As I watch our battered but still breathing democracy limp on toward the finale of the Trump show, amidst a raging pandemic, economic collapse, and this wounded president’s last desperate attempts to cling to power at any cost, I noticed the first stirrings of a peculiar anxiety that I suspect is not mine alone. As someone that has experienced the last five years as one unending slog through the mind of a disturbed narcissist, observing the comings and goings of Trump’s paranoid and volatile psyche reflected in the chaotic dysfunction in our federal government and as a fracturing in our culture, I realized I’ve been both horrified and utterly captivated. I wonder who or what will take up the space in my head where he’s lived for so long, and how will I let him go?
Every moment has been spent suspending disbelief one more time, watching as the President of the United States does one more previously unthinkable thing, as we all gasp and wait for the next tawdry act. His behavior has for so long made him such a cinematically outsized figure in our collective consciousness, as in my own mind, that it seems implausible, even impossible that he might ever actually go away for good.
As Trump’s domination of our body politic progressed through the sheer force of his narcissism and its unquenchable thirst for spectacle, we watched the endless loop of his cruel incompetence splayed out across the media landscape as his answer for governance. But as he claws at power while the nation nervously watches, waiting for inauguration day from the blade of the knife he’s set us all on, it’s important to remember a few key things. We must remember that he lost this election, that his waning power will continue to diminish day after day as he spends his substantial but finite political capital on a quixotic effort to overturn the results of a free and fair American election in which he was convincingly bested by old, reliable “Sleepy Joe Biden” to the tune of six million votes and a lopsided score in the electoral college . His is a leaky ship, and as more Republican senators and governors are forced to carefully thread the needle between angering his potent base of supporters and acknowledging the reality of our democratic process, his political project will sink further underwater.
No doubt, he will succeed in further poisoning elements of our political discourse with his fantastical gesticulations of fraud and election malfeasance, primarily within the Alice In Wonderland of conspiratorial echo chambers that make up much of the right-wing media universe. But there is a limit to what will be widely believed, and his theories are stretching to the breaking point. His lawyer’s arguments that Hugo Chavez directed Trump’s defeat from the grave, among other wild and wooly tales, certainly aren’t helping his cause. Even Tucker Carlson, reliable apologist and defender of the President, has expressed incredulity. That’s a bad sign for Trump, and a good sign for those of us wondering if we can ever get him out of our heads, while keeping our heads intact.
Although we may not escape him completely and not all at once, sooner rather than later he won’t be president, and that will make all the difference as to how much space we allow him to rent in our brains. It might just surprise us how quickly he reverts back to being the petty political instigator, merely yipping and yapping rage-tweets from the sand trap at one or another of his golf courses. After all, he’s made abundantly clear his total disdain for everything the job of president entails, with the exception of the trappings of pomp and power. I suspect he will be far happier sniping from the sidelines, unsaddled with the massive responsibilities the office requires. I’m sure he’ll find ways to stay relevant in the political conversation, though. Perhaps, he will stake his next big political comeback on proving to the world that Joe Biden was also born in Kenya.