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Is Donald Trump Sabotaging Himself?

Trump brags about many things. Should he brag about excelling at self-sabotage?

Rosa Pineda/Wikimedia Commons
Burning dumpster at George Floyd protests in Washington DC, Lafayette Square.
Source: Rosa Pineda/Wikimedia Commons

Biden's double-digit lead over Trump has held steady for weeks now. And there are only seven more days to go.

How did this happen? In my view, it’s simple. While Trump brags about his "successes" with women, business, and just about everything else, it’s become clear over the past several months that Trump may be the absolute best at one thing in particular: self-sabotage.

The White House became a COVID-19 hotspot after the President hosted a super-spreader event in the Rose Garden one month ago. More than a dozen White House personnel, including the President himself, tested positive for the virus soon after. In just the past few days, five of Vice President Pence's aides have also tested positive for COVID-19, though Pence is out on the campaign trail today instead of in quarantine.

Many people were surprised that it took so long. Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask himself, makes fun of Biden for wearing one, and is reported as saying that wearing one in the West Wing was “not a good look.” But neither was an elderly, sick president in the hospital for days, fighting a deadly disease that’s claimed the lives of 226,000 Americans under his leadership.

He could have worn a mask regularly, setting a good example for Americans and lowering his own risk considerably. But instead, Trump contracted COVID-19, was contagious and couldn't travel or hold rallies for more than a week during critical campaign crunch time, and now faces the looming possibility of more serious health concerns ahead given his age, sex, weight, and other comorbidities. A most powerful display of self-sabotage.

Maybe you're wondering, am I suggesting Trump is destroying himself on purpose? No—self-sabotage is often unconscious, and describes a person who is incapable of making the right decision in a given circumstance to advance his or her cause, purpose, or goal.

On top of that came the most unsettling presidential "debate" in history where we saw Trump amped up, repeatedly interrupting his opponent, and talking over the debate moderator. I remarked to friends the next day that I regretted having let our young son watch the debate, feeling as if I'd let him see an R-rated movie he wasn’t ready for.

In the debate, Trump appeared erratic, angry, anxious, and seemingly desperate; Biden was visibly frustrated. Trump's polling numbers plummeted immediately after the debate. One has to ask: Why didn’t he instead focus on the accomplishments he’s made while in office? Why didn't he follow advisors' suggestions to present himself as presidential—strong but in control? Self-sabotage.

After his release from the hospital, Trump tweeted that COVID-19 is not that bad and we shouldn't let it "dominate" our lives, which, not surprisingly, offended and hurt hundreds of thousands of Americans who are rightfully scared of this disease and who have suffered from it directly. Many have commented that it was exactly the wrong message at the wrong time. Again, self-sabotage.

Soon after, Trump called off, and then called back on, the talks on stimulus payments, shocking both Capitol Hill and Americans in need. His motivation was unclear to many. His decision-making was mysterious. One could argue that he needs votes at least as badly as many Americans need financial support, but they don't seem likely to get it in time to influence their voting decisions. Bad move, Mr. President.

And last, while millions of Americans still want to vote for his reelection, they have to worry: Will their vote be counted? The president has been telling them for months that the election process is rigged, and his message seems to have landed: to date, more than 58 million Americans have already voted, the vast majority of whom are registered Democrats. Trump is currently losing with seniors, who face a dilemma: Vote in person and risk contracting COVID-19 or vote by mail, which they've been told is rigged. Maybe they’ll stay home and stay safe. Again, bad move, Mr. President, Self-Saboteur Extraordinaire.