A Presidential Campaign Simile: Storm-Tossed Galleon

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Running 204 feet, Constitution displaces about 2,280 tons. The ship’s mainmast rises 189 feet above the waterline, and in all her three masts carry more than 42,000 square feet of sail when fully underway.

Presidential campaigns are like galleons sailing into port, their metaphorical Election Day destinations. Some arrive there first, others not at all.

The news cycle is the propellant wind, their own campaigns the ship and its sails, and the candidates the captains on the bridge. Sometimes, no matter how tall the masts and huge the canvas, the wind blows against them or is all but nonexistent. Then the campaign ship stays in the doldrums or goes backward in the polls because of the headwinds — even despite brilliant rigging, clever tacking, and an adroit captain’s seamanship.

Right now, Trump’s ship has been hit in succession by sudden headwinds and violent storms of impeachment, the contagion, the lockdown, the tragic killing of George Floyd, and both the ensuring peaceful protests and violent looting, rioting, and arson. The result is that his voyage to port has nearly stopped. Even warped polls suggest that in the past few days he has caught little wind in his sails, while Joe Biden, asleep at the wheel, lets his crew ever so slowly capture a tiny breeze or two and drift ahead.

But to Trump’s rear, the powerful tailwinds of summer and autumn are rising. And they are considerable: the enfeebled candidacy of a cognitively impaired Joe Biden who at some point must emerge from his basement and remind the world he is inert; the contention over Joe Biden’s hard left-wing diversity VP selection that is de facto the Democratic presidential candidate; the looming indictments of John Durham; the steady recovery of the economy; the likely eventual waning of the virus; the loosening of the lockdowns, especially given the asymmetrical blue-state exemptions given to millions of protestors and rioters who never practiced social distancing as they looted stores, entered restaurants to harass customers, and crowded together to shout and spray; and, most important, the growing public pushback against the looting, burning, shooting, and rioting. All that is a powerful collection of favorable windy currents.

If Trump lets these fresh winds at his back catch his full sails and ride the waves, then he will coast to port and victory. But if in frustration and still angry at past rough headwinds, he belatedly climbs up the mast and begins slashing huge tears in his canvases — stooping to tweet replies to an absurdly irrelevant Joe Scarborough, deviating from a great speech at Tulsa to reenact his walk down a ramp, going back and forth in trivia with Jeff Sessions and John Bolton — then the favorable tail winds will blow right through his ample but now rent sails, and his ship will coast to a stop or flounder.

There are only so many good days of sailing before November. The Trump ship must pull out all the rigging, let the good winds blow upon them, and ensure that the captain keeps a steady hand at the wheel and avoids tearing apart his own canvas just as it begins to billow.


NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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