Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Why Trump Wouldn't Listen to Republicans, Fox News Hosts, and His Own Son

I would urge everyone to watch Chris Hayes provide a step-by-step breakdown of how Donald Trump attempted a coup - highlighting the former president's action is the state of Georgia. 

When all else failed, Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6 and sent them to the Capitol to stage an insurrection. 

We now know that, as the violence was unfolding and members of Congress feared for their lives, Trump did nothing for three hours. According to evidence released by the January 6 committee on Monday, his inaction came as Republicans, Fox News hosts, and his own son texted Mark Meadows pleading with him to get Trump to stop the attack. 

Most of the commentary so far has focused on the duplicity of the people, like Laura Ingraham, who went on to be dismissive of the violence. But it is also important to understand why the former president didn't heed their call and remained intransigent - leading Rep. Liz Cheney to accuse him of "extreme dereliction of duty."

I was reminded of how Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of "Art of the Deal," described Trump.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others...

To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it...

In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.

What Schwartz described is the basis of most of the 30,000 lies Trump told while in office. His narcissistic ego is compelled to create a delusional reality in which he wins, even when he loses, because the admission of a loss is the "equivalent of obliteration." Any appeal to compassion in order to challenge the delusion will certainly fall on deaf ears. But the same is true for rational arguments. 

Of course, the major battle in this zero-sum game was the 2020 election. Trump literally couldn't contemplate the reality that he lost. So he created the Big Lie and led a coup to overturn the election. First and foremost, it was a lie designed to assuage his own ego. He needed to fool himself into believing that he didn't lose. Anyone who challenged the lie must be repudiated and demonized (at best) - which is why the former president said that it was "common sense" for the January 6 insurrectionists to want to hang Mike Pence.

I don't write this to in any way excuse Trump for his actions. But it's clear that he he exhibits the traits of a narcissistic sociopath (a combination of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder). Even so, he must be held accountable for his actions. 

But there are two other things to keep in mind. With an assist from most Republicans and right wing news, a large block of the voting public has bought into the delusions Trump created. They are prepared to jettison our democracy in order to maintain those delusions.  

It is also clear that Donald Trump is setting things up to run again in 2024. That is why we have to take Bart Gellman's warnings seriously.

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

As Chris Hayes pointed out in the segment I referred to above, it was the former president's incompetence that played a large role in ensuring that the coup was unsuccessful. Will practice improve those odds? Or will we once again see that malfeasance gives way to incompetence? None of us know for sure. We can't take the risk to find out.

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