Giovannino Guareschi, the wry Italian writer who created the Don Camillo series, lived by a personal credo under Nazi persecution – I will not die even if they kill me, he said. Donald Trump seems to be following a similar line – I will not lose even if I am defeated.
Clearly he does not want to read the writing on the wall. First, it is well known that he does not like to read and secondly, he does not like walls: they remind him either of China, or of the “big, beautiful Wall” he promised to build to keep out Mexicans or the Blue Wall that Joe Biden has resurrected across Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
To be fair, we were warned that the moment Trump started losing there would be a tweet storm alleging “electoral fraud.” Legal challenges, demands for recounts and even white supremacist violence have been clear possibilities. Even the appointment to the Supreme Court, with an eye on such a scenario, was done in unholy, unmasked haste.
The simple truth is that Donald Trump does not like losers and losing. And he has no qualms about how he wins.
Playing by the rules is a game for aliens as far as he is concerned. He brought the ethics of a New York property tycoon to the White House, which means he travelled light. So the time that he should be spending thinking of his concession speech he is no doubt holed up in front of multiple TV screens, armed with sufficient junk food, trying every trick that can delay the moment of departure. Concession speeches are for losers; tradition, grace and dignity are foreign bodies. Instead there is periodic lashing out at election officials, media houses, and all those who will not get out there and support him.
If CNN reporters are to be believed, the West wing – where the Presidential advisors work – is in a frenzy. But they are not preparing handing over notes; they are busy coming to terms with the reality of defeat, a possibility that had been ruled out in the alternative universe that Trump had conjured up. Now they are all faced with the prospect of leaving that desk, pack up the picture of the wife and kids and the coffee mug presented to “my favourite dad” and hoof it out of the hallowed estate handing over keys, security badges, laptops. And where does anybody find a job in January with a pandemic ravaged economy and a Trump soiled CV. Depressing.
While a lot of black coffee must be flowing in the West Wing, there is nobody who can ask the President to smell it. The adults were already kicked out of this Administration years ago. There appears nobody to go up to him, look him in the eye and say “Boss, it’s over. It was nice while it lasted but it is over. Let’s do it nice and gracefully now. Good statement like concession speech, thanks to the campaign and so on.” Vice President Pence could do it but according to CNN he is busy making calls for donations to the legal fund for launching challenges. Jared and Ivanka could do it but they are fighting battles over billboards against them in New York. Senior Republican senators and Congressmen like Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy could to it but they are still living in Trumpland and encouraging the idea of ‘electoral fraud.’ Trump could be reminded that even if he is not in the White House, the Republican party is still with him: they will likely hold the Senate and prevent further loss in the House. But Trump has not really gathered a reputation for being a patient listener of honest advice and nobody is bothering to give it.
The undeniable fact is that the job of POTUS comes with a nice house. One can get used to the chopper on the South Lawn, the press gathering in the Rose Garden, the receptions in the Yellow Room, the dinners in the Blue Room. The security, the salutes and the sucking up is addictive. Some like it more than others; the property tycoon in Trump probably loves it. No Trump Hotel with its gold lacquered lobby and festooning chandeliers can match it. The proximity of the Lincoln bedroom, the commanding view of the Mall, the two centuries and more of history add a respectability to moneybags. It’s the same reason why rich businessmen hanker after a Honorary Consul tag.
But time is relentless. It runs out on everyone. When it’s time to go then that moment of departure brings out the character, the upbringing and the values in a man.
As Shakespeare says in Macbeth of a nobleman who is executed for treason: “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”
But something tells me that Donald Trump will not go gently into the night.
(Navtej Sarna is former Indian Ambassador to the United States. The opinions expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)