Has Donald Trump jumped the shark?

In recently criticizing Governor Ron DeSantis with a particularly silly, objectively untrue line of attack, the former president, it can be argued, has begun to exhibit the same kind of quality-decline as Happy Days did with the Fonz’s infamous water-skiing feat. Photo credit: Miller-Milkis Productions


The long-running television sitcom Happy Days gave us many memorable scenes. The iconic character of Fonzie alone provided a sundry list of unforgettable moments. Nonetheless, as the series aged, the efforts to reach audiences with new and inventive clips took the show and the characters past believable or plausible activities. 

For Happy Days, that moment occurred in the fifth season. As Josh Rossen explains in his 2021 article in Mental Floss, “For most viewers of Happy Days, the wildly popular ABC sitcom of the 1970s and early 1980s, the sight of Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli jumping over a shark on water skis during the September 20, 1977 episode was not a momentous event. It was simply agreeably silly—a result of the Fonz taking up the challenge of a local beach bully to endanger his life with an ocean predator. Yet the Fonz’s machismo would come to define a moment in pop culture when a once-beloved creation takes a noticeable dip in quality.” 

As Donald Trump ramps up his third campaign for the presidency, lighting up his opposition, in particular Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, it looks like Trump may have experienced his “jump the shark” moment. 

At this point, Trump leads DeSantis significantly in most polls, by as much as 25 points. He appears to be in an excellent position to win and reclaim the nomination of the Republican Party that he believes is his birthright. In recent weeks he has used the threat of an indictment to rally his supporters. Many in the Republican Party believe that New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg overstepped his authority, in effect, persecuting Trump more than prosecuting. 

The argument can be made that Bragg should probably concern himself more with crimes affecting people in New York, rather than worry about a payout to a porn star to keep an embarrassing incident quiet. After all, among the wealthy and the affluent, using their money or influence to hide transgressions from the public occurs readily enough. Trump’s actions during all these proceedings, however, reveal a man either deliberately denying reality, seeking to distract voters from the main issue, or once again looking to avoid responsibility. He could be likened to the man who murders his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is now an orphan. 

The basic facts of this latest Trump peccadillo to surface as a possible indictment began back in 2006. At the time, the recently remarried Trump and his third wife Melania had just had a son, Barron. To read about the particulars of his meeting with Daniels, you can hit this link.

The tawdry details would make a sailor blush, but nowhere in the events traced does Ron DeSantis appear or play a part. As a matter of fact, Trump emerges as the instigator and author of all his actions, including the alleged payoff during the 2016 election to keep Daniels silent. The case Alvin Bragg plans to bring against Trump nowhere states that Ron DeSantis had a role. Yet, in recent days, listening to Donald Trump would leave one quite convinced that his self-inflicted problems are the fault of the good governor. 

Hear Trump roar his outrage at DeSantis, first in a veiled threat in a Truth Social post, “Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser and better known, when a woman unfairly and illegally attacks him, even classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!)…I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!” He then posted a 20-year-old photo of DeSantis with some young women when he was a teacher. 

Does Trump have any self-awareness? He certainly has no shame. Following that, Trump indicated that DeSantis should be prepared to fight Trump’s extradition from Florida to New York if he were indicted. What? Since when do governors prevent extradition within America? As one legal expert opined, “Extradition between states is a pretty simple and common process. We are all citizens of one country. The states, although sovereign, cannot stop a warrant from being executed in another state. The only way to legally fight an out-of-state warrant is by showing the person being arrested is the wrong person. Any other issue concerning the warrant gets fought or litigated in the actual state where the warrant originated.”

Not finished yet, Trump then went on a tirade about Florida, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times, “In a blistering statement released Wednesday evening, Trump, a Palm Beach resident, said that Florida ‘has been successful for many years, long before’ DeSantis became governor, before attacking what he said was the Sunshine State’s low rankings nationally in education, affordability, violent crime and more.”

He probably jumped the shark, however, when, as the Times further reported, “He called DeSantis a ‘lockdown governor’ in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic and said DeSantis’ success in Florida ‘is all a mirage.’ That statement left most people scratching their heads. DeSantis’ calling card, his route to victory, and his entire reputation stood on the ground that he refused to lock down.”

The governor boldly said no to Dr. Fauci and Trump’s health team when they wanted to keep the state and its beaches closed. Trump’s loose tongue and vivid imagination always test credulity, but this broke the bank, sending the Trump Show into a decline in ratings. Later in the week, at a rally in Texas, he tried to mock DeSantis, but the crowd has identified the star of his own Reality Show as past his prime, his antics no longer funny, his act worn and tired. The crowd looked puzzled, even alarmed to hear him try to denigrate DeSantis. They become uncomfortable, as one does when watching an old friend stumble on the truth of a long-told story, and have to face the reality that no one any longer buys the tale, even if they still hold to the myth. 

Trump remains popular with his base. The recent indictment will give his cause much-needed oxygen for now. His brand still holds millions in its spell but those who once tolerated the recklessness have grown weary, those who once accepted his loose talk find it repugnant, and those who once voted for someone to take on the establishment believe there may be someone who can do it better. 

When a structure begins to teeter, a motion leading to collapse occurs suddenly and swiftly. Perhaps Trump will undergird his campaign before it crumbles, if not, the moment at when it began to wobble can be directly traced to when he “jumped the shark” and called Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida a “lockdown governor.” 

We will soon find out if the former President’s legal troubles, excesses and reckless rhetoric have strengthened his faltering base, or crumpled its wavering pedestal. 

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