Donald Trump’s political death wish


Donald Trump
President Donald Trump, on board Air Force One, watches a live television broadcast of the Senate confirmation vote of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Trump was traveling from Washington enroute to Topeka, Kan., for a campaign rally. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Donald Trump’s political death wish

DONALD TRUMP’S POLITICAL DEATH WISH. What is former President Donald Trump thinking? On Saturday, he posted this statement on his social media network Truth Social:

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Elections Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

The first thing Trump’s post revealed is that, even as he is a declared candidate for the 2024 presidential election, he remains obsessed with the events of 2020. You know how they say all elections are about the future? For Trump, it appears, the coming election will be about the past.

The second thing the post revealed, again, is that Trump has no problem being seen as a poor loser. That’s not an image the public usually likes. If someone loses, and especially if they are somehow screwed in the process, the public is sympathetic, especially if the person takes the loss, doesn’t complain, and goes back to work.

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An example. You probably know of Sen. John Thune as part of the Republican leadership in the Senate. But in 2002, he was a member of the House from South Dakota. He challenged then-Sen. Tim Johnson and lost in an excruciatingly close election — the margin was 524 votes. There was some persuasive evidence of fraud that might have made the difference. (I wrote about it at the time.) But a few days after the election, Thune announced that he would not contest the result in what he said would be a “long, drawn-out, painful, and protracted struggle over 524 votes.” Thune did not say the election was clean. “Are there questions that need to be answered about the outcome of this election?” he said. “I believe there are.” He did not discount the possibility of irregularities. “Did things happen that shouldn’t have in some polling places around the state?” he said. “I believe they did.” But Thune moved on and did not devote his life to whining about the loss. Two years later, in 2004, he ran for Senate again, against then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. This time, Thune won. He used the support he had and the sympathy and admiration that some South Dakotans had for him when he got up and tried again after a close defeat, and turned it into victory. He kept his eye on the future, and he won. He’s been in the Senate ever since.

It’s fair to say that is the opposite of the approach Donald Trump is taking. Trump has argued that unless what he views as the injustice of the 2020 election is rectified, then there might never be another fair election in the United States. Therefore, 2020 has to be addressed before anything else — before war and peace, before the economy, before immigration, before any issue that might otherwise dominate a presidential election.

The problem with that approach is that Trump has never been able to prove that the 2020 election was stolen. Remember the immortal words of Trump representative Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly told a top official in Arizona, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.” And remember that Republicans in Arizona took months to audit the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county. They looked at the results in the most minute detail and could not establish that enough irregularities took place to reverse the results of the election. No one found such results in other key states, such as Georgia and Pennsylvania, either. And of course, monthslong audits are simply not possible in the real world of campaigns and elections. You count the votes, and sometimes recount the votes, and somebody has to win in time to take office.

But Trump is still demanding relief. And in his statement, he went further than even some supporters could stomach when he said the “massive fraud” of 2020 “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

There is no constitutional provision for giving the presidency to someone who claims to be the “RIGHTFUL WINNER.” There is no constitutional provision for holding a re-vote of a presidential election. Trump seemed to acknowledge that when he said that reinstating him, or holding a “NEW ELECTION,” would require the “termination” of some constitutional provisions.

The bigger question here is: Is he crazy? Does he really think that somehow he should just be given the presidency right here, right now? Does he really think that the nation would hold a presidential election in 2022 or 2023 when the constitutional process provides for one in 2024, and then another one in 2028? Is he really thinking about anything?

Assuming that Trump has some purpose other than just venting, it is worth looking at the results of a new poll from Marquette University Law School. The survey shows Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s profile rising, both nationally and among Republicans. First, the survey shows that an imaginary head-to-head 2024 election between President Joe Biden and DeSantis is tied, 42% to 42%, while a matchup between Biden and Trump has Biden winning, 44% to 34%.

The poll also shows DeSantis rising in favorability among Republican voters. In January of this year, 57% of Republicans told the Marquette pollsters that they had a favorable opinion of DeSantis. Now, it’s 68%. That is slightly higher than Trump’s own favorability rating among Republicans, which stands at 67%.

There is a lot for Trump to worry about in the new poll. At the same time, the survey shows a large number of Republicans continue to have doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. When asked, “How confident are you that, across the country, the votes for president were accurately cast and counted in the 2020 election?” only 39% of Republicans said they were very or somewhat confident, while 61% said they were not too or not at all confident. For independents, the numbers were 58% confident, 42% not confident, and for Democrats, they were 89% confident, 11% not confident. Overall, including all voters, 64% were confident, and 35% not confident, that the votes in 2020 were accurately cast and counted.

That big group of Republican doubters — 61% — is Trump’s audience. If Trump can continue to fan the flame, to tap into their concerns, they will continue to see him as unfairly removed from the White House. And then what? Perhaps they’ll support him again for the GOP nomination. The problem is, that group is at most one-third of the electorate. Trump would obviously need much more support to be actually elected president.

And now, Trump seems to be trying to alienate all but his most hardcore supporters by suggesting that the Constitution’s electoral provisions be thrown out — terminated, as he would say it — in order to reinstate him to the presidency or to hold a new national election. There are Republicans who think Trump got a raw deal in 2020, and who would vote for him in 2024, who still would not go that far. Does that mean Trump has jumped the shark with them? It’s hard to say. But he has certainly taken another step to alienate the majority of voters who, whatever they think of him, would not vote for him to be president again.

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