• Does Trump Want to Win?

    As polling day in the American presidential election draws closer, things are looking bad for Donald Trump. The polls show that he is tracking well behind his Democrat rival. Most people assume that the President will be striving might and main to avoid what looks increasingly likely to be a humiliating defeat.

    I have a hunch, however, that this may be to misinterpret what is really happening. Consider the evidence.

    The President is spending most of his time playing golf on his own golf courses, attracting a good deal of unfavourable comment as a result and dismaying his supporters who would expect him to be working doubly hard to overcome the Covid 19 pandemic. This is hardly the behaviour of someone who wants to keep the job.

    He manifestly spends little time concerning himself with dealing with the virus and its deadly progress. He can’t seem to focus on what he should be doing; his press briefings on the subject are perfunctory and do not include his senior adviser on the subject, Dr Fauci. He seems to have lost interest in the subject altogether.

    He offers no strategy for dealing with the pandemic, other than assuring people that, contrary to all the evidence, it will “go away”. The economy is in an unprecedented nosedive as case numbers and deaths multiply.

    His one positive reaction to the crisis is that he has suggested that the election should be delayed and has warned that the high numbers of postal votes, necessitated by the virus, will mean that the election result will be the least reliable in history and will be vitiated by fraud. He has refused to give any assurance that he would accept the result if he loses.

    What conclusion does all this suggest? My thesis is that he is is not only resigned to losing the election but would actually welcome that outcome. Here, I believe, is someone who knows that he is out of his depth, on the issue of the virus and on everything else – who is not enjoying the job, and has a sense that it is all beyond him, who would be glad to have the immediate burden of dealing with the pandemic removed from him and for others to have to shoulder it.

    If, as I suspect, this is the case, what then is his priority? It is not to win the election, since that would mean that all the burdens and responsibilities would come crashing and crushing back down on him for another four years.

    No, his main objective would be to escape the burden of a further term but to do so without having to accept that he had been rejected by the voters, which would be a serious blow to his ego and to his place in history. He has always been a President whose ego is much greater than his ability. His inaction and ineffectiveness in dealing with the virus have simply illustrated and exemplified a much wider truth, which is his overall unfitness for the job – it is a truth of which he cannot, however self-deluded, be unaware and that will weigh increasingly heavily on him.

    So, if he is resigned to, or would welcome, losing, his focus would be on salvaging what he can of his reputation, which requires him to be able to say, as he hands over the reins to his successful rival, that it was not a fair contest and that he lost only because his opponents cheated.

    This interpretation may be regarded as fanciful but it at least makes sense of the two apparently contradictory elements in his behaviour – contradictory, that is, if he is really trying to win.

    There is, first, his manifest lack of interest in being seen to deal effectively with the pandemic, something he must know is the pre-condition of getting himself re-elected.

    And secondly, there is his deliberate attempt to undermine the electoral process and his unwillingness to accept its outcome, an attitude that opens him up to the criticism that to re-elect him would be to empower someone prepared to threaten democracy – a perception that cannot help his chances of appealing to voters. Watch this space.

    Bryan Gould
    5 August 2020

1 Comment

  1. Patrick Holt says: August 5, 2020 at 6:18 amReply

    I think what matters to Trump is not so much being shouted at, or all kinds of negative press, or failing at the job – he manifestly doesn’t care about doing a good job, at anything, or even losing an election. He never expected to win in 2016, although he was excellent at projecting unfounded confidence, which is one of his only abilities. Right up to the announcement of results, he was crying foul against the Clinton machine, and threatening retribution for them rigging the election. Arguably they did, by throwing away working class and left-of-neoliberal votes so wantonly. He was preparing the story for when he lost, as he expected to, to shift the blame – which of course Clinton and the DNC has spent 4 years continuously doing. What really matters to him is not being considered a loser, in the pejorative sense. Losing is one thing – he’s lost numerous deals and contracts and law suits, and lost vast amounts of money – but being treated as a loser is another. As long as he can avoid that, he doesn’t mind losing. And he probably will, because without Bannon running his strategy and pitching him as a workers’ tribune, he’s clearly got useless political judgement, as do the Republican party hacks now surrounding him.