Seeing victory where none exists, the defeated president leaves a blueprint for his Republican heirs.
If you can spare an hour, do listen to the full tape of the conversation between the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Whichever adjective you use to describe Trump—delusional, demented, narcissistic—this recording shows that he is unwell. His grip on reality is loose. He is by turns insulting (“They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad. Whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you”) and wheedling (“So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break”) and threatening (“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offense.”)
He has weirdly specific, made-up numbers. He cites stories of “fraud” that have been thoroughly debunked. He never explains why the people who allegedly stole the presidential election didn’t steal the two Senate seats in Georgia while they were at it. He is unable to face the fact that he has comprehensively lost. He is grasping at conspiracy theories that offer him a false vision of the future—and yet he sounds completely convinced that they are true.
Since Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, Americans have heard a lot of discussion about what exactly Trumpism is. Is it the anti-foreign-wars, anti-immigration, anti–Wall Street economic populism Trump campaigned on? Is it the nativist “national conservatism” some enthusiasts invented, post hoc, to rationalize his election?