Even if you’ve figured out Donald Trump’s magic trick, chances are you’ll fall for it every time.

“Strong evidence of MASSIVE voter fraud in many districts! China wants Beijing Biden – that’s why they made the Killer Wuhan Virus! The FAKE NEWS MEDIA loves Sleepy Joe. Very Scary! If Radical Left Dems steal the Election, PATRIOTS WILL RESIST! #2ndAmendment #AllLivesMatter #MAGA”

That tweet from US President Donald Trump is dated November 3, 2020, and is clear evidence that this column is very much part of the Fake News Media. Obviously, it’s a Fake Tweet.

It’s pretty easy to replicate President Tangerine Sex Offender’s style. We’re all far too familiar with the Random Capital Letters, the incontinent exclamation points, the BLOCK CAPS conspiracy theory lies to his base, the racist dog-whistles to white supremacists, the hedging of bets against democracy, and the terrifying willingness to exhort his supporters to violence.

Fake Tweet (Rachel McGovern).

Trump’s tweets always serve multiple purposes. The first is always to appeal to his base, but it’s often hard to separate that from his other abiding motivation: to distract. There’s almost always another purpose to Trump’s tweets, too, and that’s his own profit. Hence, he’ll tweet something inflammatory just as the US Coronavirus death toll spikes, perhaps supporting armed anti-lockdown white militia storming state capitol buildings, even as he plugs hydroxychloroquine while having shares in the company selling it.

Last week, the US Covid-19 death toll passed 100,000. Trump tweeted a groundless conspiracy theory about Trump critic Joe Scarborough, while declaring war on Twitter for having the temerity to fact-check his latest racist dog-whistling about potential voter fraud. “Voter fraud” – translated as Black people voting – holds a particular terror for Trump, and it’s clear that his hope is to keep voter turnout as low as possible in November.

The lower the turnout, the better the chance Trump has of being re-elected.

Twitter’s belated intervention was far too little, far too late, even if Twitter would later in the week put a warning on Trump’s tweet repeating the phrase “when the looting starts the shooting starts”.

Twitter did diddly-squat when Trump threatened actual genocide against Iran. For Twitter, Trump is box office, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Trump owes his presidency at least as much to Twitter as he does to his time pretending to be a successful business man on The Apprentice.

Twitter was Trump’s weapon of choice when he helped launch in 2008 the utterly racist “Birther” movement, which claimed – completely falsely – that Barack Obama was ineligible to be US president because he was born in Kenya. (Obama was born in Hawaii and is a US citizen.)

Racial hate in the bloodpot of human hearts

Trump has a long history of racism, and it’s tempting to suggest he learned it on the knee of his odious father, Frederick Christ Trump. Fred’s racist policies as a landlord famously earned the ire of his tenant Woody Guthrie. Trump Senior had benefited from federal funding to build housing projects which would be homes to people from all racial backgrounds and then he excluded Black tenants. A disgusted Guthrie wrote a savage screed condemning Trump:

“I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ….”

Old Man Trump could never have dreamed the racial hate his son would stir up in the bloodpot of human hearts. In 1989, Trump Junior took to the pages of the four main New York newspapers, paying a reported $85,000 (about €155,000 today) for a full-page advertisement which demanded the return of the death penalty and suggested essentially that all of the five Black and Hispanic teenagers (aged between 14 and 16) falsely accused of raping Trisha Meili, a white woman, in Central Park were guilty.

The Central Park Five case is horrific, and the five children accused later alleged that they were beaten into confessions. They were found guilty and were sentenced variously to between five and 15 years in prison.

In 2001, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist serving life in prison, confessed to the rape. His DNA matched that found at the scene, and he provided details of the crime which were not publicly known. In 2003, the five men sued the City of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. The city settled in 2014 with the five plaintiffs for $41 million. The five men also filed suit against the State of New York for additional damages; this case was settled in 2016 for a total of $3.9 million.

Last year Trump refused to apologise to the Central Park Five, saying “They admitted their guilt.”

In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned, facing almost certain impeachment and removal from office. Forty-six years on, Trump may well become the first US president to be have been impeached and to have subsequently been re-elected, as the Democrats have, for the second time running, chosen the only candidate in America likely to lose to a man who openly brags about serial sexual assault.

Nixon went quietly in the end, but Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon claimed in Michael Wolff’s 2018 Fire and Fury that with Trump it will be “ugly”. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, predicts that if Trump loses in November, “There will never be a peaceful transition of power”.

American Carnage

I think if Trump loses, he will react as he always does. He will appeal to his base, he will attempt to deflect, and most of all, he will try to work this to his advantage. Four years ago, a number of reports suggested the then Republican candidate – who was widely expected to lose the election – intended to buy a cable TV news network, and harness his popularity with the Republican base as viewership for a right-wing network which would out-Fox Fox.

I suspect the plan remains the same. I think if he loses on November 3, Trump will react with his characteristic cry-baby bad grace and claim voter fraud and/or Chinese interference. Then he will dog-whistle to his gun nut white supremacists, and then we will see the “American Carnage” he promised in his inaugural speech, the one described at the time by George W Bush as “some weird shit”.

If a defeated Trump leaves the White House on January 20, 2021, I suspect that – like John Adams, the second US president, who spent his final months in office appointing judges he thought likely to frustrate the agenda of his successor Thomas Jefferson – he won’t attend the inauguration. Before he leaves, I think he will sow utter chaos and it’ll all be everyone else’s fault because Trump doesn’t do responsibility.

And then he will announce the launch of Trump TV, and all the rubes will tune in to see their god-king tell them how he was right all along.

Once you figure out Trump’s magic trick, it’s hard to see why everyone else can’t see it. That is, until the next time he pulls it, and then you’re as distracted and outraged as everyone else.