There’s been a remarkable dearth of speculation on what would have happened #ifTrumphadlost. In the run-up to the vote he gave numerous hints that he was prepared to reject the result and mobilise his supporters for violence. He may well be now thinking in similar terms, even though his room for manoeuvre now appears to be more limited.
I was mistaken in thinking that he would quickly succumb to the pressures of the role. Although, as one astute commenter pointed out, his skill set is extremely narrow, one gift that he has in abundance is tenacity. Reports from throughout his career as a glorified real estate PR man emphasise that even in the face of humiliating catastrophe he would be back in the office every morning in a suit and tie ready for battle. His resilience is an easily-overlooked asset, one that combines with his possibly psychopathic instincts for self-promotion to stand him in very good stead as a politician. Thus my suggestion that his manifest incompetence and unsuitability would mean he would be hastily bundled off stage was wrong. I also misjudged the willingness of the Republican Party establishment to sacrifice democracy to stay in power. Thus he has weathered the storms whipped up by the already countless gaffes which have confirmed the extent of his ignorance, recklessness and callousness, such as directly offending Gold Star families, clearly not giving a shit about Puerto Rico and actually trying to start a nuclear war for little more than his own self-aggrandisement.
Nonetheless, he is clearly suffering. In the light of the indicments, without a clue what Mueller has on him and the rest of his team, his strategy of deflecting and projecting everything said of him onto Clinton is falling apart. Although he has a very solid ‘base’ which shows every sign of having consolidated into the world’s most deluded and heavily-armed cult, his primary audience for his demented rants – his own sense of legitimacy – seems to be crumbling.
There are numerous symptoms of this, but I want to focus on three. They may seem random but the narrative they suggest is one that I find compelling.
The first is a Freudian slip which he made during an interview last weekend. In trying to discuss economics, a subject of which he has no meaningful adult grasp, he let slip the word ‘psychotically’ instead of ‘psychologically’. This suggests to me that all the speculation about his mental state is playing on his mind. I don’t know what it means for a psychopath to learn that they are a psychopath or a psychotic to have their condition explained to them. Most would, I suppose, brush it off. But for someone of that mindset to be repeatedly and massively told that their behaviour was typical of a particular mental condition and to be the subject of speculation by hundreds of millions of people must create a particular kind of pressure.
The second is not something he but rather his media lackey Sean Hannity said. Last night in one of his diatribes Hannity revealed that he sees Hillary Clinton as president. This deserves to be taken very seriously. Trump’s attempts to keep the attention of his ‘base’ on his former opponent relies on an illogic so fundamental that even his chief supporters are unable to sustain it. Fox News’ disavowal of current events in obedience to an agenda which denies even the central fact of Trump’s victory is openly psychotic. No one who has not actually drunk the Flavor Aid would be able to take it remotely seriously. Yet this line of attack is now the only one that remains. Trump has always seemed immune to humilation, but denying his own victory in order to stay in power is another order of magnitude altogether.
Finally, there is Trump’s own tweeted exhortation to someone, somewhere to ‘DO SOMETHING’ to protect him. Making such a call gives the lie to the idea that he is, despite all his haplessness, in control of events. It reveals a level of isolation which suggests he sees himself as locked in a bunker and desperately needs reinforcements to come and free him. If, as seems highly probably given the legal circumstances, his Twitter freedoms are curtailed, his means of comunicating with his ‘base’ will be cut off. In various ways, and despite his staggering insistence on his right to go golfing just as often as he likes, his freedom to do and say whatever he wants is much more restricted than it would have been if he’d lost.
Rumours that he has asked an aide for information about the procedure for resigning are probably just that. I don’t think someone of his peculiar mindset would commit suicide in any form. But if he does, we can only hope that it’s political suicide rather than an explosive pique which takes the rest of us with it. Of course, anyone who thinks that Trump’s departure would resolve the world’s problems at a stroke is themselves deluded. His success is a morbid symptom of our catastrophic failure to develop an alternative to an economy built upon inequality, racism, misogyny and genocidal levels of environmental wastage. Nonetheless, anyone with any concern for democracy can see that his continued presence accelerates exponentially the trajectory towards fascism and world war. Anyone who thinks that the same could have been said of Hillary Clinton needs their head removing for examination almost as much as Trump does.