The unrivaled spectacle of an accelerating train wreck
“Hoisted on his own inflamed, made-up petard” looms as the Trump legacy. Trump’s year-long electoral demise represents the most dramatic, seemingly unstoppable political train wreck in our history. Trump always brags he’s tops at everything, so bingo, to his (and not a few fans’) horror, hand him the gold prize for self-destruction.
This flagrant flatulence of folly augurs ill for his political future, whether as king-maker or farfetched ‘24 candidate. When cult leaders go blind and deaf, fame is fleeting and no guarantees exist. When Demolition Donald leaves in January, his prospects for redemption, especially when buried by state indictments, could be no greater than Trump, Inc. escaping bankruptcies.
A single lost election ends a career only when the loser goes down in flames of his own making. By 2121, the full impact of Trump’s brew of mental instability and bullheadedness will be even more conspicuous. What’s worse political poison than making yourself a laughingstock in court and the court of public opinion? Rick Wilson’s immortal title, “Everything Trump Touches Dies” implies Greek tragedy — but not when the grifter’s entire political run reeks of farce and the theater of the absurd.
Donald did it to himself
Has any incumbent so manically blown his re-election chances? No great underdog when the year started, Trumpty-Dumpty could have feasted on the long, leaden record of Status Quo Joe – easy pickings for the bully’s “populist” popgun. What Democrat this year was more entrenched, more linked to “deep state” power elites? The economy was stronger than Trump deserved (despite baffling tariffs and trashed trade treaties), and no messy overseas kerfuffles surfaced. Miraculously, Trump escaped getting pommeled for an astonishing array of blunders, notorious attacks on dead soldiers and judges – and all punctuated with the most appalling appointments imaginable.
Low approval numbers should have jeopardized his nomination. But his solid 42% base kept him in the race. Then fortune blessed any stumbler with the ideal national crisis – a chance to unify the country by warring against a universal, invisible viral enemy. Instead, Trump blew every chance at success. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone amassing more bonehead errors, deaf, dumb and blind as cases skyrocketed, deaths mounted, and worse promised (all too present today)
The pandemic alone didn’t elect Biden, but a reign of diseased Trump disasters achieved that feat. First, despite warnings, Trump deflected good advice and lied, repeatedly: it’s only a bad flu, then it morphed into “a hoax” (a cue for Trump lying). Then, he upped the ante, irrationally deeming masks an epic blow to his integrity and Yankee freedom. Why not this obvious, sensible alternative: “I don’t need them, but masks could protect family and neighbors, and what’s a little social distancing”? Would his unthinking cult challenged the leader’s advice?
Demonizing masks and distance were amazing blunders, thus denigrating the only ways to AVOID sustained business closures. Trump exiled the only means that would have served his “the economy is great” propaganda. Would not any other politician have said, “Follow my leadership against this national calamity. No one knows how to manage a pandemic like your CEO president. Once I thought about being a doctor until I learned that hustling property paid better.”
Why take on the trusted Fauci?
Attacking Dr. Fauci and health experts was a double stupidity, with no upside, as the predictable pandemic exploded. The fixated Trump had learned nothing and became his own worst enemy. A con man can deny some realities (thus fabricating hoaxes or predicting future carnage), but only the willful ignorant would torpedo his own path to re-election. What president ever gets away with denying all responsibility for a national calamity? “Not a federal problem,” Trump barked, “Let each state fight for equipment. Nope, we won’t oversee purchases to avoid chaos.” The virus handed Trump potential, multiple wins on a platter – and he not only defied them all: he sabotaged his own economic prowess argument.
Then came the irrational attack on an election that hadn’t happened. We do elections well in this country, without measurable fraud. So it’s especially idiotic to declare, “I only lose the election if it’s fraudulent.” If Trump were winning, why even make the threat? If he loses, he can still allege miscues and has lost nothing. But he tainted the election without cause and that undermines all outcomes. Further, since “fraud was happening,” the implication is that only Trump cheating can overcome it. This anti-election denigration is a double loser for Trump, making him appear irrational and anti-democratic voting while setting up the worst alternative: only a fraudster knows how to win a rigged election. So Trump stupidly boxed himself in, insulted thousands of election and state employees – and gained nothing but proving his bad faith and dishonesty.
That Trump now continues this made-up, laughed out of court rigged election blarney will makes this worst of bad losers look even more narcissistic and unfit for any office. Hiring the pathetic Rudy Giuliani to do anything but pick up donuts replicates the epic hiring blunders that discredited his administration. This yahoo only has a negative learning curve: the more he screws up, the dumber he gets and the greater self-injury he causes.
And there was more. His first debate performance was another golden opportunity blown to bits. The reigning president not only failed to dramatize Biden’s legacy of mistakes and misjudgments. Trump the unmannered boor made Biden look presidential, offended centrist, suburban women, and ended up displaying his weakest quality: being an unvarnished, unmotivated asshole. Showing his real character was an inexcusable, clanging debacle second to none.
Reason for losing?
Finally, no, I haven’t forgotten the utter Trump lunacy of opposing mail-in voting, though bizarrely it’s fine in Florida but not Nevada. Never did gut instinct go so wrong. Mail-in ballots provide a clear paper trail – and thus less prone to fraud than paperless machine voting. But that aside, what politician during a pandemic tells his willing voters (many oldsters) not to use the mail? This blunder probably cost him more than one state. Ditto, absurdly pondering the delay of election day – despite clear Constitutional mandates. Or Trump fantasizing how state legislatures could invalidate confirmed election totals (impossible), as are delusions of alternative electoral college slates.
The cosmic joke of the century is that Trump’s myopic base now faces decapitation by a growing majority that can’t believe how mortifyingly bad this president is at being president. Trump knows even less about elections and voting than about disease, about which he is notoriously ignorant (bleach, anyone?). Fauci trying to educate an ignoramus about how bodies work, thus disease, thus pandemics, became a fool’s errand – as the good doctor was, tragically and now self-evident, addressing a fool.
Thus, I conclude Trump took himself out of the race because he was and is in self-destruction mode. It doesn’t ultimately matter why – but he turned himself from a medium long-shot for re-election to a dramatic, undeniable loser. What remains astounding, amidst this unrivaled parade of buffoonery, is on what basis 72 million+ Americans voted for him. Biden is no hero, but even Status Quo Joe made Trump the incumbent look bad and become a loser. How long it takes Trump to fade from importance is the only remaining uncertainty. He is a one-term president, and I can’t imagine the Republicans who played him like a fiddle will want a rerun. I would be astonished if he ever tried the political game again, and he could fall from grace with surprising speed – and then become his worst nightmare: a nobody with a slew of state indictments.