afraid of going out to America and speaking, or otherwise interacting, with ordinary people. His experience Sunday night will do nothing to change that. Many American presidents have at least tried to get out among the people when possible if for no other reason than to find out what people are thinking and feeling, but for Trump that is the precise reason why he, and his advisors, avoid public settings. Trump’s presidency is embedded deeply in fantasies about his support and the opinions of the American people. For Trump anything that threatens that fantasy must be avoided.
Trump seems to be genuinely afraid of going out to America and speaking, or otherwise interacting, with ordinary people
Accordingly, Trump will continue to limit his public appearances to safe, for him, environments like his rallies and his golf courses. This will allow him to continue deluding himself into thinking that he is a successful and popular president. This is significant because while Trump may live in a fantasy world and have a tenuous relationship with the truth, it is very likely, or at least very possible, that he believes the lies he tells about himself and his popularity. Trump is not a good liar, but he is a confident one.
This makes Trump very dangerous as impeachment accelerates and he moves towards an election that he is likely to lose. If on Election Night 2020, Trump sees the Democratic nominee winning state after state, a real possibility despite the drumbeat on the right and among some on the left that Trump will be reelected, he will respond by refusing to accept that news, referring to it as “fake news” claiming, falsely, that there was widespread election fraud and otherwise clinging to his presidency and the reality he has constructed for himself. Trump will not be convincing to anybody outside of his base, but that third or so of the electorate who support Trump share his delusions and will back him up. Trump, for his part, will not be there on Opening Day to throw out the first pitch of the new season and if the Nationals make it back to the Series in 2020, the Democratic nominee might come by for a game, but Trump will stay huddled in the White House.
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