Losing Ugly

John Bolton, a career bureaucratic climber who plays a tough guy on television, says that his old boss — to whom he sucked up on national television for months in the hopes of landing a glamourous administration job — has no “character.”

Donald Trump, a career self-promoter and insecure child who plays a tough guy on television, says that his old national security advisor — with whom he disagreed over whether a totalitarian slave-state thug was a brilliant and trustworthy young friend or a duplicitous punk — is a “real dope.”

A duel was scheduled, but apparently both men got deferments.

A lot of Democrats and other leftists, including people with some firsthand knowledge of Donald Trump from his pre-presidential celebrity blowhard days, have been trying since long before the election to work their various audiences into a lather with the assertion that Trump will never willingly concede defeat and leave office. A part of me has always been somewhat sympathetic to this assertion, though not necessarily for the reasons typically implied by those leftists.

I do not see Donald Trump as his followers have trained themselves to see him (protector-father-genius), nor as his political opponents inevitably see him (Republican-therefore-evil). I see him as possibly the most insecure and immature man ever to reach high office in a democratic nation. His demagoguery is all about his need to be accepted and loved. His anti-elite rhetorical stance is all, as is humiliatingly obvious, about past embarrassment and hurt pride. His penchant for reducing everything to “winners” and “losers,” with himself, of course, always on the winning side, indicates an outsized dread of failure, and in particular a man terrified at the thought of ever having to stand alone. Winners are popular, you see; winners have fans, winners are loved and listened to and protected by the crowd.

Trump’s spiteful and rabble-rousing contention, before and after every closely contested vote throughout the 2016 GOP primaries, as well as during both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, that the vote was “rigged” against him, that his opponents were conspiring to “steal” the contest from him, indicates a man petrified at the thought of losing (i.e., of not being accepted and adored by everyone). This incessant “rigged” mantra is basically the electoral version of the insecure little boy worried about his school grades who mock-flippantly insists “I don’t care if I fail!” as an emotional mask for his fear of being ashamed in front of his friends.

Donald Trump is a man whose entire fantasy-world picture of himself depends on maintaining the illusion that he never loses, that he is always right, always certain, and always the winner. Preserving this absurdly childish self-image requires having a ready-made excuse to explain away any perceived failure or loss as somehow a mirage, fake, “rigged” — a “stolen” victory. 

But it is not enough that he believe this himself. Such an immature man of illusion, a reality television fraud, lacks the maniacal gumption to believe his own narrative without the moral support of others. They must believe his narrative too, or else his bubble will burst. Trump’s picture of his own life and meaning, then — his very identity, as he perceives it — depends on his ability to believe, in his heart of hearts, that everyone knows he won, and therefore knows that any apparent defeat was the result of a rigged election, a stolen victory.

When will Donald Trump concede the election as such? Never — it is constitutionally impossible for him.

When will he leave office? When he is convinced to his own satisfaction that every American falls into one of two categories: those who know the election was stolen from him, and those who deny this only because they were in on the stealing. I just took a minute, wearing a mask to protect myself from cult-germs, to scroll down his “Twitter feed,” aka the Trump Trough. I believe he may be getting closer to satisfying this latter emotional need.

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