Relax. Breathe. Wait.
And then go ahead and be very afraid – not of President Donald Trump’s post-election denial but of a post-defeat Trump. The narcissist’s maw is never filled.
Though it seems likely that Trump’s legal challenges will be resolved in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor, The Don isn’t the sort to step graciously through the exit. If previous presidents earned the “Teflon” title, Trump is Gorilla Glue – he sticks to everything. He will go away, but it won’t be pretty and it won’t be for long.
Nary a grudge will be forgotten. If he ultimately accepts his fate as the vanquished candidate, he will stay in politics with an eye toward revenge and another run in 2024. He’s already begun the process. While Biden gives president-elect speeches, Trump is busy creating a political action committee to raise money for a future he believes was snatched from him.
“President Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon,” Republican strategist Matt Gorman told The New York Times. “He’s going to insert himself in the national debate in a way that’s unlike any of his predecessors.”
Hoo-boy. Who isn’t tired of that voice, that interesting sniffle and those word salads full of bluster and bunk? I mean, not to put too fine a point on it.
Even so, the president and his supporters are entitled to their legal challenges. If ballots need to be recounted, we’ll recount them. But it seems unlikely if not impossible that tens of thousands of ballots could have been cast fraudulently, which would be necessary to overturn the election. Moreover, there is no evidence of fraud.
In the meantime, the Saturday night acceptance speeches by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are normal procedure under the circumstances. Remember norms? I have a hankering for them. Biden’s selection of a task force to study the pandemic and develop a plan is also normal. Trump’s refusal to work with a transition team is abnormal, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from him.
The race was close, give Trump that. In some cases, the razor-thin difference between winning and losing in a handful of states was enough to give his supporters hope that something might break in his favor. But Trump’s own desperate actions won’t speed that plow. On Monday, he fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper – via Twitter, of course, because America’s commander in chief is a coward. Others may face the same fate.
Hard to see how that could help. Why would an outgoing president 71 days away from leaving office choose to eliminate our national security heads and replace them with temps? Eleventh-hour score-settling and strutting a while longer on the stage do come to mind, but any number of potential consequences are frightening to consider.
That’s while he’s in office. Afterward, there’s reason to worry about what havoc a vengeful Trump might create with a brain full of classified secrets. In May 2017, Trump blurted out classified information in a meeting with Russian officials that may have proved helpful to our adversaries and endangered our allies. Trump is like a child who knows a secret and blabs to impress others and bask in their appreciation. Which, with Russians, might have been considerable.
We can readily envision Trump as ex-president, roaming the land, holding enormous rallies to himself, complaining that he was robbed, that Biden is a fraud and that the media are to blame. He will continue to rule the GOP by fear, stoking anxieties about foreign invaders stealing their jobs and raping their daughters, and by doing so keep saner voices in his party from rising.
There’s no end, in other words, to the mischief an ex-president Trump could perpetrate upon the country. If Biden’s hope is to rally Americans to a common sense of purpose, Trump’s will be to sow divisions in perpetuity. It’s who he is. The pandemic in retrospect, knowing what he knew and when, seems to have merely whet his appetite for control – the ultimate control – over people’s lives and, as it turns out, their deaths.
It will be hard to relax while the country remains in limbo, but Trump will be forced to take his leave in January. With luck – or an attentive God – he won’t be back.