Like myself, I'm guessing you don't turn to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal for political advice. This is not a page that even pretends to be fair and balanced-- it is the motherland of American conservatism... especially the proclamations of the editorial board itself. That said, a friend sent me one last night suggesting I read it: Donald Trump's Hostage Politics. No one is searching for wisdom from these people, just for some insights about how the enemy is thinking. They're conservative establishment Republicans, talking to other conservative establishment Republicans. "When Democrats," they began last night, "complain that Donald Trump is plotting to suppress votes, they have a point-- but fortunately for them, the votes he is plotting to suppress are those of his own supporters. That was evident in January this year in the two Georgia Senate runoffs. Turnout in Republican strongholds fell because Trump told his voters the election in November had been stolen and the state’s GOP officials were corrupt. Democrats narrowly won both seats in the conservative state, handing the party unified control of Congress and paving the way for an ideologically unleashed Biden Administration."
And that was just the beginning of their take on what every Republican has been talking about for the last two days. Señor Trumpanzee is now "threatening aloud that he might repeat this act of electoral sabotage in the next national elections. 'If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented),' Trump said in a statement Wednesday, 'Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.' What’s notable isn’t that Trump continues to deny his election defeat and push for increasingly futile 'audits' that will go nowhere. Trump will never admit he lost. Democrats have already used Trump’s election denial against the GOP to great effect in their California gubernatorial recall rout and are now wielding it in what has become a tight Virginia Governor’s race. Trump’s escalation is that he is now explicitly tying Republican acceptance of his election fantasy to a threat of electing Democrats as retribution. The message to Republicans is that if they don’t loudly pretend that he won the last election, Trump will make sure the GOP loses the next one, too."
They noted that when the Trumpanzee "ego is on the line, his voters’ interests are secondary. He might not like it if progressives control government and choke off American energy production or bludgeon social-media companies to censor conservatives. But his priority is that GOP candidates show obeisance to his claims that he was robbed in November. And he’s willing to help Democrats if Republicans refuse or even stay silent. We wrote after the Georgia runoffs: 'We hope Republicans keep Trump’s contribution to these defeats in mind over the next two years as their taxes and energy costs rise, as woke cultural mandates rain down from Washington, and as more of the economy comes under political control.' All of that is happening. With the Biden Administration’s polarizing overreach, the 2022 elections are an opportunity for the GOP to retake Congress and check the divisive progressive assault on the U.S. economy and law. But that was also true of the 2021 Georgia races. Trump may not be finished making his supporters pay for his narcissism."
CNN noticed the same thing and early this morning Michael D'Antonio reported that Trump is "Abandoning the path to possible victory just to prove a point... Against all the evidence, Trump still demands his fellow Republicans prove he won in 2020, lest they suffer a landslide defeat in future elections as the former president's rabid supporters refuse to vote. For someone who had talked an awful lot about being a winner, this latest threat seems strange."
Other examples of Trump snatching defeat from the jaws of victory are easy to find. As president, he denied the severity of the Covid-19 threat and embraced a host of anti-scientific ideas about the virus and the pandemic. At the same time, he failed to adequately tout his Warp Speed project to accelerate vaccine development. These two blunders meant that instead of being seen as a warrior against a terrible threat he came across to many as a bumbling crank.
Before politics, Trump became famous for, among other things, multiple bankruptcies of his Atlantic City casinos. Given that gambling halls set the odds to benefit the house, it's hard for operators to go under, but somehow Trump managed. Debt was a big factor.
The times when Trump has acted as his own worst enemy seem to fit what mental health experts call "self-sabotage." This isn't something people do deliberately. Instead, it's an unconscious process that can be evidence of a fear of success. (People who worry about whether they can handle achieving a lofty goal-- like snagging a big promotion-- sabotage themselves so they won't be seen as inadequate once they are in their new position.)
A writer in Psychology Today connected Trump with self-sabotage as he struggled near the end of the 2020 campaign. "Trump may be the absolute best at one thing in particular: self-sabotage," wrote Lili Stillwaggon Swan, Ph.D.
Today, it's the GOP that has allowed Trump to take over. He's demanding that party leaders do the impossible by somehow proving voter fraud that doesn't exist. There's no way to explain this other than to suggest that Trump is indulging in his greatest act of self-sabotage yet.
Yesterday William Rivers Pitt wrote at Truthout that "Trying to determine what Trump was thinking when he released this statement is like trying to read a dog’s mind while it is eating its own vomit. If there’s reason to the dog’s actions beyond the compulsion to simply DO SOMETHING VERY STRANGE, it is not visible to the naked eye… yet there sits the dog, tail wagging, munching away. What would motivate him to order his own voters to stay home? I suspect there is an element of jumping the gun here; like a skittish racehorse, Trump is leaping out of the gate before the bell because being endlessly grabby is his essential nature. While statements like this are clearly part of Trump’s overarching efforts to undermine democracy and faith in elections, the fact remains that he still needs his voters to gain the power he requires to get what he wants. He seeks to recreate the country into an authoritarian playground where voting is not a substantive part of the process, but he’s not there yet. We’re not there yet, and this specific attack on the election process could prove to be wildly counterproductive."
Pitt wrote that he thinks Trump is "dying to tell the world he is going to run again, because he needs the adulation the way sunflowers crave the dawn (and the immediate boost in fundraising would help him stave off imminent financial calamity)… but they won’t let him. 'They,' in this instance, is a battalion of advisers who have been telling him such an announcement would detonate the GOP’s hopes for taking back the House and Senate next year. Every midterm would immediately be about him-- which he would love, of course, but which would also give Mitch McConnell an ulcer the size of a car battery-- and the party would almost certainly lose seats they could either hold or take back. That’s the Trump-centric math from 2018 and 2020, and there’s no reason to believe it has substantially changed. Donald Trump does not do 'thwarted.' Over and over again during his administration, whenever he was forced to choke out a 'qualification' for the latest rancid filth he’d uttered, a window of silence would open for 24 to 72 hours. Somewhere in that span, and never later than three days afterward, the man would go violently sideways and blow up everything he just tried to fix. It became as predictable as the tide, and this statement is prima facie evidence that the phenomenon lives on."
[H]ere he is, all but ordering the faithful to shun the ballot box again unless he is magically reinstated as president. Only a guess, but I’m betting the folks at Republican Party headquarters looked like Richard Sherman after the Butler interception when they heard about this. Everything seemed to be going so well, too.
From the tone of the statement, it sounds like Trump has the bit fully in his teeth with this one. I doubt this is the last time we will hear such proclamations/orders, and in any event, he got some attention out of it.
There are two lessons here. First, Trump is about Trump, forever and ever, amen. That will never change. If the Republican Party is burned down to the stumps because of his behavior, he won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.
Second, any pundit or columnist predicting certain doom for the Democrats next year with Trump in the mix like this is throwing darts into a tornado trying to hit the triple bull. Just stop. The man is an agent of chaos, and he cares as much for the fate of the GOP as he does for the last contractor he stiffed on the bill. So long as he is around chucking bombs like this, the next two elections are wide open.