The most benign explanation of Trump’s refusal to concede is that he is engaged in the predictable hissy fit of a cartoonishly extreme narcissist who simply cannot acknowledge that he is a loser.  Republican leaders are going along: better to humor the cult leader than to incur his wrath.

The darker explanation is that Trump is actually trying to overturn the results of the election by whatever dubious extra- or quasi-legal means that he can find. Republicans, more committed to holding power than to preserving democracy, are happy to go along.

Somewhere in between is the idea that Trump and his minions know that they have no real chance of negating the election result, but are laying the basis for their future strategy: the delegitimization of the Biden administration.  The “Stolen Election of 2020” is to be the theme for the next four years, employed to keep the base fired up and maintain Trump’s hold on the GOP.

A variant of all three explanations is that Trump, unbalanced as he is, actually believes his fraudulent claims of voter fraud. But what does it matter? At this point the inner workings of Trump’s disordered mind are less interesting to me than are their destructive consequences.

We are indeed watching a narcissist’s hissy fit, but it’s more sinister than that.  I think the truth lies somewhere between the middling and the dark explanations. Trump no doubt would be happy to become America’s first successful coup leader, and much if not most of his party would willingly be complicit. So, why not give it a shot?  But they know that they’re probably not going to be successful. So, think of the current Trumpist outrages as the first post-election campaign in what will be an all-out, unceasing war against the interlopers who had the temerity to win in November 2020.

Joe Biden’s continuing theme has been his desire to bring the country together, to overcome the rancor and divisiveness that have plagued our politics. Let’s hope that he understands that the other side is not the least bit interested.




  1. John Duggan November 19, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Will Trump’s Attempted Electoral Coup Succeed?

    By Marjorie Cohn

    [Marjorie Cohn, Emerita Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California.]

    18 November 2020

  2. Jeff Tannenbaum November 19, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    There are worrisome developments, such as Michigan GOP legislative leaders’ accepting an invitation to the White House, suggesting that Trump may be trying to get states to ignore the popular vote against him and appoint Trump electors. States have laws saying legislatures must honor the popular vote in assigning electors, but apparently the Bush v. Gore case in the Supreme Court gave Republicans reason to believe that legislatures can skirt the laws. All of this sounds more like 1930s Germany than present-day America, but the very idea that such things are being discussed here shows that our democracy may indeed be endangered.

  3. Paul Villano November 20, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Doubt he can pull off a military coup but his first wife tells a story that gives you an insight to his personality. She was winning against him in a round of golf when he threw down his clubs and stormed off the course because he could not take loosing to her.
    There will be no transition and on his last day he will storm out of the White House and hop on the helicopter and disappear.

  4. Jeffrey Herrmann November 21, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Fortunately, the Repugnican leaders of the Michigan legislature threw cold water on tRump’s dream of enlisting them in his attempted putsch.
    We can count on Ghouliani, Sidney Powell, Don. Jr. and Lou Dobbs to keep fanning tRump’s delusions that he won. But gradually people are starting to act as though there is no doubt that Biden will be inaugurated, and overcoming that attitude shift is beyond Hair Twittler’s capabilities.

  5. Donald Campbell November 23, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Another factor may also Trump fearing post election lawsuits may be trying to give him-self some leverage so he can seek a pardon with regard to any federal charges.

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