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Trump loves a good fight more than anything else. And his opponents are unwilling or unable to get on his level.

Trump is able to say things that would make the average person blanch. Others cannot imitate his act because for the president, it isn’t one.
by Reed Galen /
Image: Donald Trump
What makes the president of the United States get up in the morning? The next battle.Evan Vucci / AP
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It’s campaign season in America and that means that President Donald Trump is out stumping for candidates across the country ahead of this fall’s mid-term elections. These campaign rallies are the president’s favorite outlet: they’re unscripted, freewheeling streams of consciousness that give both the audience in the room, the press on the riser and his opponents at home what they’re looking for. There’s something for everyone.

To paraphrase his ghost-written 1987 book "The Art of the Deal," Donald Trump gets up every day ready to face whatever comes at him. He doesn’t think about yesterday and he doesn’t worry about tomorrow. The fight before him is what he is focused on.

On June 20, the president signed an executive order ostensibly ending the practice of separating undocumented children and parents after crossing the border into the United States. It was a rare half-step backward for a man whose entire ethos is designed around forward momentum. (Which direction forward might be on a given day is anyone’s guess.) Why the semi-reversal was so stunning was not because Trump signed the order, however, but because of the level of external noise it took to even get him to notice that he had a political problem on his hands. He was so immersed in the fight that it took a massive effort to break through and force him to see he was actually losing it.

This is what those who oppose him are unwilling or unable to understand. Like a legal scholar arguing an arcane point of case law or the theologian who revels in Talmudic debate, Trump is happiest amid conflict. Both borne of his father’s reputation and his tutelage at the knee of Roy Cohn, one of the all-time bare-knuckle fighters, Trump is nothing without someone to fight.

His supporters love him for it. His opponents try and fail to emulate it. Whether it was Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) ham-handed attempts to “go Trump” during the 2016 Republican presidential primary or the recent outburst by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), attempts at matching his volume and vitriol inevitably backfire.

The truth is, Trump is willing and able to say things that would make the average person blanch and the average politician pass out. Others cannot imitate his act because for the president, it isn’t an act at all.

When Maxine Waters got behind a microphone and says activists should chase around Trump administration officials while eating dinner, the political and chattering classes (of both parties) roundly criticized her for inciting violence and not preaching “civility." When Trump goes to Minnesota or South Carolina and calls immigrants killers and rapists, the attendant outrage is impotent.

Why does Trump get away with it when others don’t? For several reasons. First, many celebrities and political candidates with long and sordid backgrounds enjoy a discount rate on their bad behavior. What are you going to say about Trump that hasn’t already been said? His antics are baked into the cake of how he’s perceived by the public.

Next, a good portion of the electorate likely believes what the president is saying, even if they don’t like the way he’s saying it. That support and the support of a cowed Republican Congress allows the president leeway to say things without immediate political consequences.

The next test comes in November when the nation will see whether the president’s words and deeds have an electoral consequence. But repudiation is not a forgone conclusion. In fact, it will take the president’s opponents, both from the left and right, an inordinate amount of time, work and energy to communicate to voters that what we daily see and hear from our chief executive is not normal, nor healthy for the Republic.

With the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, Trump and his supporters are gearing up for yet another battle — one as consequential as any election, and perhaps more so.

With the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, Trump and his supporters are gearing up for yet another battle — one as consequential as any election, and perhaps more so.

So when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deploys all the legislative tools at his disposal to ensure a speedy confirmation for the nation’s next Supreme Court justice, Trump will provide the complementary artillery fire.

Though he rarely seems to understand the import of his actions, the president seems keenly aware of how rare it is to name a second justice to the highest court in the land in just two years. Perhaps it’s the fact that the appointment is lifetime in nature, feeding Trump’s ideals of everlasting power. Or perhaps it’s because the very name of the institution and its stark authority over deciding matters of law that captivates the president.

The president’s opponents will likely attempt to frighten Americans and enrage voters with dystopian predictions of what another conservative on the court means for their core issues. Trump neither understands nor cares about these arguments and will call them every name in the book as he defends his eventual nominee.

But like the situation at the border, or November’s looming elections — and no matter the outcome — picking the country’s next lifetime appointee will give Trump what he truly loves: a fight.

Reed Galen is a political consultant. He tweets at @reedgalen.

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