The Next Episode of the Trump Reality Show

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7 mins read

Trump has written the final act of the 2020 Campaign Realty Show, and the central plot point goes like this: “This election was a shambles! A disaster!”

People make fun of how much cable TV Trump watches, but how else can he plan his game?

Fortunately, it appears that Trump will not be able to pull off the final act he wants. People are tuning out. They’re changing the channel. His acts are flopping.

His strategy of trying to delegitimize the election by claiming “fraud” isn’t working in the courts. His claim that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud, has been rejected by courts in Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

His Mussolini performance on the balcony of the White House the day he returned from the hospital flopped. His dramatic exit from the helicopter, climbing the steps to the balcony, dramatically pulling off his mask, and saluting nobody was supposed to come across as a show of strength. People laughed and rolled their eyes, partly because it was all silly and weird, and partly because he was obviously gasping for air.

If you missed it, Trump considered performing this “I’m a strongman” stunt:

Another idea that is doomed to fall flat: According to the New York Times, Trump pressured Pompeo into reviving Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Pompeo complied. 

Hillary Clinton’s emails? Seriously?

Trump’s problem is that he only has a few tricks in his bag. The tricks can be very effective (for a while), but when they stop working, he has nothing else. He has to recycle.

Remember the Durham report that was supposed to reveal that the Obama campaign committed the “greatest political crime in history” when it “spied” on Trump’s campaign? That fizzled. 

Trump also pressured Barr to start indicting people. Barr refused. (If you’re worried, Barr can’t just decide to indict people. A federal indictment cannot happen without first convening and presenting evidence to a grand jury. Trump, demanding indictment, obviously doesn’t know the first thing about criminal procedure, and doesn’t care.)

Sick with Covid and unable to hold his usual rallies—and desperate to project normalcy and strength—Trump held a campaign rally at the White House on Saturday. A campaign event at the White House, of course, is a violation of the Hatch Act (which forbids federal employees from using their office for campaigning).

That event also flopped.

The Trump campaign invited 2,000 people. Fewer than 500 showed up, and CNN reported that the “crowd” was paid for travel and lodging. Trump is so losing so badly, he can no longer even manage a decent Hatch Act violation 😂.

Today, Trump ran a campaign add that featured Dr. Fauci praising his handling of the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci made a public statement saying that his words were taken out of context, and that he did not mean what the ad said he meant:

Getting in to a public spat with Dr. Fauci at this stage of the election is probably unwise (understatement).

Recall that Trump spent much time, from late 2018 until the end of the summer of 2019, plotting operation Ukraine Shakedown which was supposed to result in Zelenskyy spontaneously announcing an investigation into Biden corruption. That plot was foiled, leaving Trump hurriedly trying to write another ending to the 2020 campaign reality show. 

And then, of course, there’s the granddaddy of all October Surprises: Trump comes down with Covid, the very illness he has been downplaying. 

Trump’s message that he can steal the election is driving up early turnout. Here are the vote-by-mail numbers so far:

People understand that a close election gives Trump more fuel to throw on the fire, so voters are turning out early in record numbers. 

The 538 polling aggregate currently gives Trump a 14% chance of winning. Fourteen percent isn’t zero, but each day that goes by without a change in the trajectory of the race reduces Trump’s odds of a comeback. Each vote for Biden decreases Trump’s odds of a comeback.

All Trump can do at this point is try to disrupt the election through chaos and mayhem. Win-by-chaos succeeds if enough people take the bait, or help by running around with their hair on fire and thereby contributing to the chaos. 

People (fortunately) seem to have stopped taking the bait.

We can all do our part to minimize the chaos and further reduce Trump’s chance to disrupt this election.

One way to minimize chaos is to understand that when more than 130 million people vote, mistakes happen. Most mistakes are not deliberate voter suppression (or fraud). Do not fly into a panic each time something goes wrong. 

The best way to minimize the chaos is to volunteer. Good poll workers make a big difference. Work on a hotline helping voters. Drive voters to the polls. Get away from the screen and find something you can do to make election day run more smoothly. Another way to help reduce election day chaos is to vote early.

I suspect we are in a holding pattern for the next few weeks. Trump will try to create spectacle and chaos. People will (hopefully) laugh it off and stay focused on the election.

Aside, everyone is worried about what Trump will do between November and January if he loses. My guess is that the Trump family will be trying to figure out how to hide assets and money. Their legal bills will be astronomical. I doubt they can afford their back tax bill. 

Photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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