Why Is the President Fighting for a Job He’s Not Doing?
Since November 3rd, Donald Trump has spent the majority of his time categorically denying his loss in the presidential election, despite the Electoral College, the Supreme Court, and several million Americans all voting against him. But as the coronavirus pandemic gets worse and worse and a new virus pops up in the United Kingdom, Trump fails to do the one thing he’s tasked with for the next thirty or so days: be the president.
Although the number of tweets coming from the president’s account has almost certainly increased, he hasn’t been seen in public for a while, meaning he hasn’t yet acknowledged the Russian attack on American servers or any of the risks it poses to national security. And while the vaccine starts to go out across the country, we’re still in a state of crisis: hospitals in Southern California have reached maximum ICU capacity and are only getting worse.
Furthermore, under the threat of a government shutdown, averted thanks to a last-minute deal on Capitol Hill, Trump hasn’t lived up to his dealmaker title. Instead, his lack of leadership during this lame duck period amounts simply to one thing: Trump being a sore loser.
Mitt Romney, a severe Republican critic of the president, has noticed and commented on the absence of the White House:
“And in this setting, not to have the White House aggressively speaking out and protesting and taking punitive action is really, really quite extraordinary” — Mitt Romney
And despite the coming of what could be one of the last victories of his presidency, this vaccine rollout, Trump and his absence have led many to question this: why does he even want to be president?
I’d say the first part of the answer is the power that comes with the title. Obviously, although he hasn’t exactly gotten the plurality of support of Americans throughout his term in office, he does have the ability to say that he won a presidential election. Rather than executing a large portion of his campaign promises, though, he’s used that power to target his domestic opponents.
Because Mitch McConnell, who initially refused to declare Biden the winner of the election, has recently come out in support of the transition to the new administration, Trump has threatened to veto a massive upcoming defense spending bill, against the advice of his aides.
It’s just one example this week of his insistence against what he sees as lack of loyalty within the Republican party; in other words, the presidency makes it easy for him to act on his grudges.
The second part would probably be the protection the office of the presidency offers him. As Mary Trump, author of a fiery book against the president, puts it:
“[Trump]’s never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can’t escape from” — Mary Trump
As Trump sees the writing on the wall, his election loss becomes clearer and clearer. And this time, he won’t be able to wiggle his way out of the natural, albeit chaotic, transition of power because of simple constitutional law. Come January 20th, the protection of the White House will no longer be there for him; that’s his concern.
Finally, it’s because of the attention being the president gets him. While he certainly isn’t executing the law through this pandemic, his insistence of America’s “rounding the corner” hasn’t been a reality for months. But he portrays it as though it has.
His false accusations of election fraud, his pandemic misinformation, and his public absence all outline a simple fact: Donald Trump is trying to build on a legacy that he’s already ruined.
When Donald Trump ran for the presidency, he said the following:
“I realized that America doesn’t need more ‘all-talk, no-action’ politicians running things. It needs smart businesspeople who understand how to manage” — Donald Trump
But he has become one of those “all-talk, no-action” politicians; while his policy agenda can certainly be challenged on many levels, these last couple weeks provide him with the opportunity to cement the accomplishments of his presidential term.
While states are amidst confusion about the coronavirus vaccine, it’s the president’s duty to step in and take charge. But is he doing it? No.
While Russia openly hacks United States servers, a possible breach of American national security, it’s the president’s duty to step in and take charge. But is he doing it? No.
While Congress aims to pass its next defense spending bill with bipartisan efforts, it’s the president’s duty to step in and take charge. But is he doing it? No.
Competence and the willingness to succeed on a basic level are two of the hallmark features of a successful president; while this president’s time in office is almost over, I think it’s important to remember that he lacks both. Because of the privilege he has as a result of the office he holds, his character hasn’t changed since the beginning of his term: while the country descends into crisis around him, he’s focused on overturning an election he lost by historic margins.
And it is this feature of ineptitude that I believe will end up as what people remember his presidency as: a time of chaos and insufficiency.