I would suggest that this is, indeed, a deep bog we are moving into, but that’s because we are looking at the foundation of a mythology that will define Donald Trump in contemporary history, not the reality of what has happened, but the mythology of the man, how it functions, how it is born and grows.
It is very rare to watch something like that at its birthing, but we can now do it because it is a process with its own Achilles heel, a weakness so apparent it threatens the whole process. The man simply won’t shut up. That fuels media attention and fertilizes the mythology even as it reveals the dishonesty of it.
Now it becomes an observers sport, and not something we have to worry about. We all have a strong sense of the truth on our side. You know what the man was as president. And now you know what the man is as a defeated president.
It’s a process we’re watching.
He actually believes he can use this process to turn an abysmal failure into a profitable success. He has collected something like $180 million just since election day to help finance it. He has build sand castles before, through the miracle of bankruptcy and a boldness that is rare in any field. It is not a good boldness, just a practical boldness that lets the man do whatever he needs to do to advance his own mythology, his own interest. Face it, a lot of things become possible when you take truth off the table. And that is what Donald Trump has managed to do, edge truth right off the table and then scatter its shattered parts all over the place and use them to build a completely different reality.
All of the elements are at hand, the same elements that are always at hand when mythology comes to life. There is an overwhelming figure at the top of it, armies of blind followers in the middle and maybe most important of all, a vast collection of truly ignorant people who can’t tell when they are being duped, who don’t want to know if they are being duped, but who are, very clearly, being duped.
It’s hard to imagine that people actually believe he won an election that that most difficult of disciplines, arithmetic, says he did not. Politics lives in a zero sum universe in which there are winners and losers, and those positions are defined by mathematics. No matter what the man says about the election, his charges of theft and corruption, whatever, he cannot defeat the mathematical reality that he is roughly eight million votes in the hole. There is no way to make them up, no way to fix that.
So, he does what a mythological hero would do. He finds endless ways to lie about reality, repeating and repeating and repeating those lies until they settle and sink in on that vast, unthinking mass that can only see what Fox News (or worse) tells them. It is an immense echo chamber where he can shout into the wind, “I am a winner” and have only those words echo back.
But he is not.
What makes him the winner in this case is a mass of believers who cling to his every word, who believe he is talking his own bible when he claims to have won, clearly won, based on the count on Election Day.
That now takes its part in the mythology. We all knew going in that Democrats and lots of other people who were frightened by the thought of trouble at the polls, either from the virus or from roving gangs of armed Trump supporters, would vote in immense numbers by mail. That left the actual walk in voters to play their role in the mythology on Election Day by letting him build up vast numbers before the mail in ballots were counted. That’s why he could say over and over that he won on Election Day.
He set that up by telling everyone through his broadcasting conspirators that the election was rigged even before the first vote was cast, then kept hitting that theme as the numbers against him piled up. By the time it was clear he had had his butt kicked pretty severely, he was already on that page that claimed it was all corrupt, too corrupt to be believed.
And the blind followers blindly followed.
My guess is there is no way you could get most of Trumps supporters to recognize the reality, that they were soundly defeated. They will cling to his Trumpian cranking for the foreseeable future, bemoaning an election that was “stolen” by Democrats, who showed up in the greatest numbers in history to vote against the incumbent.
He’s not going to shut up. He is going to keep pushing that myth down and down and down so every layer of his electorate can recite the words without fail. We were robbed. It was corrupt. It was stolen.
And so on.
What can anyone do about this?
Just watch it and know what is happening. Just hold on to faith and goodness and understand that our job has never been to hate our opponents, just to understand them better than they understand themselves.
And know that this myth will be hanging around for quite some time, doing its untold damage to our country and its beliefs and values.
Trump is going away, of that there can be no doubt. But the myth will lumber on, continuing to spread poison and hyperbole and hatred wherever it can. It will become his new mission. Watch and understand and know the nation is stronger than all of that.