(CNN)The deeper the change sweeping America, the more President Donald Trump digs into positions that even some of his natural allies have recently forsaken.
Defending the memory of Confederate generals, proudly crisscrossing the country without wearing a mask and threatening to send troops to tackle demonstrators in Seattle, Trump on Thursday solidified his reelection pitch as a bulwark against a cultural transformation.
In essence, he’s arguing that there is something fundamentally un-American and liberal about finally shedding the symbols and imagery of the Civil War, believing systemic racism stains the police force or covering up to prevent the spread of a deadly virus he is trying to wish away.
The President’s conduct is consistent with a lifetime of going against the crowd and his impulse to use racial and cultural flashpoints for his own advantage. At a time when much of the country, even many instinctively conservative individuals and institutions, is engaging in a racial reckoning, he is apparently betting that his stands will ignite and expand his political base and carry him to a backlash victory in November.
As he did with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, Trump is implicitly invoking an idealized past vision of a nation untarnished by political correctness, where white conservative values were dominant, that seems incompatible with an increasingly diverse country. At the same time, he is propagating an alternative reality that the pandemic is over — despite rising cases in many states — to convince voters that the strong economy he was using as his main reelection pitch is on the way back.