His Hubris Brought About His Downfall

There’s a quote from President Calvin Coolidge that goes, “It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.”

You will be hard-pressed to find a quote that better describes why President Trump did not win re-election.

If we were to rewind to 2016 when President Trump won, trying to explain “why Trump won” became almost a comical exercise as it quickly became a meme explain why that trivial thing you do not like is bad.

But, serious attempts among Trump’s supporters to explain why he won, however, revolved around the fact he had managed to win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania while more traditional Republicans had not. Trump was therefore a genius who had figured out that a sort of nationalistic, populistic working class party was what Republicans needed to be successful, not the corporate elitism and technocracy offered by folks like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

The white, non-college educated working class folks supported Trump were also described as lost voices, whose interests and concerns had been lost on Republicans who seemed to care more about nothing other than corporate tax cuts and turning the Middle East into Western Europe. They were also lost on Democrats who, stuck in their costal bubble, looked down on people in the middle of the country as uneducated racist and sexist rubes for not agreeing with their social agenda.

The narrative that Trump won because of these new voters seems obvious, but the “he fights for you” narrative gave his presidency tunnel vision. Everything he did as president was for the base. The rage tweeting, meme posting, name calling, and everything else was red meat for the base that “he fights for.”

When people outside of this base argued that a president should be a president, supporters retorted that all of this is what Trump was elected to do: to fight those who look down on them: the old guard, the elites.

This fed an unbreakable cycle of Trump’s undignified behavior being applauded, which led to more undignified behavior which led to more applause and so on.

The problem is that the world is not divided into two camps with Trump supporters on one hand and Jim Acosta on the other. If Trump was running for re-election to be President of the MAGA-verse he would have won in a blowout, but of course he was not.

By believing the narrative that he is fighting for the forgotten man and woman, Trump increasingly narrowed his appeal and did so on purpose. His campaign bet on being able to fire up the base and win on turnout and turnout alone. They failed, it turns out you still do need to appeal to independents and acting like a jerk is not the way to do so. It turns out crowd sizes and convoys of flag-carrying pick-up trucks is not a determining factor of who is going to win an election.

Speaking of the campaign, Trump also ran a terrible campaign. One of the faults with the Trump as a genius thesis is that it ignores that Trump won those three states by less than a point. In 2016 he ran on making America great again, Hillary Clinton ran on making Hillary Clinton great again and so some voters were willing to take a chance on a novice. In 2020, Trump was no the status quo and Joe Biden ran on making America great again, just in a different sense of the phrase.

But, Biden was still very beatable. He gave Trump the gift of the century when he initially refused to flatly say he would not pack the Supreme Court or support adding states, so what did Trump do? He talked about Hunter Biden’s drug addiction, despite claiming the federal government had a moral obligation to fight the opioid crisis. He also made a fool of himself at the first debate and never recovered.

Other puzzling decisions that did not shape the outcome of the election by themselves, but showed that the campaign had its priorities misplaced could be seen in having Nigel Farage speak at rallies, because what Middle America really wants is to know how Trump fits into narratives surrounding British economic and foreign policy debates.

Another head scratcher was an RNC Twitter thread on October 23 that played on the “Pres. Trump is fighting for YOU!” narrative. The thread laid out Trump’s second term agenda. The first bullet point: “Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon.” The second: “Send the 1st Manned Mission to Mars.”

Sending humans to Mars would be great, if for no other reason to show Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, who claims Venus as Russian territory, who the boss is, but Martian and Lunar exploration are not exactly at the top of voters’ priorities right now given the state of economy and the pandemic.

The third bullet point in that thread refenced “Build World’s Greatest Infrastructure System” meaning that this time Infrastructure Week will really be a thing which only reminds voters of the chaos and apparent incompetence of Trump’s governing record. It was only in the fifth bullet point and second tweet that the thread refenced the pandemic.

When asked to square how Trump could lose despite Republicans doing so well in other races, the logical conclusion is that Trump’s personality cost him. He believed in his own genius and the narrative that people spun for him that he spoke for “the people” and therefore anyone who opposed him was to be mocked and ridiculed and destroyed.

But, most people do not ask their president to be an insult hurler who spends his time rage tweeting. It is immature, not standing up for the little guy or grand strategic move in the culture war. They do not view chaos as 512-dimensional upside-down, underwater chess.

Conservatives like to tell our lefty friends that Twitter is not real life, but thinking MAGA’s Twitter bubble was real life is what cost Trump this election.

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Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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