The night that Donald Trump won the 2016 election, his wife wept, and not for joy. Trump appeared to be in a state of shock. It seems clearer in retrospect that Donald Trump had not really wanted to win. He knew almost nothing about the government. The information that his transition team had gathered led by Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, at great expense to the taxpayers had been thrown into dumpsters. Trump did not want to see it.

Trump had not bothered to prepare partly because he never expected to win. He did enjoy playing the hero to his “working class” supporters at rallies. And, he seemed to have hoped that the whole exercise would improve his “brand”. Trump no longer was involved in actual construction. He had managed to become a famous name. He was paid to put his name on other people’s properties. Every thing he did was designed to enhance that brand including, of course, his popular television show. Running for president was supposed to strengthen the brand. Then everything went wrong. He won!

More than three years have gone by since Donald Trump stood on that dais behind the Capitol and was sworn in. His tenure has hardly been an unmixed success. Donald Trump, as he left the platform that day, clearly knew almost nothing about the detail that the office demanded. He could have buckled down as Ronald Reagan had tried to do thirty six years earlier (Reagan was reading every night till midnight, his wife had to intervene.). Trump did not buckle down.

Instead, things he could have studied went into those dumpsters. He tried to use his personality to bull his way through. Members of his National Security Council, the hapless aids in the White House Offices and even members of Congresses were treated to screaming profane uproar. It did not and could not work, and yet it somehow had to.

The experts, the Generals (Trump liked the idea of Generals), and others, tried to play “adults in the room” and to help to save him from himself. Those people are now all gone. Trump hated people who knew more than he did. Trump has replaced them with lesser lights (think Larry Cudlow) who allow themselves to be “managed”.

He appears to have pretty much withdrawn from any attempt to manage the government from day to day. He frequently, if the reporting is correct, appears many days in his office about eleven o’clock having spent the morning watching Fox News and sending out his famous tweets. On many of those days his only reported official appointment is lunch, often with Vice President Pence.

After a lucky first three years, everything has seemed to go south. Starting at the beginning of this year Trump faced a perfect storm of crises that would be a challenge to any president. There was the beginning of the pandemic. That led to movements by state governors and city mayors to encourage the social isolation which led to a kind of instant economic depression. The pattern of deaths from the coronavirus disproportionately victimized minorities. That gave added energy to racially diverse demonstrations and riots after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th.

Donald Trump is a master of denial. He lives in a world of his own creation. What he wants to do is to continue to live in the world he has created since he came into office in 2016. That world includes huge working class rallies where he can bask in the worshipful glow of his audiences. He also likes showing up late in the morning, after basking in the glow from Fox News. He loves freedom from detail. People presenting things have learned to provide lots of pictures and bullet points He wants long weekends playing golf while entertaining star-struck guests at his own resorts.

The pandemic rages on but to Trump it’s a thing of the past. He has decided it is really over. If there are problems, they are problems for the states. The governors have to take responsibility. The economy is the real issue but that, again, is for other people to solve. The economy will right itself as soon as the pandemic disappears “like magic”. The demonstrations relating to race and police violence are something to be used in the campaign. Law and order always works! The defending of Confederate statues appeals to his race conscious base. He is constantly in contact with those people, sometimes with more than a hundred tweets a day

Meanwhile in the real world the polls are less than reassuring. That is hardly surprising. There are two Republican campaigns going on simultaneously. The Republican Party and its “independent” political action committees are spending millions on the internet touting a revived forward-looking Donald Trump.

In the meantime the President is waging his own campaign which really promises revival of an earlier time, a time when people knew their place. His is a campaign directed only to his working class base. He is in complete denial about other voters. His hundreds of childish (think seventh grade) tweets are all for his rally-fired base. The tweets certainly have little appeal for educated suburbanites or Wall Street bankers.

So, does Donald Trump really want run again, and win? If he does, he certainly is going about it in a way which will almost ensure that he loses. He is firmly on the wrong side of every issue (think health care, the environment, climate change, education, world leadership) that would appeal to the normal and to the good-hearted.

There are two possible answers here. His famous narcissism may dictate behavior that he cannot control. He certainly knows things are not going well. And/or, consciously or unconsciously, he is setting himself up to lose. He may really want out. His own organism may be signaling that four more years of stress is just too much. In that peculiar sense for Donald Trump, once again, winning would be losing!

H.J. Rishel



Retired political science professor of 40+ years. Educated at Olivet, UofM, MSU, Northwestern, & Harvard. Hoping to make politics a fun & exciting topic for all

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Hank Rishel

Retired political science professor of 40+ years. Educated at Olivet, UofM, MSU, Northwestern, & Harvard. Hoping to make politics a fun & exciting topic for all