Donald Trump may have a case concerning the self-serving nature of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount efforts in three states. Some have suggested that the “donations” that Stein has received for pushing for the recounts are a cynical ploy for money to be used for herself and the organization backing her, but more likely she is feeling “guilty” about her votes “costing” Clinton victories in Wisconsin and Michigan. But it is not all that certain that Green Party voters would have voted at all if they had no official candidate, and if we want to go in that direction we should consider the Gary Johnson vote, which “cost” Trump victories in Colorado, Maine and Minnesota, if we assume that they were largely Republican-leaning.
But Trump has not been taking this well. Instead of brushing it off as a useless last gasp of the fanatical Clintonphiles, he has reacted in his usual way, making baseless claims both ridiculous and disturbing. It is disturbing because it follows a pattern of thin-skinned behavior in the face of criticism, whether justified or not. In response to the recount, Trump is charging—based on allegations by the usual unreliable sources (such as the one that made the claim that all “Mexican men are rapists”)—that “millions” of Clinton voters did so illegally. At this time, Clinton’s popular voter lead is now over 2 million, and nearly double that is from California; because the state has a lot of “Mexicans,” it doesn’t take a lot of thought to know where Trump is going with this.
But even if you take a few million Clinton votes out of California, she still won the state handily, and it isn’t doing Trump any favors by making claims for which there is no proof. Trump’s habit of making false claims to support his politicsal ambitions dates back at least to his “birther” days, which only helped derail his first run for the presidency in 2012. His history of false claims is a mile long; his claim that 14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote (based on a debunked Internet survey that found that many respondents “misunderstood” the citizenship question) is just one of the majority of his most egregious falsehoods being immigration-related.
Making false claims has never seemed to bother Trump or his supporters much, but what does seem to “bother” him is when people talk about his personally. The 2011 White House Correspondent’s dinner, some speculate, may have driven Trump so far off the edge that his 2016 run may have initially been as much about retaliation and revenge than as a “serious” run at the presidency. Trump claimed he was not unhappy about President Obama’s needling, which poked fun at his birther claims, suggested that he was a nut for conspiracy theories, and his political “experience” was more suited for running a steakhouse, but he was obviously upset by Seth Meyer’s “jokes”: “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke…Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, which is great for Republicans, because it will streamline their search for a vice president…Donald Trump said recently he’s got a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.”
Meyer’s “jokes” were a bit too “personal” for someone with an ego as inflated as Trump’s. Trump has been accused of being an extreme narcissist, never tiring of telling people how “great” he is, but at the same time surprisingly sensitive to criticism. Of course Trump has brought most of his “problems” on himself, since he sees himself as a “celebrity” and constantly seeks the limelight. But like most thin-skinned people, he is unable to take criticism—even the “joking” kind—lightly. If he was a “normal” person in his position, he could just wander the world in luxury and comfort, and no one would really care.
But since Trump craves fame, is not politically “progressive,” and is highly “opinionated” in an often insensitive way, he has made himself a lightning rod for bad press. It hasn’t helped him that many if not most of the statements expectorating from the orifice known as his mouth originate from a mind weaned on a highly personalized notion of “victimization.” Trump hates people he sees as “envious” of his wealth (however he gained it), but more so anyone who pokes pins into his inflated sense of self, and in turn any groups that fall within the critics’ favored political or social sphere. His whole campaign could be seen as vengeance against the people and what they believe in who said “bad” things about him, and his rhetoric clearly shows how “personal” it was, since much of it is drawn not from reasoned thought, but from paranoia, conspiracy theories and false propaganda fed through the “alt-right” movement and media.
Trump certainly isn’t “alone” in his thin-skinnedness. Right-wing radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh can never be satisfied with their side winning; the “socialists” and “lefties” are always present to somehow burn off a new layer of skin to excite another round of ridiculous howls of “pain.” But Trump is president now, and he should be expected to be more “composed” and “mature” than he seems to be. In the past, a president’s press secretary or various administration representatives would do most of the talking, so that the president wouldn’t have an opportunity to look like a fool. But Trump is tailor-made to be the media’s fool, because thus far he has shown that he just can’t shut-up. Every time someone says something he takes personal offense about, he “defends” himself by making generalized accusations that “facts” have little relevance in.
If Trump can’t learn to “control” himself and let others who know how to handle the media speak for him, he will go down as a bigger “joke” than he can now imagine. He may become the biggest—and most dangerous—joke in history, given his appetite for “revenge” and retaliation against people who merely say something he doesn’t like.