With Trump, it's generally wise to assume the basest motives. Maybe he is actually trying to bully Republicans into nullifying the election and helping him stage what would amount to an authoritarian coup d'etat. Maybe he is spitefully trying to make life as difficult as possible for the new administration by delegitimizing Biden's victory in the eyes of many voters. Maybe he is reinforcing his cult-leader control over his followers in what amounts to a massive act of hostage-taking, hoping to use them as human shields against potential criminal investigations or prosecutions — or as sources of ongoing profit.
But perhaps, on some level, Trump simply cannot accept that in an election that saw Republicans do well overall — gaining seats in the House, retaining control of statehouses, winning Senate seats that polls indicated they would almost surely lose — the man at the top of the ticket got creamed by more than 6 million votes.
"So I led this great charge, and I'm the only one that lost?" Trump tweeted Sunday. "No, it doesn't work that way. This was a massive fraud, a RIGGED ELECTION!"
But yes, it does work that way. And no, of course the election wasn't rigged. What happened was that voters turned out in record numbers for the specific purpose of kicking Trump out of the White House. It was a massive act of rejection, a clear message sent by more than 80 million of Trump's fellow citizens: Go away.
Therein lies the danger inherent in an egocentric worldview in which absolutely everything is about oneself. Trump's conception of politics is clientelist, almost feudal: He sees himself as the boss and sees all those for whom he has done favors as his vassals. He seems unable to comprehend why they would do anything except his bidding — or why anyone might feel like the things he's done are no favors at all.
Hence his bitter attacks against Georgia's governor and secretary of state, Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger. Both are Republicans who have been avid Trump supporters.
Both have participated in the grand GOP strategy of disenfranchising as many Democratic voters as possible, Kemp by purging voter roles when he had Raffensperger's job and Raffensperger by declining to provide voting stations in Black neighborhoods.
But in the end — pending an ongoing second recount, which will not change the result — Biden won the state by 12,670 votes. Kemp and Raffensperger were duty bound to recognize that outcome, and Kemp has certified the 16 Biden electors who will cast the state's votes when the electoral college meets Dec. 14.
On Thanksgiving night, speaking to reporters, Trump bizarrely called Raffensperger "an enemy of the people" and accused him — falsely — of being part of some conspiracy to "harvest" votes for Democrats. Raffensperger, who has received death threats from Trump supporters for doing his job, responded in remarks published Sunday that "when you lose an election, you should leave quietly."
Trump's exit, obviously, is anything but quiet. The question is how much of the scenery he will chew as he struts and frets his way from center stage to the wings where he belongs.
The weeks until Inauguration Day will be dangerous for our democracy, and there's nothing we can do about that fact. It would be reasonable to expect even the most disgruntled loser to accept reality after the electoral college makes it official, but why should anyone expect Trump to suddenly listen to reason? He will of course vacate the White House; he could never abide the indignity of being forcibly escorted from the grounds. But if he truly sees the world as divided between "killers" and "losers," he will likely continue to loudly maintain that he "won" an election he clearly lost.
The GOP officials who enabled and abetted Trump will ultimately have to ask what they're willing to put up with if they can't bring themselves to marginalize him. Do they want him controlling the party for another four years? Do they want him keeping potential 2024 presidential contenders from gaining any traction? Most urgently, do they want him discouraging Georgia Republicans from voting in the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate?
That's the problem with indulging an ego monster. You might get eaten.