Trump's 'get out of jail free' card
Donald Trump is "telling most anyone who'll listen that he will run again in 2024." That's according to Axios's Mike Allen, who also pointed out this weekend that all of the polling suggests that Republican voters are clamoring for the former president to do it. There is little doubt that he will win the Republican nomination easily. Allen reports that all of the Republicans he's spoken with say "it would take a severe illness, death — or criminal charges sticking — to stop Trump from walking away with the race before it even begins." I have never doubted it. They love him, they really love him.
Trump is reportedly watching any would-be rivals very carefully, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as well as Mike Pence, his former vice president, and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Allen reports that, according to his sources, it's Pence who is Trump's most likely primary opponent — and he is not planning to defer to his former boss, which Allen pointedly says Trump "has noticed." Watching Pence get squashed like a stink bug doesn't seem very sporting, but it's probably all we're going to get.
Truthfully, there is no opening for a serious anti-Trumper and as long as the real thing's on the scene. Nobody can out-Trump Trump. You have to give DeSantis points for trying, though. The Florida governor is now contemplating offering $5,000 to unvaccinated cops who move to the Sunshine State and join departments there rather than submit to vaccine mandates in their home state. Trump must have raised his diet coke in silent salutation at that one. It's Trumpism at its crudest.
DeSantis and Pompeo are still playing the waiting game to see if any unfortunate events befall Trump, but they need to be careful lest they anger the boss and ruin their chances to run as his VP, which they will be happy to do, all the while winking and nodding at the right-wing power brokers that they'll be sure to keep Trump in line. Fat chance.
There are several obvious reasons why Trump is so dead set on running again.
The first is his obsession with vengeance, particularly for what he perceives as disloyalty. This explains why he spends just as much time slamming RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), whom he claims betrayed him, as he does Democrats. This is a deeply held philosophy that Trump has made plain for many years.
An even bigger motivation for Trump to run is the fact that his "grandiose narcissism" will not allow him to admit that he lost in 2020. Personality psychologist Evita March explained how this works shortly after election:
The grandiose narcissist is competitive, dominant, and has an inflated positive self-image regarding their own skills, abilities, and attributes. What's more, grandiose narcissists tend to have higher self-esteem and inflated self-worth. For the grandiose narcissist, defeat may compromise this inflated self-worth. According to researchers from Israel, these people find setbacks in achievement particularly threatening, as these setbacks could indicate a "failure to keep up with the competition".
Instead of accepting personal responsibility for failure and defeat, these individuals externalize blame, attributing personal setbacks and failures to the shortcomings of others. They do not, or even cannot, recognize and acknowledge the failure could be their own. Based on the profile of the grandiose narcissist, the inability to accept defeat may best be characterized by an attempt to protect the grandiose positive self-image. Their dominance, denial of weaknesses, and tendency to devalue others results in a lack of comprehension it's even possible for them to lose.
If you read the blizzard of statements he releases every day, it's clear that Trump spends most of his days obsessing over the Big Lie. He's now demanding that Republicans endorse his delusion or risk his wrath and his followers' rejection. It's not enough for him to believe it, he needs everyone else to validate that belief. And he has to run again — and win — in order to finally make the Big Lie true. To that end, he is working the system night and day to make sure he has loyalists planted in all the swing states to make sure that happens.
But while it's clear that he has deep psychological reasons for perpetuating the Big Lie and running again to avenge the loss he cannot accept, there are practical reasons for Trump to be desperate to get back in the White House. The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus reminds us that while Trump has always managed to squirm out of the endless legal and political problems he's confronted throughout his life he's facing some serious charges at the moment:
Throughout his epic, scandal-ridden career, Donald Trump has compiled an astonishing record of impunity, constantly staying one jump ahead of prosecutors, plaintiffs and creditors...[His] record of escapes would make Houdini envious. But Trump remains under the gun. He's still in search of escape routes.
A House committee is examining his attempts to overturn last year's presidential election, including his actions when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. A prosecutor in Georgia is investigating whether he violated state law against soliciting election fraud when he demanded that officials "find 11,780 votes" — the number he needed to undo Joe Biden's victory in that state. And prosecutors in New York are looking into allegations that Trump, or at least the closely held family business he runs, committed tax and bank fraud.
I'm sure Trump enjoyed many things about being president, with the overwhelming amount of attention being the most important. But the Russia investigation made clear that as long as he was in office, he would not be prosecuted. Being president is literally a "get out of jail free" card. He knows that as soon as he declares his candidacy, any possibility of prosecution is unlikely. As McManus says, "it's a way to hold his troops together — and to make every prosecutor think twice."
I don't doubt that his desire to get back into the White House is mostly driven by his desire for revenge and the extreme personality defect that will not allow him to admit that he lost. But he's not insane. If he can get back into the White House, he will be completely out of the law's grasp for four years. And he knows it.
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