“It is not intended as an insult to President Donald Trump to observe that he is the political equivalent of ipecac syrup. Looked at in a certain light, it is closer to a compliment,” wrote Harris. “His supporters gave him power in 2016 because they believed the body politic was beset with toxins — an overdose of fecklessness and hypocrisy — and in need of a purge. Trump vowed to channel the contempt his supporters felt toward the established order, and pledged plausibly to send the old order into a state of convulsive disarray.”
“‘A president who makes us puke’ would be an improbable reelection slogan,” wrote Harris. “But the emetic metaphor illuminates one way of thinking about the dire situation Trump finds himself in this summer, five years after it became clear his presidential ambitions were not a novelty but a serious proposition and four months before he faces voters again.”
The problem for Trump, wrote Harris, is that if Trump has accomplished what he set out to do, he has no case to make to voters.
“From Trump’s vantage point, the problem is once a leader has successfully evacuated both ends of the digestive tract, how does one propose to nourish the body with something more sustaining?” said Harris. “Trump’s rambling and policy-free answer last month to Sean Hannity’s rude question — ‘What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?’ — did not merely reflect an off night. One can examine his reelection announcement speech a full year ago, or his 2020 State of the Union address, and still not know more than random fragments of an answer.”
If Trump is the emetic in the metaphor, Harris argued, the public has no need for him anymore. They instead look to former Vice President Joe Biden — the political equivalent of “saltines and ginger ale” to settle the public’s political stomach.
“Meanwhile, what is the deal with syrup of ipecac? Why don’t you hear of it much anymore?” said Harris. “An important study 15 years ago (according to Wikipedia) sharpened doubts among toxicologists about its benefits, and warned that it potentially hinders the administration of more effective therapies for people who swallow bad stuff. It turns out a violent purge, heaving into the porcelain, may not be what the doctor ordered for either poison or politics.”
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