Whether you love him or hate him, it’s well-known that President Donald Trump has had a lifelong obsession with looking like a “winner.” It didn’t matter if his casino empire was crumbling, or if New York tabloids were chronicling his messy personal life, or if banks came after his assets or if hundreds of lawsuits were launched against him.
Somehow, he always seemed to overcome disasters and project a winning image. That image became his #1 asset.
Starring in his own successful reality show in the role of “the business tycoon” only inflated Trump’s view of himself. This self-love and gluttony for attention went on overdrive in 2016 when he won the role of a lifetime– most powerful man in the world.
After years of camouflaging real losses and hiding embarrassing defeats, he pulled off a singular, massive victory. Finally, reality caught up to, and even surpassed, the image: Trump became the top dog on the planet, the ultimate center of attention, the ultimate winner. He no longer had to fake it.
Fast forward to today, and imagine the letdown this “ultimate winner” must feel. Not only is he losing his perch at the top, but the loss is real, very public and unambiguous. He can scream all he wants about “election fraud,” but he knows that very soon his title will no longer be “President of the United States of America.” There’s just no way to spin that. The cognitive dissonance must be excruciating.
Maybe that explains why he keeps delaying the inevitable. In Trump’s worldview, there are no good losers; only pathetic ones. Conceding defeat will immediately trigger a global spectacle of “Trump the loser,” complete with the prolonged rituals of handing power over to the real winner.
His addiction to attention may haunt him. In front of the world’s cameras, he will need to welcome the new top dog to the White House and assist in the transition, as well as attend the inauguration. How do you spin those images? How do you act like you’re still a “winner” when the real winner is sitting right next to you?
I’m guessing all those things must be going through Trump’s mind right now. That’s why all he can do is buy some time. He knows that a huge challenge is ahead of him in his next episode: How does the ultimate winner spin the ultimate defeat?
Trump knows that a huge challenge is ahead of him in his next episode: How does the ultimate winner spin the ultimate defeat?
He must realize that “they stole the election from me” doesn’t work with everyone, so he’s narrowing his sights: If he can’t salvage a winning image with the whole world, at least he can salvage one with his 80 million Twitter followers.
But to do that, he must go down fighting. That’s what winners are supposed to do. They never give up. Trump must show his loyal base that “the bad guys” cheated him out of a victory, and he will fight to the end. If you think his message was divisive until now, just wait until he leaves the White House. Blaming the “other side” is the one thread he’s got left to keep some semblance of a winning image.
As he moves forward, don’t be surprised if he announces a presidential run in 2024. That would be classic Trump: a clever and impulsive PR move to distract attention from his epic loss. Indeed, Trump’s next chapter will revolve around fighting new battles to reclaim his life’s core message: “No matter what, I’m still a winner.”
In the meantime, however, he’ll have to deal with the harsh reality in front of him. Sooner or later, the legal challenges will run out and he will have to face, however temporarily, a role he has no clue how to play: a clear-cut loser.
Welcome to reality, Mr. President. All of us have had to play the role of loser at one time or another. We win some, we lose some. You won the Big One, and then you lost the Big One. For better or worse, that is your reality.
Now you have a chance to do what is right for your country: Deliver a Thanksgiving message that you fought as hard as you could, but are now conceding defeat, welcoming the new president and looking forward to your next chapter.
If you have trouble doing that, use your considerable TV acting experience and fake it. You can even tell everyone that you’re still a winner. We’ll take it.