Post #281: Trump’s Game

            What is Trump’s game?  In defying the vote numbers and urging rejection of a Biden victory, does he seriously believe his own narrative about voter fraud?  I doubt it; I  think Trump is enough of a realist to realize that he has lost in a fair and free election.  It surely grates on him; as all commentators agree, he can’t stand losing.  But his narcissism does not explain all of his behavior.  There is also calculation: He is looking for a path back to power in 2024.

            Trump’s strategy is clear: maintain control of the Republican Party as the Trump Party, install “acting” officials who will not cooperate with the Biden transition team, and keep the base stirred up with the Big Lie of a stolen election. Trump’s rejectionism counts on two things: a coincidence of his ambitions with those of the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress, and undying support from the same 70 million people who voted for him. Trump has shown his core a way to keep the faith while denying the reality of loss—exactly the formula he has followed for four years. As for his supporters in Congress, they all are desperate to stay in power and keep enjoying the luxuries that come with it.  Some, like Ted Cruz and Mike Pence, see themselves as presidential candidates in 2024.  Others, like Mitch McConnell, want to hold on to what they have.  They’ll say anything to keep alive the myth of a stolen election, whether they believe it or not.  Still others, like Trump Jr. and the rest of the family, refuse to look beyond life at the top and probably plan on seizing control of the party to make sure it moves in daddy’s direction. 

            And then there’s Trump himself: Whether he plans to run again in 2024 or simply be a kingmaker, he has said that being president appeals to him more than being a hotelier.  He can’t let go; that would be totally out of character, not to mention possibly keeping him out of jail. 

            The key point is this: Those people who are beholden to Trump’s plans cannot fathom life outside the swamp.  They will do whatever is necessary to demonstrate loyalty to Trump—“for no other reason than fear” of him, Senator Chuck Schumer says.  If that means destroying our democracy, which neither Trump nor any of his enablers has ever regarded as sacred, so be it.  Simon Wilentz, a Princeton historian, gives us an ominous view of just how far Trump is willing to go.  Trump’s denial of Biden’s legitimacy, Wilentz writes, “would be an act of disloyalty unsurpassed in American history except by the southern secession in 1860-61, the ultimate example of Americans refusing to respect the outcome of a presidential election.” It would amount to “a kind of Trumpian government-in-exile”:

Trump would be trying to establish a center of power distinct from and antagonistic to the legitimately elected national government — not formally a separate government like the Confederacy but a virtual one, operating not just out in the country but inside the government, above all in Congress (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/opinion/trump-concession-transition.html).

            Can this malicious, indeed traitorous, variation on a coup succeed?  Time may not be on Trump’s side: Support in and beyond Washington is likely to erode as he rants and raves from afar, with nothing to offer beyond foul-mouthed personal attacks. Independents, among others, will be reminded come 2024 of Trump’s disparaging of elections and all-out efforts (twice!) to undermine them.   Further counting against him is his ongoing purge of the defense department and intelligence leadership, which leads to concern among some observers that Trump, to enhance his reputation, will say and do things that threaten national security on leaving office (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-will-leave-the-question-is-how-much-damage-hell-do-to-national-security-before-then/2020/11/10/551d31a4-239d-11eb-a688-5298ad5d580a_story.html). 

Most importantly, Trump’s plan won’t succeed if Biden’s counter-plan works reasonably well: bringing the coronavirus to an end, expanding health care, revitalizing the economy, collaborating with the rest of the world to combat global warming, and restoring battered relationships with Europe and Asia.  But a rocky four years are ahead, in which the Trumpians will do everything possible to sabotage Biden’s agenda.  They have put “sand in the gears” of government by rolling back hundreds of regulations on everything from the environment to workers’ rights, and by replacing career bureaucrats with supremely unqualified loyalists (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/opinion/biden-trump-federal-government.html). Before the new administration can really get to work, it will have to remove the sand, oil the gears, and rebuild the engine.

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6 Comments

  1. The longer these allegations of voter fraud go on, the worse it will be to unify this country. And where is the Orange Crush while the pandemic rages? Heartless prick.

  2. The crucial assumption is that Republicans will throng to Trump (or his designate) in 2024. Why would that be given his showing in 2020? A different scenario is that Cotton or someone else will soon emerge to grab the reins of leadership and will have no reticence about discrediting Trump and weaning away his 70 million MAGA supporters. Trump’s ability to maintain loyalty, discipline, and enthusiasm will erode once he becomes a full-time duffer down at Mar a Lago.

  3. Dear Mel,

    I must say that I see it a bit differently.

    Each day that Trump continues to deny the Biden victory, he shows to the world that he does not care how many tens of thousands of Americans die of the virus. In doing this, I think that he, step by step, deligitimates his claim to leadership, both now and for the future. His Republican Party supporters, I think, face the same dilemma: to the extent that they support Trump’s view of the world, they risk delegitimating their claims to leadership, and, I think, endanger the future viability of the Republican Party.

    Stay well.

    Best, Pete

    On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 12:00 AM In the Human Interest – Mel Gurtov wrote:

    > Mel Gurtov posted: ” What is Trump’s game? In defying the > vote numbers and urging rejection of a Biden victory, does he seriously > believe his own narrative about voter fraud? I doubt it; I t” >

    1. Today’s NYTimes has an opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg that points out the serious legal problems that ex-President Trump , certqinly civil and possibly criminal , that will undermine any attempt at a comeback in 2024. I believe that his mental deficiencies will also get in the way. He does not seem to have the kind of self discipline that he would need to stay focussed on a long-range plan. His decisions are all ad-hoc and consequently inconsistent. I know that Hitler analogies are dangerous, but Trump’s desperate attempts to deny the reality of the election by advancing claims about non-existing voter frauds remind me of Hitler in his bunker when the war was clearly lost for him, appointing a general to command a non-existent division to stop the advancing allies. As Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.”

      1. The long and the short of it is that it’s a long way to 2024, and there’s “many a slip between tongue and lip,” especially in Trump’s case. So you’re right to point to Trump’s mental deficiencies, to which could be added the ambitions of challengers, the erosion of his base, and other “surprise” factors that will help us to forget him.

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