Remember when Donald Trump declared in his 2016 Presidential campaign that “We’re going to win so much that you’re going to be sick and tired” of winning? Sadly, his prediction has come true, but at the expense of American democracy.
In his monomaniacal desire to win in his own mind and for his own profit, he has indeed sickened our nation by attacking our institutions, corrupting our government, and bankrupting our values.
Nothing illustrates Trump’s obsession with winning more than his refusal to accept his 2020 presidential loss. Despite losing both the popular and electoral votes, he declared “we did win this election,” and he called the legitimate vote “a fraud on the American public.” Then he conspired with his inner circle to send fake slates of electors to Washington, and he personally pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes for him.
His obsession with winning crystallized on January 6 when he provoked a mob of manipulated, misled, and misinformed citizens that believed they were patriots rather than seditionists to attack the Capitol, not to support our constitutional government but to provide cover for an army of white supremacists, political gangsters, and traitors attempting a political coup.
If nothing else, his role in the insurrection clearly demonstrates Trump’s contempt for our democracy. It’s clear that America represents to him a personally controlled business designed to attract investors and consumers for the sole purpose of maximizing profits and power for its most privileged shareholders: his family, business associates, and political cronies. He is nothing more than a gangster dressed in political clothing consumed with protecting a fragile ego dependent upon a show of wealth, status, and power.
Tellingly, his desire to “win” — indifferent to America’s ideals, values, and institutions — echoes a passage from perhaps the most quintessential novel about the death of the American Dream, The Great Gatsby. Upon learning that a gangster fixed the 1919 World Series, the narrator remarks, “It never occurred to me that a single man could play with the faith of 50 million people with the single mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.” In Trump’s fraudulent claim of “winning” the election, he has done nothing less than played with the faith of many more millions of American voters without compunction.
Cynically, Trump’s idea of “winning” means preying upon the dreams, aspirations, and desires of middle- and lower-class Americans as he picks their pockets and gathers their votes for his own interests. As he took credit for Wall Street’s booming stock market, his Main Street supporters had nothing to invest. As he stoked the economy by cutting regulations designed to protect American consumers, their needs were ignored in favor of corporate profits. As he unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, he made it cheaper and more profitable for American industries to burn fossil fuels that change the climate and threaten lives.
But perhaps most harmful, his “America First” credo has trickled down to the masses to mean “Me First.” In other words, Trump’s idea of “winning” has been adopted by many of his supporters that believe America is nothing more than a business dedicated to providing wealth to its more entitled citizens, period.
As long as the economy is robust, many Americans no longer care whether the government pursues equality and justice for all of its citizens; or whether industries pollute the air, water and earth; or whether the nation welcomes “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”; or, for that matter, whether the former President of the United States has attempted to illegitimately seize power and to destroy democracy. In other words, Trump’s idea of winning attempts to overturn the noble principles upon which the nation was founded by appealing to our more selfish instincts.
A recent New York Times/Siena College survey, for instance, suggests many citizens have swallowed Trump’s poisonous “Big Lie” and shallow values like so much sweet dessert. One interviewee, Marie Boyce, a New York Republican, said, “Trump did a hell of a job on the economy. There isn’t anything wrong I could say about him.”
Paula Hudnall, a 51-year-old nurse in Charleston, W.Va., said she didn’t blame Trump for the violence at the Capitol and Trump already had her vote again for 2024.
David Beard, a 69-year-old retiree in Liberal, Mo., said that Democrats’ efforts to hold Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 attack had been “a pointless distraction,” and that he plans to vote for Trump in 2024, betting that was the best chance to improve the economy.
Indeed, many Republican politicians are running for election on Trump’s corrupt coattails and by pandering to voters more selfish instincts.
And if enough politicians and voters willfully turn a blind eye to blatant corruption; if they’ve grown indifferent to evidence, fact, and reason; and if citizens vote only with their pocketbooks despite the democratic consequences; then we have truly become a nation sick from “winning.”
In that case we have become a country without a conscience, a nation without a soul, an America without its Dream. And then Trump has won. But America has lost.
Thomas Cangelosi is a retired teacher residing in Avon.