Donald J. Trump is a desperate, terrified, cornered man. That does not mean he isn’t an active menace, but it sure doesn’t make him “strong.”
Is Trump capable of unleashing — or at least inspiring — a jolt of electoral violence across the land with the tweeted wave of a tiny hand? Yes. Is it almost a certainty that his desperate histrionics will get people killed before the election issue is settled? Yes. Is he willing to spill blood in the streets if it means saving himself? Absolutely, yes. In fact, he already has.
Know what that makes him? A desperate, terrified, cornered man. Strong people do not do this, even in the face of defeat. Especially in the face of defeat.
The bell has not yet tolled for “President Trump,” and after a lifetime of narrow escapes set in a void of personal responsibility, he may yet pull this one out, too. It is technically possible that virtually every single poll taken by way of every available methodology could be not just wrong, but wrong to a degree unseen in history; if the platypus can exist in this vast and perplexing universe, so can that chance. Trump has grasped onto this hope like Ishmael, last survivor of the Pequod, clinging to a coffin in the wrath of a battering sea.
A lot of very smart people think that bell will be tolling for Trump, if not on election night then soon enough. All of those smart people acknowledge the strange, sorry year 2016 as being potentially repeatable, and likewise note that a close election thrown to either the Trump-stacked courts or the House of Representatives could result in the literal demolition of participatory democracy.
Trump knows this, too, and as with his knowledge of the potential for violence, he is equally satisfied to try and pull the building down on all our heads rather than lose his power.
Yet, would a confident man turn the White House into a fortress ringed with federal troops, again?
Would a confident man cheer as his supporters attack a Biden campaign bus in Texas?
Would a confident man declare victory well before the votes are counted, like the little kid playing checkers who slaps the pieces off the board before he loses?
This last one, the early declaration, has had me giggling like a titmouse in a tree since he first coughed it up. Really, dude? You’re gonna declare victory and that will be that, eh? Your supporters will go wild and spray coronavirus on each other as they howl in an ecstasy of lib-ownership… and then what, champ?
Trump can declare himself The Orange God-King of Everlasting Nerfland, but if the 270 Electoral College votes are not in his tally, he’s just another asshole yelling on television and hoping they don’t cut his mic.
Know this truth: As his accusations are all confessions, so are his threats all proclamations of fear.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should disregard them. History tells us that fear-driven proclamations can drive violence, and we must stay vigilant. As ever, preparation is all.
Fear, friends and neighbors, is the watchword of the day. Those who want Trump gone fear what he and his followers may do. Those who serve in government fear the damage that could be done to the institutions that carry out the will of the voters, if those institutions should fall back into the hands of a feckless wrecker. Those who support him fear their last chance to save white supremacy from an onrushing multiracial future may be slipping through their fingers. Those congressional Republicans who allowed all this to transpire fear what will happen if he loses, and fear what will happen if he wins.
Donald Trump is a desperate, terrified, cornered man. He does not want to be incarcerated, yet he beds down at night with visions of New York State Attorney General Letitia James looking at him the way one looks at the best bite of a sandwich before chomping down. His crimes are serial, myriad and documented, and there is no presidential pardon — self-generated or otherwise — for state-level crimes.
Trump may win the election. He may steal it. He may destroy the country to avoid losing it. The odds of coming out of this in a happy place do not stand with him, but stranger things have happened. Hell, one of those strange happenings is why we’re all here in the first place.
Do not forget that he is the most frightened one of us all. That makes him dangerous, but it does not make him strong. “Strong” is what he will see from the people if he tries to smash what he cannot keep.
In the meantime, some Shakespeare to ponder from Macbeth, Act V, Scene V:
One more day.