This should have been the best month of President Donald Trump's life. Sure, he'd just lost re-election to Joe Biden. But he never really wanted to be president in the first place. The whole song and dance in 2016 that ended with Trump's winning the election was a branding effort that went too far, if we're to believe the reporting.
A return to private life should have been a triumphant capstone to his wild run. But Trump has spent the last four years tanking not only his own brand, but the Republican Party's as well. And the GOP is even less pleased than the dozens of investors, banks and business partners he's burned during his business career.
When it comes to people who, through their own mistakes and lapses in judgment, have completely fumbled the bag, there are some real legends out there: the former stars of "Vanderpump Rules," fired for falsely accusing a Black co-worker of a crime to the police; the editors at Bon Appetit who let a video empire crumble beneath them rather than address the concerns of nonwhite staffers; Ronald Wayne, the third co-founder of Apple, who sold his stake for just $800. Having let millions of dollars slip between his fingers, Trump now joins the bag fumble hall of fame with these luminaries.
Because if Trump had conceded defeat instead of strained to remain in office, he'd have gone right back to his businesses, which have done, if not great, just fine while he's been president. While threats of criminal prosecution loomed after he left office, he still had his sights on running again in 2024, potentially building a new media company on the back of his popularity.
Instead, he insisted on lying and attempting to manipulate the election, eventually inciting a mob to attack Congress. As a result, we've seen a string of setbacks for the self-aggrandizing mogul in the last week that have left him, according to reports, more worried about the effect on "the long-term brand" than the violence he inspired. "The brand is becoming radioactive," a Trump ally told NBC News. "That matters more to him, because that's going to have real, tangible effects on his life immediately."
Having let millions of dollars slip between his fingers, Trump now joins the bag fumble hall of fame with these luminaries.
Deutsche Bank, which has lent Trump millions of dollars over the years, and Signature Bank are both distancing themselves from the Trump Organization. Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, which previously handled lease negotiations at some of his properties, is done with him. The broker trying to sell his Washington, D.C., hotel, which had been drawing less and less business even before last week's insurrection, quit, too. But for Trump, at least, worse than the political ramifications has to be seeing the 2022 PGA Championship moved from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course.
Trump even got bodied by the oversize punching bag who serves as New York City's mayor: A statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio's office Wednesday announced that the city "will begin the process to cancel its agreements to operate the Central Park Carousel, Wollman and Lasker skating rinks, and Ferry Point Golf Course in accordance with the steps outlined in the contracts." And Trump loves that dumb ice rink!
Trump's blond large adult son, Eric, tried to tell The Associated Press that the hits to the family business were part of "cancel culture." Yes, really. "If you disagree with them, if they don't like you, they try and cancel you," Eric said in defense of his father, the man who directed a mob of people to march on the Capitol to protect himself against losing a fair election. During the rally, Eric himself implored the crowd to "have some backbone. Show some fight. Learn from Donald Trump."
(Quick digression: The best part of the AP story is the kicker: "Asked directly in his interview if he felt his father incited the crowd, Eric Trump paused and then the line went dead," reporter Bernard Condon wrote.)
It's a pretty rich claim from Eric and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has also yelled about "liberal cancel culture" as the source of Trump's latest woes. Because it turns out big business also has been taking stock, and it has said "no thank you" to this mess. More than a dozen major corporations, including Nike, Coca-Cola and AT&T, said they would halt political contributions to members of Congress who voted to reject certain states' electoral votes last week. I guess one of the pillars of the center right decided it would rather not have its name turn up in the next Federal Election Commission filings for candidates who are antidemocracy.
Under Trump, Republicans' bag has been not just fumbled; it has been dropped, kicked and set on fire à la the Joker's rampage in "The Dark Knight."
And that, it seems, is enough reason for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans to finally say "enough." McConnell was reported to have "called major Republican donors this weekend to gauge their thinking about Trump and was adamantly told that Trump had clearly crossed a line."
Whether or not McConnell, one of the canniest political operators in the party, will vote to convict Trump isn't clear yet. The New York Times reported Tuesday that he was "pleased" by the move to impeach Trump in the House and remove the president's influence over the party. In response to his colleagues' feeling blindsided, NBC News' Kasie Hunt reported Wednesday, McConnell sent his colleagues a note saying he's still deciding.
But for it to even be a question whether the head of the Republican caucus will vote to convict Trump is a huge change from this time last year. After hours of often heated, partisan debate, 10 Republicans voted to impeach Wednesday, and the firm firewall that held throughout Trump's first impeachment was finally breached.
Money makes Washington go round, which is as true now as it was four years ago. But now under Trump, Republicans' bag has been not just fumbled; it has been dropped, kicked and set on fire à la the Joker's rampage in "The Dark Knight." Trump's brand has been tarnished before, but now it's straight-up toxic, a fate Republicans are scrambling not to share.
As the Republican Party decides just how to revamp its brand moving forward, we can't let it forget this period when it tried to harness its fortunes to Trump's lies and showmanship.