What do a solar eclipse and seeing Donald Trump frightened have in common? They both seem incredibly rare, yet happened twice in 2020 alone.
But, as interesting as talking about solar eclipses seems after forty-eight hours of non-stop CNN watching and having memorised every American ad break in the book, my life is pretty much rotating around the US election results, not the Sun.
As used as the world is to seeing an overconfident, all-caps tweeting, mask-less rally-running, pride-boasting POTUS, it would be foolish to not admit that this year has had Trump be afraid in more than one occasion – a fear which has been heightened like never before during the past few days of ballot-counting. President Trump is, for the first time, facing the very real possibility of not being re-elected and having to admit defeat, as Joe Biden believes to be on the right track to win in key states.
The future of the US presidency lays in six yet uncertain states. Nevada and Arizona are, for now, leaning Democratic – although the gap is slightly narrowing in the latter; Georgia and Pennsylvania, despite being both Republican-leaning, have seen an extremely narrowing of gaps in the past twenty-four hours due to the counting of mail-in ballots; North Carolina seems to be the only stronghold Trump can really count on gaining, sporting a significant Republican majority.
Trump has made it abundantly clear he would not give up the presidency easily and would contest results, which he has already attempted to do in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia – without success. He has locked himself in a Twitter bunker of calling out voting fraud with no proof, claiming a so-called distinction between “legal” and “illegal” ballots.
Everything we are witnessing from him – including the confusing speech in which he declared victory despite currently being on the losing side – is a reaction of fear. An emotion that we are not used to see from him is slowly seeping through; cue the hiding behind conspiracy theories, making false and baseless claims, allowing his supporters to take matters in their own hands and storm counting stations to demand a stop to the counting.
Trump’s fear is borderline hysterical and recalls the indignancy of a child lamenting the game must be rigged if they aren’t winning. The hubristic façade cracks as we see that there’s nothing much beneath the surface of his character; not a man who believes in democracy, not one who likes a fair game, not one that can wait with dignity despite the outcome.
Calling a halt to vote counting, on top of being undemocratic, would not favour him, since Biden is currently leading in both the electoral college and the popular vote and he would be declared the winning candidate. Whether he’s actually thinking about this or claiming it just to stir the pot and turn attention back on himself, both cases point to him not wanting to go through what is looking like an enormous loss for his side. Questioning the legitimacy of mail-in ballots simply because they’re leaning Democratic – without any proof of irregularities, like he did in last night’s speech – shows him holding onto every surface he can find, only to find them all too slippery to stand on.
We have seen symptoms of this same fear earlier in the year during the Black Lives Matter protests, when he locked himself in a presidential bunker in the White House, avoiding to face the protesters and communicate with them. Trump’s obnoxious machismo suddenly vanishes when faced with what might represent an actual issue for him, suddenly unable to step into the mediating, non-partisan and healing role that being President entails. The situation is now similar, but on a much larger scale: instead of admitting weakness and a possible defeat, he is hiding behind baseless theories and his fan-like supporters.
As the election remains unclaimed by either candidate and votes keep being counted, nothing is set in stone yet. What's clear is that this presidential race will be remembered for plenty of reasons: the record of voter turnout, the extraordinary circumstances, the fraud and anti-democratic claims are just a few of them.
Trump has failed the nation countless times during his presidency, but his hysterical fear of actual confrontation with the people – in the streets and at the polls alike – makes his fear speak loudly about the kind of leader and person he is. As the 2020 election draws to an end, we are truly made to question whether his confidence is actually just fruit of a comfortable cocoon.