A Glorious Loser: Why Trump Shouldn’t Vote Trump
I had a strange thought yesterday. As I was thumbing through an endless stream of headlines describing Donald Trump’s abysmal couple of weeks, I started to wonder what it would be like to watch his concession speech in November. Concession speeches, as we’ve come to know them for the last few decades, follow a timeless, easy-bake recipe that calls for humility, dignity, and unity. The most hotly contested elections have almost always concluded with the civility and honour of a properly served concession speech. I wondered, is Trump next in line?
I couldn’t picture it. I couldn’t imagine Donald Trump walking himself backwards into the oratorical rigidity of a concession speech, admitting defeat, and congratulating his opponent. It’s just not going to happen. Anyone who has listened to him speak for longer than it takes to find the remote and change the channel knows that.
That doesn’t make what would happen a mystery, though. Over the last 18 months, for better or worse, we’ve learned a thing or two about Mr. Trump’s psyche, and we’ve come to find out that it’s overtly simple. Specifically, there are two settings in which he’s most comfortable: dominance and victimhood. With little variation, he arranges his world in a way that places him in one of those two positions.
Dominant Trump is the carnival barker we got to know during the primary debates, who famously steamrolled his opponents with insults and interruptions. Victim Trump is the man who claimed that Ted Cruz stole the Iowa caucuses from him, but never really elaborated on how.
The news cycle over the last two weeks has turned up the heat on the Trump campaign, and this is pushing both characters closer to the surface. Dominant Trump has kept himself busy inexplicably squabbling with a Muslim couple who buried their war hero son, while Victim Trump is already saying the November election is rigged. (Meanwhile, a cameo from Paradox Trump is telling us he will concurrently raise the minimum wage and keep it the same, but that’s another story.)
So let’s not kid ourselves. We already know the recipe for that hypothetical concession speech. The man who labels everyone other than himself a loser isn’t going to suddenly allow himself to become one when Wolf Blitzer splashes Hillary Clinton’s portrait across a gigantic LCD screen just after at 11:00PM EST. Humility, dignity, and unity are not in this man’s pantry. Instead, we’ll be treated to some of his favourite substitutions thereof — blame, slander, and conspiracy — as he delivers a narcissistic diatribe that frames himself as the target of a system engineered to dispose of him, and promises to his claque of blood-thirsty supporters, railroaded once again by the establishment, that the fight is far from over.
As surreal as it all may seem, this prospect is much more in touch with the reality of the Trump campaign. It puts him on top, fans the flames of dissent, and recklessly disregards the truth. For the anti-Trump crowd, this is nothing but stomach-wrenching discord, but for Trump, this isn’t such a bad outcome. In fact, it’s exactly what he wants.
I’ve heard a lot of suspicion, from Democrats and Republicans alike, that Trump’s actions are so incrementally and impossibly stupid, it almost looks as if he’s trying to throw the election. This is nothing new. We’ve been hearing this throughout the entire election cycle. What else could possibly explain his suicidal behaviour? He’s disparaging the parents of a fallen soldier, inviting the Russians to steal our secrets, and most recently, subversively pitting himself against Paul Ryan. Republicans are running from him like he’s made of gay weddings and green energy. What is he doing?
Suspicions of a campaign built to fail have often been made in observation of Trump’s ties to Hillary Clinton. Many conspiracy theorists wonder if this whole spectacle has been a masterfully veiled gift to his good friend, who is ostensibly corrupt enough to compensate him handsomely on the other side of the election. This is a nice conspiratorial snack, but it lacks any real substance. If Trump is throwing the election, it’s unlikely he’s doing it for the benefit of Hillary Clinton. He’s much more likely doing it for the benefit of Donald Trump.
While they differ in style, Victim Trump and Dominant Trump have one very important thing in common — they’re both more comfortable screaming from the sidelines than they are playing quarterback with the game on the line. As the calendar hurtles toward November, the walls are closing in. It’s getting harder and harder for Trump to stay on the sidelines. He’s in the game now, and he has a lot to lose.
This is why Trump never debated anyone one-on-one, despite Bernie Sanders’ eager invitation. In fact, Victim Trump is now trying to wiggle out of the presidential debates with Clinton, citing ridiculous claims that she rigged the schedule. Dominant Trump, on the other hand, knowing he’s much more comfortable bullying his way to the front of a crowd than he is thumb wrestling over the details of foreign affairs on a national stage, is likely to either skip the debates, or ask the CPD for some kind of unprecedented concession that stacks the deck in his favour.
The Trump campaign is a hollow shell, and the outer atmospheric pressure keeps increasing. Throwing the election would provide Trump with a much needed escape hatch, allowing him to gracefully tap out of the game, and return to the comforts of howling from the periphery like an belligerent, drunken sports fan plastered with body paint. He already must be salivating at the thought of becoming the world’s loudest dissident of Hillary Clinton’s presidency for the next four years, and further carving up the nation into groups of Trump disciples and get-the-hell-outs along the way.
The Republican establishment would welcome this, not just because their nightmare would be over, but also because they would have a brand new weapon of mass destruction in their arsenal — a weapon whose firepower is unmatched by their enemy, and has keyless access to the minds of 35% of the population. With Trump on the outside, congressional Republicans and conservative pundits wouldn’t have to awkwardly feign alignment with every stupid thing he said at the risk of political fallout. They would enjoy the freedom of ordering à la carte from his daily menu of baseless barbs while leaving him with the liability of owning the verbal fry pit that bears his radioactive surname.
The reasons Trump would love this outcome are numerous. For one, he wouldn’t have to take on the responsibilities and aggravation of having a job. Keep in mind, this man lives a very good life. The number of people in the entire world who live a more materially enriched life than Donald Trump could probably fit comfortably in a single car garage. He won’t give that up. Throwing the election guarantees Trump’s future entitlement to a lavish lifestyle without the daily headaches of answering to the needs of everyone in Washington and beyond.
Strangely, winning the presidency would result in a net loss of power for Donald Trump. The President of the United States doesn’t actually have that much political clout — certainly not enough to whet the appetite of a man who has been making unilateral decisions for the last 50 years. The only wall he’s likely to see is the figurative one that a gridlocked, anti-Trump congress puts in front of his legislative proposals. He could push through a few executive orders, but their outcomes would judged with scrutiny, and have a dire impact on his reelection bid. He would be in serious jeopardy of becoming a complete failure, even in the eyes of his supporters. All of this amounts to a huge step down from the commanding power of running an international corporation, and he’s unlikely to accept that type of concession of power.
Losing the election would leave Trump in an ideal spot: the intersection of having the loudest voice in the room while putting nothing on the line. He’ll be able to Monday-morning-quarterback every decision that comes out of Washington, making himself appear omniscient, and have nothing to lose by being wrong.
We don’t know what Trump will do if he wins the presidency, but what he’ll do if he loses is more predictable than the word “billionaires” appearing in a Bernie Sanders speech. He’ll walk right into victimhood. His supporters, seeking a new target for the anger they’ve been brewing for 18 months, will get behind him, hungrier than ever to devour all of the ridiculous, racist, violence-inducing table scraps he throws their way.
In that sense, an unelected Trump may be much more dangerous than an elected one. He’ll have all the rhetorical power he has now, with none of the responsibility. The media will struggle to wean itself off its daily hit of tabloid-level Trump trash, and he’ll be more incentivised than ever to feed them new material. Barring a miracle turnaround in her favourability ratings, Hillary Clinton’s tenure as President will be truncated at the four-year mark, following half a decade of organised, unrelenting bombardment from her opposition. The election cycle is just the opening credits. The next presidential term is the feature presentation, and it’s going to be a bloodbath.
As for Trump, he has a decision to make on the 8th of November, and it’s not as obvious as it seems. Does he really want to win? Or does he just not want to lose? In so many ways, Trump has already won. When he’s beaten, he’s glorious. When he’s boorish, he’s admired. When he fails, it doesn’t matter. He’s proven himself unassailable. He enjoys a level of invincibility that most public figures can only dream of. But the longer this bizarre campaign goes on, the more that impregnable layer corrodes.
We have yet to discover what force, if any, will be capable of defeating Trump’s invincibility, but something tells me a presidency is a good place to start.