“Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” – The Coasters from “Charlie Brown”
Donald Trump has a victim mentality.
If the term sounds familiar, it’s because it has long been the preferred conservative riposte when black people complain of being strangled by housing discrimination, economic injustice or police brutality. The likes of talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh often use it to belittle and dismiss African-American concerns.
But really, who has ever had a greater sense of themselves as a victim than Trump? Who has ever been a bigger whiner, excuse maker and all-out crybaby? Who has ever been more in need of lectures about personal responsibility than the Republican candidate for president?
If that were not obvious before, it became excruciatingly clear last week as the Trump Train left the rails and careened headlong into the gorge. Trump has long claimed the election was “rigged” against him, apparently by state officials who insist on letting people vote and then counting the ballots, and by media, who keep stubbornly reporting things he has said and done.
In last week’s debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump went even further in knocking out the pillars of American democracy. He explicitly refused to say he would respect the results of the election. “I will keep you in suspense,” he said, making instant fools of surrogates who had promised he would abide by the will of the voters.
For the first time since 1860, we are left to wonder what the refusal to abide by the results of an election would look like. Are we talking street riots? Armed militias?
These are the unsettling (but no longer unthinkable) questions we are now required to ask because of the right wing’s infatuation with a towering baby man who serves, and can conceive, no cause higher than his own gratification. For Trump, even the stability of the nation is subordinate in importance to his ego.
Faced with a looming blow to that massive edifice, he rationalizes by assuring himself and the rest of us that it isn’t really happening, that he is the victim of powerful, unseen forces cheating him of victory. But as Clinton noted, this is a pattern for Trump. Whenever things don’t work to his satisfaction, he claims to have been treated unfairly or conspired against.
Multiple women accusing him of sexual assault? It’s a political plot.
A federal judge might rule against him? The judge is biased.
The polls show him way down? The polls are a scam.
The FBI finds no criminal wrongdoing in Clinton’s missing emails? The FBI is corrupt.
His TV show fails to win an Emmy? The Emmys are unfair.
He’s about to lose the election? The election is rigged.
He whines, he whines, he whines. And he accepts responsibility for virtually nothing.
It is important to note that Trump did not spring from nowhere. Rather, he is the logical byproduct of a GOP that has spent the last quarter-century telling its acolytes they were victims: of “media elites,” Hollywood values and science, to name just a few. And if you’re looking for election rigging, look no further than the party that has thrown up arbitrary legal barriers designed to make voting harder for African-Americans and other non-Republican constituencies.
Donald Trump, in all his preening infamy, is the end result of the GOP’s years of hypocrisy and reality avoidance. Shame on anyone who takes seriously his piteous moaning about the vast forces conspiring against him.
American democracy is the only victim here.
Leonard Pitts Jr., a columnist for the Miami Herald, appears in Opinion on Mondays.