Hubris and A Comeuppance

Breakfast with bwana

It is said that the character trait that gets a person to the top often becomes the flaw that brings him (or her) down. So it was with Trump

By Anil Madan

It is not a great surprise that the right-wing media types are cheering Trump’s failure to concede the election as evidencing his fighting spirit. Nor is it surprising that left-wing media types and Democrats are castigating him for that refusal, even raising the spectre of threats to national security. This is all nonsense. The next president’s term does not begin until January 20, 2021. There is plenty of time for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be briefed on national security. And nothing prevents them from beginning the process of creating their administrative infrastructure. Certainly, it would be better for Trump to allow the General Services Administration (GSA) to give them office space and access to funds, but that will happen in due course.

Indian-American voters in Washington, DC celebrating removal of Trump on Nov. 7. Photo –

Aside from the theoretical possibility—between slim and nonexistent—that the outcome of the election might be changed by recounts and lawsuits, it is not really that difficult to understand Trump’s recusance. Let’s take a look. The truth is that Donald Trump will be able to concede only when he acknowledges the crushing collapse of his greater delusion.

Donald Trump is the quintessential used-car salesman or real-estate salesman willing to sell you that old ailing jalopy as a cream puff or tell you the dilapidated barn is a five-star property. The problem is that this time, Biden the old jalopy ran over him as he was making his pitch. And the jalopy was going downhill as it went right through the barn door.

Trump’s hubris is the stuff of legend. Recall when he said that he knew more about ISIS than did the Generals who had been directing the Afghan war or anti-ISIS operations elsewhere. I remember laughing when Trump actually said: “If Cory Booker is the future of the Democratic Party, they have no future! I know more about Cory than he knows about himself.” It takes some level of shamelessness to proclaim that you know someone else better than he knows himself.

Remember too, that he has decried science not only when it comes to the Covid-19 virus, but also on climate change, vaccinations, energy, nuclear weapons, nuclear power. In short, on practically any subject his lack of knowledge doesn’t stop him from expressing his learned opinions.

Trump is accustomed to having his bullying tactics work. He has gotten away with his nonsense for decades. And he undoubtedly thought Biden was an easy pick. There was the time when, at one of his rallies, he played a video of Biden’s inconsistent statements and gaffes and smirked, all the while shaking his head as unmasked Trumpkins surrounding him cheered loudly.

But then it all came crashing down.

It is said that the character trait that gets a person to the top often becomes the flaw that brings him (or her) down. So it was with Trump.

When the world was confronted with the spectre of the coronavirus, something that even the most expert virologists, epidemiologists, and immunologists did not understand, Trump declared that he knew more about it than anyone else. He even assured us that it would just go away. He had the option of deferring to Drs Fauci, Birx, and the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and elsewhere. This would have given him a built-in excuse that he had followed the recommendation of experts. If it worked, he could have claimed credit. If not, it wasn’t his fault. But his brazen shamelessness came to the fore once again when in the midst of a surge in infections and deaths, he proclaimed “We have turned the corner.”

Trump’s failure in dealing with the pandemic is palpable and sustained. Whatever his supporters may think, it is not lost on Americans that his bungling approach to the virus, his disdain for masks and social distancing have resulted in horrific spikes in the number of cases nationwide. Whatever this stable genius may have hoped to do to contain this virus, it has outwitted him and his incompetence. As Americans were suffering and dying, voters were reminded daily of his hubris and incompetence. Worse, the denial of truth now had a measurable consequence.

It may not be fair to say that Trump was more concerned about the economy and the stock market than the pandemic but he certainly gave them an inordinate focus. The stock markets didn’t love him back. Rather, the stock markets gave him a mighty slap in the face when the indices rallied sharply as it became apparent that Biden was the winner. This proved, as I have written, that the stock market’s performance has very little to do with Trump. This had to sting.

The truth is that the market was probably not cheering a Biden win as much as the prospect that if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, a rise in corporate taxes is unlikely. Never mind that the budget deficit and national debt are two other viruses spiralling out of control.

Worse yet, the election was not a swamping ‘blue wave’ that gave Democrats victories down-ballot. Rather, Republicans gained seats in the House and retained control of state governorships and legislatures.

As the so-called Leader of the Republican Party lost, the party won without him. Here was another slap in the face.

Then there was the matter of the vaccine. Pfizer announced, after the election, that its vaccine had proven 90% effective. Pfizer claims not to have taken any money from the government so as to maintain its independence. But it obviously stung Trump that this development was not announced before the election.

Parenthetically, I note that Pfizer’s CEO sold $5.6 million worth of stock in the company on the day of the announcement. If Pfizer’s announcement was hubris, its CEO made hay. Trump was left with the hash he has made.

As we can see, Trump has all but given up governing. He sulked for days on end, played golf, and tweeted about a rigged election. He has seemingly come around by issuing an executive order preventing American investments in certain Chinese companies and crowing about Project Warp Speed and its rapid development of several potential vaccines.

The final blow comes from the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) Executive Committee and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history…. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too…. ”

Here too, Trump is caught between his hubris and a comeuppance. While trying to take credit for the conduct of the election, he nevertheless tweeted that the Democrats had somehow stolen or rigged this most secure of all elections.

Three days ago, I predicted that Trump would concede within ten days. At today’s (Friday 13 Nov) news conference, he made a slip of the tongue indicating that he knows the jig is up. Seven days to go.

Now, it’s time for Trump to dance the jig as he comes to swallow the rebuke. It is difficult to imagine that a President could be so incompetent as to lose an election with the stock market soaring and the economy generally in great condition except for sectors that fell apart due to no fault of his. But he took on the mantle of the used-car salesman. And Americans did not want to go along for the ride.

As for that barn, the horse had bolted long before he thought to close the door.


* Published in print edition on 17 November 2020

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