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Damage Done: Cynical or Delusional?

Photo by Romain Paget on Unsplash

Or Just His Old Money-Grubbing, Narcissistic Self?

Watching Trump’s ludicrous series of failing lawsuits over the election results, I find myself wondering, as I have for four years, what is going on? There’s got to be more here than meets the eye.It can’t be that he was serious about getting the courts to overturn Biden’s very substantial victory, since in no court did his lawyers present serious evidence of the kind of massive fraud that could have changed the outcome.

State and federal judges (including several appointed by Trump) have shown increasing contempt for the unsupported allegations.

Yet he keeps refusing to concede, he keeps spouting outlandishly elaborate conspiracy theories purporting to explain how Trump could have lost while down-ballot Republicans won all across the country. And hard-core elements of his base buy the whole story, condemning Republican office-holders for not delivering the election results that Trump ordered.

Whatever his motivations, he is inflicting lasting damage to our political system and set precedents for the sort of politics-as-war that we have not seen since the Civil War itself.

I am inclined to think that he knows perfectly well that he lost, but he can poke Biden in the eye by refusing to concede, and damage Biden’s credibility with the incessant talk about fraud.

We know he cares only about himself: he simply doesn’t care about the deep damage he is doing to the country’s democratic structure, as he establishes the precedent that it’s ok to deny the incontrovertible evidence of his loss, ok to block a normal transition.

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He doesn’t care about what he’s doing to the Republican Party, which he’s transformed into a personalist vehicle. He doesn’t care about the numerous Republican governors, secretaries of state, and others whose reputations he has trashed to the point that they are getting death threats for just doing their jobs.

He’s setting himself up for a run in 2024 (if he still lives), or for a Trumpist movement to haunt American politics for years to come.

All that makes a certain perverse sense if we accept the idea that he’s just out for himself and is perfectly willing to do whatever damage it takes—country be damned, party be damned, truth itself be damned.

But I can’t totally rule out the possibility that he’s just gone ‘round the bend. Maybe he literally can’t accept his defeat and is willing to bring the whole country down rather than admit it. There’s some plausibility to this scenario. What’s scary about that is that his staff, his cabinet, his vice president, and congressional Republicans all seem only too willing to support him in his delusions, while a big chunk of his base cheers him on—and sends money.

Which leads me to the next possibility: it’s just another racket. He’s been able to raise over $170 million from supporters, with few restrictions on how he can spend it. Maybe, in light of what we now know about the precarious state of his finances, he’s just cashing in.

Whatever his motivations, he is inflicting lasting damage to our political system, undermining trust in the electoral system, delegitimizing his successor, and set precedents for the sort of politics-as-war that we have not seen since the Civil War itself.

impeachment unavoidable

The repairs will take years—if we’re lucky.

John Peeler