The title of this blog is taken from the subtitle of a book recently written by Mary Trump. She is by training a clinical psychologist. She is also a niece of President Donald Trump – the daughter of his older brother, Fred Jr, who died in 1981, of alcoholism, at age 42. Essentially Mary Trump argues or, better, concludes, that because her uncle’s “pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often unpredictable,” he poses a real and present danger to America. Which, if you take her point, would certainly not have ended with his defeat at the polls on November 3rd. Trump might even be more of a menace now as a wounded animal than he was before.
In my previous post I predicted among other things that Trump would never concede that he lost the election. But I did not say much about what he might do during what we should think of as the American interregnum: the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, on January 20th. Some of what Trump has already done was as good as foreseen. For example, his tweeting and then retweeting about how the election was rigged, and his firing one and then another of his underlings for not being slavishly loyal.
It could be argued though, and I do, that gestures such as these are child’s play, typical of Trump. In a different category is the president’s refusal so far to permit an orderly transition to the next administration which, if it persists, could have serious long-term consequences. Also in a different category is the president’s capacity to make mischief – to continue to break china by upending norms and traditions, by stirring up angers and resentments, by disrupting and even subverting the presidency of Joe Biden.
Here’s a dynamic to watch: the president’s relationship to those parts of his base that are the most fervently and even feverishly devoted. More than 72 million Americans voted for Trump to have a second term. For the sake of this exercise let’s say that 20% of these are people who, if Trump held a rally in a one or two hundred-mile radius would make it a point to attend. They would go wearing those red MAGA caps and not wearing masks, and they would shout loud and clear Trump’s favorite refrains, from “Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up!” to “Fire Fauci, fire Fauci, fire Fauci!”
Which raises two questions: First, how will Trump want to harness the energies of his most ardent adherents? Second, how will Trump’s most ardent adherents react to what Trump tells them to do?
We’re talking millions of people here. Some will be willing to “stand back and stand by,” as Trump recently instructed the Proud Boys. All will be hungry to hear whatever it is that their leader has to say.