Donald Trump has come and gone from Jacksonville. What’s left in his wake?
For one thing, the local GOP establishment played itself for him. And in doing so they may have scuttled the pension tax.
It was so much weirdness.
We saw the bizarre spectacle of the local public defender caught on television applauding when Trump said that there’s no reason to defend “one of those little countries that no one in this room ever heard of,” via our NATO obligation, unless that little country has paid up.
And we saw dozens of local pols sitting in the crowd before the speech.
Many of them are usually voluble with the press. But before the Trump event, they weren’t acknowledging media who crossed the room to see who showed up.
In October, Trump packed the Jacksonville Landing’s courtyard. No establishment types were on hand that day.
Last week, though, when Trump filled the Veterans Memorial Arena, they packed the crowd, not as figures of honor, but as background elements, like the trees Bob Ross rendered on The Joy of Painting.
They showed up, ostensibly to “support the nominee,” but ended up as props, like the posters in the crowd, like the marked-up Make America Grate Again hats, disposable and ephemeral to a man.
And as they got used as props, played as afterthoughts, they found their central message — that Jacksonville is booming economically — undermined.
Trump so casually talked about Jacksonville like it was a Rust Belt city, instead of a place where jobs are being created … which is the mythology.
Just last month, Amazon pledged to add 1,500 and Citibank 800 more. These are successes. But Trump has one gear: echoing the despair of those born white and still losing at life. So he delivered the same spiel he would have in Toledo … because it’s all the same to him.
A question worth considering is: If Jacksonville’s economy is as jacked-up as Trump claimed, why re-elect any of these people ever?
And there was this: “As you stand here thinking you have a good job, many of the companies in this area are negotiating to move their jobs out of the United States.”
Presumably, that’s news to Mayor Lenny Curry, who was on hand serving as “master of ceremonies.”
Speaking of Curry, when it became clear that he was going to speak at the event, you saw the curtain close on One City, One Jacksonville for a lot of people — especially young Democrats, who were giving him the benefit of the doubt.
The message of 1C1J is unity, building bridges. The message of Trump is building a wall.
The timing of Trump in Jax was horrible if you’re trying to sell a pension tax and need to be seen as a statesman, someone above the fray.
Curry didn’t serve up the red meat last Wednesday night. In fact, he essentially served as the genial host between ridiculous screeds about Hillary Clinton “opening up the gates of Hell to ISIS” and the “lock her up” chants.
And when Curry did speak, finally, he didn’t devolve into the “crooked Hillary” motif. Instead, he quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying “united we stand, divided we fall.” [Lincoln said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The other expression is ancient]
Which does not have a damned thing to do with Trumpism. It fit in about as well as a Juicy J rap on a Lawrence Welk show.
Curry continued to hit the theme of building concord, talking about trying to “unite Republicans, Democrats, and Independents under conservative philosophy.”
“I came in as an outsider and I promised to turn the status quo upside down,” Curry continued, before pitching the pension tax to scattered, tepid applause — then saying, “Trump will flip the status quo upside down.”
It was, arguably, the most forced moment in Lenny Curry’s political career. Whether Curry, a former RPOF chair, qualifies as an outsider or not is a matter of semantics. But Curry ran as someone with clear plans on how to get Jacksonville’s fiscal house in order.
And he compromised that message by yoking it to the neo-fascist blather Trump spews to the rubes.
The question becomes: Is this a blip on the radar or did Curry just sink the pension tax?
Assuming Trump is the head of the GOP now, and those 8,000 people serve as a focus group, shouldn’t there have been a more enthusiastic reception for the pension reform?
And, since Curry carried Trump’s water last week, will Dems who were on the fence vote ‘no’ out of spite that Curry got too close to Trump?
Will the negatives outweigh the positives in embracing Trump?
It was a risky play for the mayor. And on Aug. 30 we’ll find out if it mattered.