It was an accident of history. On election night in 2016, Donald Trump’s victory came as a shock even to him. As results came in, adviser Steve Bannon said, Trump was speechless and “horrified.” Don Jr. said his father looked like he’d “seen a ghost.” Like millions of Americans, Melania was crying, and they were not tears of joy. Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, later said his longtime boss had told him the presidential run would serve as “the greatest infomercial in political history” — a way of promoting his real-estate and reality-TV brand. Breaking news: Trump did not grow into the job. He tweeted, watched Fox, and golfed, turning the presidency into just another show. He used his platform and power to sow chaos, spout lies and disinformation, poison our politics, defy norms and laws, pander to despots, alienate allies, downplay and actually worsen a raging pandemic that’s killed 400,000 Americans, encourage and embolden white supremacists, incite an insurrection to overturn an election, and futilely try to fill his bottomless pit of narcissistic need.
It hasn’t been good for the brand. In exile at Mar-a-Lago, he faces the real possibility that disgusted Republicans might convict him at a second impeachment trial. He may soon be hit with a barrage of state and federal criminal prosecutions for a myriad of potential crimes. His business empire lies in ruins, with massive debts coming due. Former aides and allies, including his once loyal Vice President Mike Pence, now shun him. He can’t even tweet anymore — oh, cruel fate! In a perverse way, says Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, “this is the end that he would have scripted for himself.” Trump has always seen himself as “a lonely hero” in a ruthless, Darwinian world, surrounded by enemies and backstabbing friends — besieged, betrayed, a victim fighting everyone to the bitter end. Donald Trump created his own dystopian reality, and we can now leave him to it.