Within the now-distant Republican presidential primaries of 2016, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas handily gained the Iowa caucuses. This was decided by a way that has these days come below assault however on the time was thought-about commonplace: elementary math.
One of many losers in Iowa, the developer and tv character Donald J. Trump, quickly accused Mr. Cruz of electoral theft. He fired off a number of inflammatory tweets, together with this foreshadowing of our present democracy-testing second: “Based mostly on the fraud dedicated by Senator Ted Cruz throughout the Iowa Caucus, both a brand new election ought to happen or Cruz outcomes nullified.”
The episode vanished within the tsunami of political vitriol to return throughout the Trump presidency. Nonetheless, it displays what those that have labored with Mr. Trump say is his modus operandi when making an attempt to slide the humiliating epithet he has so readily utilized to others.
“The very first thing he calls somebody who has wronged him is a loser,” mentioned Jack O’Donnell, who ran an Atlantic Metropolis on line casino for Mr. Trump within the Nineteen Eighties. “That’s his most important assault phrase. The worst factor in his world could be to be a loser. To keep away from being known as a loser, he’ll do or say something.”
Throughout his lengthy profession, he has spun, cajoled and attacked — within the press, in lawsuits and these days, after all, on Twitter — each time confronted with showing as something lower than the superlative of the second: the best, the neatest, the healthiest, the most effective. This has at instances required audacious makes an attempt to twist a unfavorable right into a constructive, typically by saying one thing again and again till it both displaces the reality or exhausts the viewers into give up.
It’s a matter of document that Mr. Trump has been a loser in lots of enterprise ventures (Trump Steaks, anybody?). Actually, his best success flowed not from actual property however from the creation of a well-liked alternate-reality tv persona — Donald Trump, grasp of the boardroom — that he in the end rode to the White Home.
However his well-known aversion to the label of loser has now reached its apotheosis.
Since Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election — and Mr. Trump due to this fact declared the loser — the president has repeatedly trafficked in baseless allegations of a fraudulent and corrupt electoral course of. What was as soon as thought-about the quirky trait of a self-involved New York developer has grow to be a world embarrassment, almost upending the sacred transition of energy and leaving the world’s main democracy — grappling with a lethal pandemic and a teetering financial system — with a frontrunner who refuses to concede regardless of the fundamental math.
“AND I WON THE ELECTION,” Mr. Trump tweeted final week. “VOTER FRAUD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.”
On Monday, the Trump administration lastly approved a weeks-delayed transition course of after Michigan licensed Mr. Biden as its winner. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump continued to press quixotic lawsuits and tweet of fraud and defiant resolve.
“Our case STRONGLY continues, we’ll sustain the great struggle.”
“This was a LANDSLIDE!”
And for Thanksgiving: “Simply noticed the vote tabulations. There may be NO WAY Biden obtained 80,000,000 votes!!! This was a 100% RIGGED ELECTION.”
The president’s tweets have succeeded in sowing doubt concerning the foundational underpinnings of the republic amongst his many tens of millions of followers. In a current Reuters/lpsos ballot, about half the Republicans questioned believed that Mr. Trump had “rightfully gained” re-election, and 68 p.c expressed concern that the election was “rigged.”
Such habits by the president displays a binary-code lifestyle that spares no room for nuance or complication. If an individual isn’t a one, then that particular person is a zero.
“You’re both a winner or a loser,” Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, mentioned in an interview final week. “Actuality is secondary. It’s all about notion.”
Mr. Cohen, who was convicted in 2018 of tax evasion and marketing campaign finance violations and who has since grow to be a vocal critic of the president, supplied a number of examples in his current e book, “Disloyal: A Memoir.”
Mr. Cohen recounted how, in 2014, CNBC was getting ready a ballot of the 25 most influential individuals on the earth. Mr. Trump, who initially ranked 187th out of 200, ordered Mr. Cohen to enhance his standing.
“Simply be sure that I make it to the highest 10,” Mr. Trump mentioned, based on Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen employed somebody to evaluate the choices. After that particular person decided that the ballot may very well be manipulated, $15,000 was spent to purchase discreet I.P. addresses by means of which votes for Mr. Trump may very well be forged. The scheme labored, with Mr. Trump elevated to ninth place when all of the votes had been counted.
“Earlier than lengthy, Trump believed he actually was rated within the high 10 and was thought to be a profoundly necessary enterprise determine,” Mr. Cohen wrote.
However CNBC eliminated Mr. Trump from the record with out providing an evidence. The infuriated future president ordered Mr. Cohen to get the community to alter course. This failed. He then ordered him to plant a narrative within the media about “the horrible remedy Trump had obtained by the hands of CNBC.” This additionally failed.
Nonetheless, Mr. Trump managed to take advantage of the pretend rating earlier than he was dropped from the record. “He had lots of of copies made, and he added the ballot to the pile of newspaper clippings and journal profiles of himself that he would give to guests,” Mr. Cohen wrote.
This concern of being seen as in some way lower than the easiest is a recurring theme within the mountains of books and articles written about Mr. Trump. Many observers of Trump household historical past have mirrored on the affect of the patriarch, the developer Fred C. Trump, who had his personal model of the binary taxonomy of humanity: the sturdy and the weak.
Mr. Trump flicked at this in his e book “Trump: The Artwork of the Deal,” during which he recalled gluing collectively the blocks of his youthful brother, Robert, successfully guaranteeing that he wouldn’t be outdone in any competitors involving — blocks.
“That was the top of Robert’s blocks,” he wrote.
A grown-up iteration of that episode got here at a seminal second within the man’s profession: the opening of his Taj Mahal on line casino in Atlantic Metropolis in 1990.
In accordance with Mr. O’Donnell, who was deeply concerned within the enterprise, Mr. Trump pushed to have the on line casino open prematurely as a result of he feared the disgrace a delay would deliver after promising the world a glitzy, celebrity-packed opening.
The on line casino wasn’t prepared; amongst different points, solely 1 / 4 of the slot machines had been open, leaving the cavernous house quiet and empty. “It was simply horrible,” recalled Mr. O’Donnell, who wrote a e book about his experiences with the long run president. “It didn’t appear like a traditional on line casino.”
Privately, Mr. Trump was livid, and blamed his brother Robert for among the issues. (The youthful Trump give up and didn’t converse to his brother for years.) Publicly, although, Mr. Trump boasted of the surprise that was the Taj Mahal.
Showing on CNN’s “Larry King Stay” in April 1990, Mr. Trump mentioned the one drawback with the Taj Mahal’s opening day was an excessive amount of success. Gamblers had been enjoying the slots with such ferocity that the machines virtually burst into flames.
“We had machines that — they had been just about on fireplace,” Mr. Trump mentioned. “No one’s ever seen something like this.”
The Taj Mahal filed for chapter the next yr, which left Mr. Trump’s many lenders and bondholders within the lurch.
Mr. Trump expounded on his worldview in a 2014 interview with the creator Michael D’Antonio. “You might be robust and ruthless and all that stuff, and in case you lose so much, no one’s going to comply with you, since you’re checked out as a loser,” he mentioned. “Successful is a vital factor. A very powerful facet of management is successful. When you have a document of successful, individuals are going to comply with you.”
Mr. Trump has typically used the courts to attempt to crush anybody who may forged doubt on his Olympian standing in wealth and success. A standout on this class is the $5 billion lawsuit he filed towards the journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, whose 2005 e book, “TrumpNation: The Artwork of Being the Donald,” argued that Mr. Trump ‘s internet price was not more than $250 million — that he was not, in different phrases, a billionaire.
Mr. O’Brien reported that Mr. Trump attributed the chasmic discrepancy to envy. “You possibly can go forward and converse to guys who’ve 400 pound wives at dwelling,” Mr. Trump mentioned, “however the guys who actually know me know I’m an amazing builder.”
The lawsuit was dismissed.
After all, Mr. Trump’s have to be seen as a winner has knowledgeable his presidency. The self-declared superlatives cowl all bases, from being the “neatest thing that ever occurred to Puerto Rico” to doing probably the most for Black Individuals (with the “attainable exception” of Abraham Lincoln). In anticipation of his eventual impeachment this yr, Mr. Trump referred to himself as “our best of all presidents.”
Maybe probably the most well-known second during which this want bled into public coverage got here in late 2018, when Mr. Trump used an approaching authorities shutdown to demand funding for considered one of his central fixations: a wall alongside the Mexican border.
After Mr. Trump inspired his fellow Republicans in Congress to achieve a compromise, Senator Mitch McConnell, the bulk chief, labored out a deal to keep away from a shutdown and briefly put aside negotiations over safety measures, together with a border wall.
It appeared that Mr. Trump would signal the deal — that’s, till conservative pundits accused the president of caving to Democrats, of breaking his “Construct the Wall” promise, of successfully being a loser.
The president reversed course, and so started the longest federal authorities shutdown within the nation’s historical past — at an estimated price to the financial system of $11 billion, based on the nonpartisan Congressional Funds Workplace.
After Mr. Trump was sworn in because the forty fifth president of the USA in January 2017, his administration asserted that the inauguration’s viewers was the biggest ever, regardless of all proof on the contrary. However any suggestion in any other case would have rendered Mr. Trump a loser in some imagined contest about inaugural crowd sizes.
Now, almost 4 years later, the residents have forged their ballots, baseless lawsuits alleging electoral fraud have been dismissed and states have licensed the vote. Nonetheless, the loser of the 2020 presidential election continues to see crowds that the remainder of the nation doesn’t.
It ends because it started.
Reporting was contributed by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire.