November 20, 2020

The Trump Denial Regime
After the American Century

It seems possible that President Trump has had a mental breakdown. Who can offer a rational explanation for his behavior since he lost the election? He is hiding from the press and public, while sending out odd messages on Twitter. He really seems to believe that he won the election that he lost.  He appears to be in the grip of a conspiracy theory that seems to be a paranoid misreading of reality. He lost the popular vote by more than 5 million votes and he lost the electoral vote as well. Some commentators have said that he is "in denial," as if this is all right. 

It is not all right for the commander in chief to sulk for weeks after losing an election. 
It is not all right for him to mislead millions of Americans with claims of election fraud that are unsubstantiated by any evidence. He has lost all the court cases brought so far, and most of the lawyers who worked on them have withdrawn their services. Presumably, they realized that they were being used as part of a vast deception. 

It certainly is not all right to pretend that Trump is in his right mind. Millions of Americans are not at all certain that Mr. Trump is now rational or capable of making complex decisions. He gives no indication that he is performing his job as president. Quite the contrary. He is spending time playing golf but otherwise doing little more than repeating endlessly - obsessively - that he won the election. 

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people are dying every day from the coronavirus. The President endlessly told the public that this is not a serious illness, that is was largely fake news, a bogus crisis.  Even after he got the coronavirus himself, he told his followers that it was nothing to worry about. It would cease to be a news story the day after the election, or so he said. Trump has led the public down that false road of denial, too.

The number who have died from the coronavirus in the US has already topped the death toll for the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. The majority of these deaths could have been avoided, had the US had leadership as competent as in New Zealand, in Norway, in South Korea, or in Taiwan, all of which have had far lower death rates. But the Trump White House did not take a leadership role, it did not coordinate a national response, and it did not even give accurate information about the situation much of the time,  The Trump White House is responsible for the majority of these deaths.

In any other job, a person behaving irresponsibly would be sent to a psychological examination, and he would be relieved of his duties until he was well again. Amendment 25 of the Constitution sets forth the possibility that a president can be treated in a similar manner. In that case, the Vice President would assume the duties of the President.

Amendment 25 is not likely to be invoked, however, because the president has infected those around him with his fantasies. The White House and the Republican leadership seem to be collectively deluded in a way that is common in religious cults. No one wants to upset or offend Trump. This is the Republican Party that refused to call a single witness at the sham impeachment proceedings, in which the Senate did not allow a trial to take place. Trump the untouchable.

The Washington Post has kept a record of Trump's lies and exaggerations and has been unable to keep up with him, because he repeats the lies so often, at a rate of more than 25 a day. They estimate that he has lied 25,000 times during his 4 years in office. It seems doubtful that Trump and his millions of followers have much of a grip on reality any longer. They have heard the lies so often that they believe them all.

This paranoid president is self-absorbed, with little interest in the pandemic raging on his watch. This Republican Party is unable to separate itself from his delusions, and instead helps to spread them, creating a bubble of conspiracy theories and false accusations of fraud. The real fraud is the Republican leadership itself.  

The Republican Party will not live down this dark period for at least a generation. The United States will not regain respect on the world stage for years, either, assuming it manages to escape from this self-inflicted crisis of government. 

Who benefits from this chaos? Russia, China, and terrorists. The crisis allows all of them to construct a plausible sounding narrative, in which the United States is not really a democracy. This is the narrative of electoral fraud that Trump is selling and that the Republican Party seems unable to reject.