Protests over police violence had eclipsed concern over the coronavirus for several weeks, but last week brought some renewed focus on the pandemic, which, despite Trump’s best attempts to move past it, remains stubbornly present. The numbers of people testing positive are skyrocketing now in prospective November swing states, including Arizona, North Carolina, and even Texas. (The virus likely had some effect on the turnout at the rally in Tulsa too: Trump’s base is still excited about him, but many supporters seemed rightfully wary about attending an event that required signing a waiver of liability for sickness.) On Thursday, the Labor Department announced that 1.5 million new unemployment claims had been filed in the preceding week, another sign that the rapid recovery Trump has heralded isn’t coming.
The past week also dealt Trump several setbacks in court. On Monday morning, the Supreme Court—in a 6–3 decision written by Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee—ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination. The Trump administration had argued that the law didn’t apply to this population, and the government appeared to be caught off guard by the ruling. Three days later, the Court ruled that the president’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was invalid because he hadn’t followed proper procedures.
Each of these decisions was a blow to the administration, because it went against the position staked out by the executive branch. The DACA case undermines Trump’s promises to get tough on illegal immigration, though he went wobbly on Dreamers long ago. But the twin defeats have additional political ramifications, given that both are also major disappointments for conservatives.
The president has argued that his power to select Supreme Court justices is the ultimate reason why conservatives who are otherwise wary of him must support him. Trump can try to use these defeats to argue that giving him another term is essential, because new Supreme Court appointments seem likely in the next four years. But the losses may also undermine enthusiasm. Despite his two appointments to the Court already, he lost these two cases—and his own pick wrote the Civil Rights Act decision. “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” Trump whined on Twitter. It’s not the cry of a winner.
On Saturday, Trump suffered another loss in a lower court, where a judge refused to block the release of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s damning memoir, saying that because the book had already shipped, “the damage is done.”
David A. Graham: John Bolton plumbs the depths of Trump’s depravity
No kidding. Bolton’s memoir—which leaked on Wednesday—is full of horrifying news about Trump’s handling of national security. Bolton writes of a Trump who makes every decision with an eye to his reelection campaign, for whom “obstruction of justice [was] a way of life,” and who shrugged at Chinese concentration camps for Uighurs. In interviews, Bolton has said that Trump is unfit for office. Bolton, whose politics might appropriately be described as “severely conservative,” has even vowed to vote against Trump in 2020.