Rejecting defeat, Trump lacks something important: a strategy

Watching Team Trump rail against the election results is like watching a severely intoxicated person try to walk a straight line.
Image: Donald Trump, NAT Trump
President Donald Trump leaves the lectern after speaking at the White House on Nov. 5, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Dominion Voting Systems is a company that makes election software for local government officials. It's generally not widely known to the public at large, though Donald Trump sought to change that yesterday with a hysterical, all-caps tweet.

Apparently responding to something he saw on a far-right television station, the outgoing president highlighted a "report" that Dominion Voting Systems "deleted" and "switched" millions of Republican votes. It was the sort of tweet one might expect from a fringe conspiracy theorist with a handful of Twitter followers, except in this case, the missive was published by the ostensible leader of the free world.

Naturally, Trump's tweet was discredited -- quickly and easily -- and the claim was added to the pile of debunked nonsense the Republican incumbent has peddled in the wake of election defeat.

But the fact that such a pile exists is itself important.

Over the last several days, the president and his team have meandered from one strange claim to another. Watching the effort unfold has been like watching a severely intoxicated person try to walk a straight line. Trump has struggled to decide whether he wants vote counts to continue or stop. He's celebrated parts of ballots, while rejecting other parts. He both believes and disbelieves news organizations that call elections.

The president and his political operation file laughable lawsuits. They toy with the idea of asking state officials to override voters' will. They throw around affidavits that might as well have been written in crayon. They start with weird allegations, then scramble to find evidence to bolster them, then ask for patience when they discover no such evidence exists.

If it seems as if Team Trump lacks any kind of grand strategy, it's because, as the New York Times reported overnight, Team Trump really doesn't have any idea what it's doing or where it's going.

There is no grand strategy at play, according to interviews with a half-dozen advisers and people close to the president. Mr. Trump is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next, seeing how far he can push his case against his defeat and ensure the continued support of his Republican base. By dominating the story of his exit from the White House, he hopes to keep his millions of supporters energized and engaged for whatever comes next.

It's worth emphasizing for context that the president and his team had months to prepare for this. Team Trump, like the rest of us, saw how the 2020 race was unfolding, knew the incumbent would lose the popular vote, and realized which states would be slow to finish their vote tallies (thanks in part to GOP state legislators who ensured such an outcome).

But they still didn't come up with a coherent plan. Most have heard the expression about throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks, but in this case, the president and his operation are struggling to find stuff, and they're even less sure where the wall is.

It'd all be quite pitiful were it not for the fact that Trump and his team weren't simultaneously acting like anti-democracy autocrats, trying to use lies to turn many Americans against the electoral system of their own country.