The Pied Piper of Mar-a-Lago

IN 1284, AS THE LEGEND GOES, the people of Hamelin, Germany, hired the town’s rat-catcher, a piper, to lure the rats away with his magic pipe. The piper was dressed in multi-colored (“pied”) clothing; hence he was called the “Pied Piper.” He led the rats out of the town and into the sea where they drowned. When the town’s people refused to pay him for his services, he retaliated by using his magic pipe and led their children away as he had with the rats.

Today, the term “Pied Piper” describes a person who talks often convincingly but who leads people into disaster. It is also used to identify a leader whom people willingly follow as he leads them into danger or trouble by means of lies and false promises.

During the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S., Democratic Party officials labeled the Republican Party’s candidate Donald Trump a “Pied Piper candidate.” Using his strong appeal to white nationalists and right-wing conservatives, Trump got the nomination of the Republican Party by eliminating his 16 rivals, one by one, in the primaries.

During the general election, Trump used demagoguery to deliver a populist message such as “America First” and “Make America great again!” He also manifested anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim behavior. But to his die-hard supporters, his coded messages stirred their own prejudices.

Well, the “Pied Piper candidate” won the 2016 presidential elections. But it was downhill from that time onward. He was twice impeached by the House of Representatives but was acquitted by the Senate, which requires a two-thirds majority of the senators present at the trial to convict the president.

In the 2020 presidential elections, Trump lost to Joe Biden by more than eight million votes. But Trump never conceded defeat. He propagated the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him. But it was never proven. Lawsuits filed by Trump’s supporters lost in more than 60 cases including two cases thrown out by the Supreme Court.

And then on January 6, 2021, Trump incited his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol. All hell broke loose! The insurrection caused damage to the Capitol Building and the deaths of at least five persons including one Capitol police officer.

A year later, on January 6, 2022, the January 6th Subcommittee that is investigating the insurrection, revealed that testimonies from witnesses indicate the extent of the conspiracy to topple the U.S. government by forcing the Senate to overturn the Electoral Count, which gave Biden 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 electoral votes. Had Vice President Mike Pence ruled to overturn the results in favor of Trump, he would still be sitting in the Oval Office today. Pence should be congratulated for resisting pressures from Trump and other Republicans to overturn the results of the election. Clearly, it was an attempt to execute a coup to install Trump as the election winner.

Ultimately, Trump left the White House, defeated but not out of the game. He vowed to make a comeback in 2024. He opened an office in Palm Spring, Florida and put a big sign that says “Office of Former President Donald J. Trump.” He went to work right away, calling his allies and die-hard supporters, encouraging them to continue the fight to save America. He opened a fund-raising account called “Save America PAC” and started sending out letters to millions of his supporters asking them for donations to his campaign to retake the White House. And his base responded enthusiastically. He raised $75 million in the first six months of the campaign.

But Trump’s re-election requires maximizing – and expanding – the support of his “base,” which is the white voters without college degrees, in the key battleground states where he won in 2016. However, Trump is losing support among other voters – suburban white women, college-educated whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other minority groups.

As a result, Trump’s narrow path to victory would require high voter turnout by the so-called “working-class whites” in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan. And based on recent polls, his base is shrinking.

The question is: What would his base look like in 2024? If the trend of his shrinking base continues, he’d be left with an unsubstantial number of die-hard supporters by the next presidential election, not enough to win the election.

But Trump’s magical power to attract millions of MAGA die-hards has kept political pundits wondering: What does it take to break his spell over his supporters?

A few weeks ago, when Trump was interviewed on Bill O’Reilly’s “History Tour” on television, Trump announced he was vaccinated and received a booster shot. Instantly, his supporters booed him. The outcry was unbelievable. However, it was his undoing. Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, Trump was known to be against vaccination, which has conditioned the minds of his supporters to refuse to get vaccinated, believing that it is harmful to the body. Hence, many of his supporters began campaigning against vaccinations. Known as the “anti-vaxxers,” they resisted vaccination. So when Trump announced that he’s been vaccinated and boosted as well, they rose in protest.

And if Trump began losing the support of his anti-vaxxer base, it would create a backlash against him come 2024.

So now, Trump would have to change his magic tune in order to keep his followers stay with him. Has the Pied Piper of Mar-a-Lago lost his touch with his MAGA followers?