A Fall of His Own Making
We don’t need to wait on history to recognize that the fall of Donald Trump’s literal and figurative fortunes over the last week is the stuff of a Greek tragedy, not lacking the Furies driving him from the stage. On the morning of January 6th, Trump had lost the presidential election, yes, but he was still a force to be reckoned with. Twitter account in hand, he was, for better or worse, the front runner for the GOP’s presidential candidate slot in 2024 — and if he couldn’t be or didn’t want to be the candidate, he could still exert massive influence on who would get the slot. If not king, then the kingmaker. Skeptics (waves) would and did point out the myriad of legal and financial issues awaiting Trump in his post-presidency. But Trump had been in legal and financial quagmires before, and had always managed to fail upwards. It was possible, against all odds and with a pool of fervent, credulous former voters, that he could do so again.
On the evening of January 13th — a mere one week later — the best Trump could do for himself was keep his presidential pension. He was, most obviously, impeached for a second time, on the (accurate) charge of inciting an insurrection. His senate trial will apparently have to wait, but the historic shame of a second impeachment is his forever. He is literally half the presidential impeachments in the history of the United States. He is radioactive politically; all but the dimmest of QAnonic political figures have (correctly) disavowed him, in name if not in policy.
Trump’s business and financial connections have severed themselves from him dramatically and unambiguously; he has no way to raise money in his post-presidency now, and has hundreds of millions in debt waiting for him. His biggest fans are now wanted by the FBI. His Twitter account, the violent nuclear heart of his power, is no more. He doesn’t even have Parler at this point; at most he can settle for Gab. And of course he still has all the legal issues he had before the attempted coup — and more now, all waiting for him when he’s finally shown the other side of the White House door six days from today.
Who is to blame for this historic fail, and this monumental fall? Why, he is, of course. Trump’s inability to process defeat and his abject terror at being branded a loser is the very cause of him becoming, definitively, the biggest loser in American history. He has lost not just an election; he has lost his power. He’s lost his aura, his invincibility, his mojo, his swagger. In place of his heedless and fear-inducing bluster, he now has a querulous whine, a mutter as he wanders the White House halls, complaining not to social media but to hapless, bored aides about an election that wasn’t, in fact, stolen from him and which he now has no power to make others pretend it was. Here is a defeat of his own making, one for which he cannot blame others, although he will, since he is psychologically incapable of blaming himself.
We don’t have to wait on history, but as it happens, this is how history will remember Donald Trump: Not as a forceful, charismatic authoritarian, but as a corrupt and pathetic wretch, who spent the final days of his presidency shouting at the walls about how the world is against him.
He is correct in that much. The world is against him, because the world, finally, no longer has to pretend to tolerate him. He has done this to himself through fear and hubris and a smallness of soul. The rest of his life will be spent in the full knowledge that his name represents not success, but a failure so abject and profound that there is no other comparison to it.
He will pretend it doesn’t bother him. We all know that will be a lie. It will bother him, every day, from now to his end. He will deserve every moment of it.