The country is in free fall; more than 130,000 Americans have lost their lives in months, millions more their livelihoods; and a new wave of shutdowns is underway (as other countries are getting back to normal) because there is no plan and never was one coming from a president that has been MIA for months. As a result of all of this calamity that has resulted from the daily chaos emanating out of the White House, Americans, by increasingly large margins, are saying not only the country is on the wrong track, but they’d like someone else, Joe Biden, to be the one to steer it out of this rolling national disaster. In response, on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump chalked up voters’ take on the current state of national affairs to a framing issue and fired his campaign manager Brad Parscale.
Of course, Trump apparently didn’t fire Parscale himself, because he cowers from any meaningful confrontation that isn’t digital, and sent his son-in-law Jared Kushner to do the deed. Parscale is staying on as an adviser, but is being sidelined in favor of deputy campaign manager and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie aide Bill Stepien. Parscale headed the 2016 Trump campaign digital effort and slid into the top spot on the Trump reelection push that started 2½ years ago in February 2018, just 12 months into Trump’s actual presidency. Parscale, like every comet in Trump’s orbit, was always an unconventional and largely self-dealing figure: He has no previous political experience, speaks in memes, and bolstered his own profile along with the president’s as a bombastic co-headliner of Trump fundraising events and, inconceivably, of Trump television ads.
Parscale’s proximity to the president and his campaign, like other Trump world barnacles’, appears to have made him wealthy as well as a MAGA celebrity. The Trump campaign paid for ads on Parscale’s personal Facebook page and poured money into his firm that, in turn, handed a bunch of it right back to Trump family members. “[Parscale’s] strength from the start of the 2016 campaign, in addition to his digital know-how, was his close relationship with Trump’s older children,” the Washington Post notes. “His firm, Parscale Strategy, bills for the campaign salaries of Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the wife and girlfriend respectively of Trump’s two oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr.”
But with the president’s job performance and poll numbers continuing to plummet, the grift of rinsing cash for Trump family members didn’t seem to cut it anymore. The Trump campaign, as much as there is one—and it doesn’t really appear that there is by normal standards—seems to have drawn a blank on how to convince Americans that Donald Trump isn’t exactly what he is: a fraud, a cataclysmic president, and now a direct danger to their lives and livelihoods. The tipping point appeared to have been the sparsely attended Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally, for which Parscale was blamed. The event was dangerous and ill-advised, but that wasn’t Trump’s issue with it; the real problem was that the campaign looked gassed. In Tulsa, the American people got a midpandemic glimpse at a campaign, much like the Trump presidency, that after years of furious spinning had finally been spun dry.
So now there’s a new Trump enabler running the campaign, and, if history’s any indicator, he surely won’t be the last. Along with Stepien’s ascension to the top spot, the Trump team is getting a bunch of the 2016 band back together. What they are facing this time around, however, is not an optics problem, a question of presentation and positioning; it’s a product problem. The president is defective, and the opportunity to change that reality is not in ad buys in Arizona—it’s already passed.