Trump’s refusal to accept the end of his presidency was predicted by Mitch Benn in 2017… because he had seen it foretold in Game of Thrones.
Here’s the thing: I’m not an expert. On anything. I know a fair bit about a fair few things, but the capacity to store and retrieve biggish reserves of largely trivial information does not ‘expertise’ make. I have a few marketable skills; I’m pretty good at writing songs, funny and otherwise, I’m not bad on the guitar and I have a peculiar gift for accents, but the point is I’m not exactly an authority on anything. I’m just a guy with a decent turn of phrase and a sense of humour who’s been lucky enough to bag a newspaper column in which to vent his varyingly well-researched opinions (mind you, 20 years ago so was Boris Johnson and look what happened there).
And yet I, a humble troubadour and poker of fun, managed to predict that Donald Trump would never accept losing this last presidential election all the way back in February 2017, just a month after he took office. Because it was already self-evident.
It was in this very newspaper; some of you may even recall the piece in question because as is often the case with my ‘bits’ I’d based it around a rather tenuous pop culture analogy. I was referring to the episode of Game of Thrones in which wily Queen Cersei, due to stand trial in the Cathedral, instead blows the Cathedral up with all her gloating enemies waiting inside it. The moment which struck me as particularly germane was the line delivered by Cersei’s rival Queen Margaery; realising too late that something is very wrong, she points out that Cersei knows the dire consequences of not turning up to the trial, and yet hasn’t turned up anyway, and that as such “she has no intention of suffering those consequences”. Boom.
The point I was making was that president Trump, having never enjoyed a majority of support in the US (he lost the popular vote in 2016 by three million votes) began his term by announcing a raft of controversial policies which drove his approval figures down to about 40%: I mused that, like Queen Cersei, if a politician insists on outraging the majority it’s because they’ve decided that they don’t fear the judgment of the majority. Even then, just four weeks after his inauguration, it was obvious that Trump would never accept the outcome of an election that didn’t go his way. (He’d even said as much during the 2016 campaign.)
So if this was obvious to me – the funny song guy – four years ago, why have I spent the last week reading how nobody could have predicted that Trump’s first term would end in revolt and bloodshed? Plenty of us predicted exactly that. We may not have foreseen the precise circumstances – Trump dispatching a lynch mob to storm the Capitol – but we’d always known something like this would happen.
What I didn’t see coming – and perhaps should have – was Trump’s chosen method of self-preservation: the construction of a North Korea-style personality cult around himself. I guess this is where human subjectivity kicks in; to me it’s unfathomable that anyone could find Trump anything other than emetically repellent on every conceivable level (I can’t even listen to people doing impressions of him anymore) but it’s obviously the case that lots of people find him – much as he finds himself – magnetically charismatic. His supporters now cleave to him as an exercise of faith rather than as a result of any sort of practical analysis; after all, he’s done precious little to actually benefit them.
There’s no doubt that most if not all of those who charged the Capitol sincerely believed – on no evidence other than Trump’s say so – that some sort of chicanery was taking place in there, that a coup was under way – little realising that they were the coup.
However things play out in the next week or so it’s this – the establishment of the Church of Trump – which gives the most cause for concern about America’s future (and by extension, the future of the world). Trump got 70 million votes, it’s true, but this doesn’t mean he has 70 million glassy-eyed acolytes – as we know, many people vote numbly and loyally for whichever party they’ve always voted for, irrespective of what that party’s actually doing at the time. But there is now a worryingly large contingent on the American right whose decision-making processes are now utterly unmoored from reality. I’m not sure what the Democrats – or, indeed, the Republicans – can do about this.
All the more reason for the new administration, once installed, to prosecute the newly-vulnerable Trump and his co-conspirators for inciting this revolt and every other crime they can build a case for. Even if there’s no way of breaking Trump’s Mansonesque hold over his followers, they can at least ensure he’s no longer in a position to exploit it.