Short of an unprecedented event in the Electoral College, Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States. But to read his Twitter feed, you wouldn’t know it. Following an effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein for a recount in the state of Wisconsin (and promises to pursue recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania), Trump declared the recount a “scam” and devolved into full-on ranting.
Trump, who won the Electoral College but is behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by some two million and counting, seemed to take issue with the idea that his win was somehow qualified. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon.
News organizations were quick to qualify Trump’s tweet in their reporting: CNN’s headline Monday morning read “Trump falsely claims 'millions of people who voted illegally' cost him popular vote.” The New York Times went with “Trump promotes baseless claim on illegal voting.” But at the heart of the matter is that this isn’t the ranting and whining of a sore loser. Trump is being a sore winner, and that spells trouble for his presidency, and the nation.
What's most troubling is Trump’s seeming inability to let any slight go by — even when he is poised to emerge victorious. We saw this several times throughout the 2016 campaign cycle, with his over-the-top reactions to the Trump University case judge, Gonzalo Curiel, his weeks-long fight with the Khan family, and his attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
This kind of behavior was one thing when he was a candidate, but poses serious problems for the free world he purports to lead. For one, from my perspective, it shows that he is unable to accept anything other than unequivocal success — actually, perhaps it would be more accurate to say he can’t accept anything other than unequivocal defeat of his enemies. The problem is that in a discipline as nuanced as politics, such a thing is rare. (A perfect example of this is Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, so riddled with compromises that it would have required massive maintenance by whomever inherited the White House.)
Perhaps more disturbingly, however, is that Trump isn’t able to vent his frustrations away from the public sphere. Indeed, despite the fact that Americans are slowly becoming inured to Trump’s tweets, thinking more and more about the kind of damage that could be done by the U.S. president publicly airing his petty grievances — about foreign countries, or worse, foreign leaders — sends chills down my spine.
It’s still unclear what kind of tweeter Trump will be once he’s sworn in, but if this weekend has been any sign of the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if our country’s downfall comes 140 characters at a time.