Trump is a loser. Here's why it matters

One key thing a 'strict father' authoritarian simply cannot be

Trump is a loser. Here's why it matters
Photo by Liam Nguyen on Unsplash

Donald Trump’s world is made up of two kinds of people: Winners and Losers.

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“Donald Trump has made clear time and time again that, in his view, the worst thing that can happen to a person is to be judged a ‘loser,’” wrote Peter Wehner of The Atlantic in February.

Trump, of course, depicts himself as a winner – someone who is always right, always strong and always victorious. In contrast, he views “losers” as those who are weak, unsuccessful – or who make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

For example, Trump has regularly described American soldiers as “losers.” In 2018, he reportedly canceled a trip to visit the graves of Americans who died fighting against Hitler’s Germany in World War Two because he considered the dead soldiers to be “losers” and “suckers.” (And because he didn’t want to get his hair wet!)

“In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,’” according to a story in The Atlantic. “In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.”

Trump also infamously called Sen. John McCain a “loser” because McCain’s plane was shot down over Hanoi and captured by the North Vietnamese in 1967. He remained a prisoner of war until 1973 and sustained wounds that left him with lifelong physical disabilities. Trump, on the other hand, avoided the Vietnam War by claiming to have bone spurs.

Yet Trump had the gall to call McCain a “loser” for what he suffered during his service in Vietnam.

I like people who weren’t captured,” said Trump.

In contrast, Trump saw himself as a winner because he avoided the draft by getting a doctor to diagnose him as having bone spurs that made him unfit for the military.

In reality, of course, Trump is a big loser. He’s a serially bankrupt businessman who lost the popular vote twice. In 2020, he lost the presidential election to Joe Biden. Trump then fomented the January 6 insurrection, a violent but failed coup attempt that tried to make Loser Trump into a winner by force.

Adding to Trump’s woeful litany of failures: His business dealings are under investigation. His former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is set to go to trial on tax fraud charges. Trump himself could possibly face charges for his role in the insurrection and related schemes to overturn the election through fraudulent schemes.

All of this has definitively established Trump as a loser. This is fatal to his brand because Trump sold himself to his followers as a winner – even saying that his supporters would "get tired of winning" because was such a winner.

Yet Trump lost to Joe Biden, a leader he regularly derides as weak. What does it say about Trump that he would lose to Biden? Trump would have to be weaker than Biden for this to happen. Once again, by his own definition, Trump is undeniably a loser.

Being seen as a loser is what Trump fears this most. The “loser” label undermines his status as an authoritarian figure, making it impossible to uphold his image as a “strict father” conservative. A strict father must be a strong winner, not a whiny loser who gets defeated by politicians he publicly disregards as weak.

This helps explain why he is so focused on lying about the 2020 election. For Trump to be seen as a strong leader and a winner, his followers must believe his fictional story about the 2020 election. They must believe that the election was stolen from Trump, and that Trump actually won big but has been cheated out of victory. This fairy tale shields his ego and image, and it keeps the support of his most fervent supporters. As long as they see Trump as an unfairly disenfranchised winner, he retains his power over them.

But, sensing Trump’s inherent weakness, some members of the Republican establishment have begun trying to distance themselves from Trump the loser. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post have attacked him as unfit for office. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox channel, which helped to propel Trump to power, is now giving him the cold shoulder.

Republicans like Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis, former Trump acolytes, have begun to build the case for their own candidacies. (Yet, as authoritarians, they will fall back in line with Trump if he manages to seize power again.) But their current efforts to move the Republican Party beyond Trump demonstrates the degree to which his status as a loser has damaged him and made him vulnerable to challenge.

But let’s be clear: This big loser remains a danger to the nation. His failed insurrection demonstrated the fact that he is willing to engage in a violent overthrow of democracy in order to maintain power. If he manages to retain control of the GOP, and if he somehow returns to power, there is no limit to the amount of illegality and damage he will be willing to do to avenge his humiliation and prove himself a "winner."

He would be aided and abetted by a Republican Party that will do anything to impose its minority beliefs on the majority of Americans – even if it means pretending that a loser is a winner.

Further Readings:

Can Ron DeSantis displace Donald Trump?” Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker

Once home to Trump, Fox now ignores him,” Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

Trump is obsessed with being a loser,” Peter Wehner, The Atlantic

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