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Trump certainly has had ‘a great fall’

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through The Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty tells Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — nothing more nor less.” Alice wonders whether he can make words mean different things. “The question is,” Humpty Dumpty replies, “which is to be master, that’s all … They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability. That’s what I say!”

During a campaign stop in South Carolina in December 2015, Donald Trump declared “I’m very highly educated. I know words. I know the best words. But there’s no better word than stupid.” While he was president, Trump was as confident as Humpty Dumpty that he could manage “the whole lot” of words, render them impenetrable, and dominate cable TV, talk radio, and Twitter, by appealing to Americans’ grievances, prejudices, and anger. 

Recently, however, the self-proclaimed master has struggled. Obsessed with his own victimization, and fixated on overturning the 2020 presidential election, Trump has been forced to play defense, a skill he never mastered, while trying — with increasing desperation — to avoid becoming irrelevant.

For months, the former president has made several claims, some of them contradictory, all of them unconvincing, about U.S. government documents marked “classified,” recovered by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago estate. “Who knows what NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] and the FBI plant into documents or subtract from documents,” Trump said. “I can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking it,” he claimed. “There doesn’t have to be a process.” In court, Trump’s lawyers confined themselves to another of Trump’s claims: that the documents at Mar-a-Lago are his personal property.

In August, 59 percent of Americans indicated that Trump had acted inappropriately in handling documents after he left the White House — only 26 percent disagreed — and 50 percent had already concluded that the former president should face criminal charges.

Amidst widespread expectation of “a red wave” in the 2022 midterms, Trump declared his selections in GOP primaries were “very good candidates” and said: “I think if they win, I should get all the credit, and if they lose I should not get blamed at all.” After predicting the Republicans would take back the House, the Senate, “and we’re going to take back America,” he indicated he would make “a big announcement” the week after the election.

After the polls closed, and it had become clear that Republicans had underperformed, Trump boasted 174 wins and 9 losses by the candidates he endorsed: “A GREAT EVENING… Amazing job by some really fantastic candidates.” Trump did not mention that to ensure a lopsided batting average he had endorsed dozens of candidates who were virtually certain to win, some of whom had run unopposed — or that virtually all the election-denying MAGA extremists running in competitive races in battleground states (New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona) had been defeated.

As he declared his candidacy for president in 2024, Trump acknowledged that Republicans should have done better in the midterms. Americans, he now explained, “have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain they are going through.”

Nonetheless, Trump was pummeled for his outsized role in selecting weak candidates to run in winnable races. The New York Post, the tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch and that had been an all-in MAGA booster, outright mocked him. Conservative columnist John Podhoretz called the former president “the political equivalent of a can of Raid,” saying he “is perhaps the most profound vote repellent in modern American history.”

In September, 61 percent of Americans (including 67 percent of independents and 26 percent of Republicans) indicated Trump should not run for president. In a poll taken just before the midterms, only 48 percent of Republicans said they would back Trump in 2024. With Trump-picked Senate candidate Herschel Walker losing the Georgia runoff, the decline continues.

On Nov. 22, Trump had dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West, who’s been spewing antisemitic comments and who said he admires Adolf Hitler, and Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and white nationalist. Responding to a cascade of condemnations, Trump tried to explain that West is “a seriously troubled man” whom he’s trying to help and “who has always been good me.” And that he had never met Fuentes and knew nothing about him.

Pro-Trump commentator Ben Shapiro shot back: “A good way not to accidentally dine with a vile racist and anti-Semite you don’t know is not to dine with a vile racist and anti-Semite you do know.”

Trump has not condemned either West or Fuentes.

West maintains that Trump was “really impressed” with Fuentes.

Trump was “probably the most pro-Israel president we’ve ever had,” Liz Harrington, Trump’s spokesperson, said. “President Trump is not going to shy away from meeting with Kanye West.”

On Dec. 3, after Twitter released transcripts of internal debates at the company in 2020 about banning tweets concerning the contents of a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, Trump saw an opportunity and took it: A “Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude,” he claimed, “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Republicans condemned the statement — even Twitter’s Elon Musk pushed back.

“You cannot only love America when you win,” a White House spokesman added. 

As rebukes continued to pour in, Trump claimed that reports he advocated terminating the Constitution were “simply more DISINFORMATION & LIES.”

This autumn, it’s clear, Donald Trump has had a great fall. And, as the editors of the New York Post suggested, this time there are many reasons to doubt whether all the GOP’s horses and all the GOP’s men can put “Trumpty Dumpty” back together again.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2022 midterms antisemitic Antisemitism classified documents Classified Information Procedures Act Constitution of the United States Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign election denialism Elon Musk Georgia Senate runoff Herschel Walker Holocaust denial Hunter Biden Hunter Biden emails hunter biden laptop Kanye West MAGA Republicans Mar-a-Lago documents probe Mar-a-Lago search Nick Fuentes red wave 2022 Rupert Murdoch the big lie Trump 2024 Trump approval rating Trump endorsements white nationalism white nationalists

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