Yesterday, I engaged in some speculation. It felt good to imagine what comes next. It isn’t a certainty that Biden wins. FiveThirtyEight put it in dice-rolling, probability terms, as I did the other day. Trump’s chances are “a little worse than the chances of rolling a 1 on a six-sided die and a little better than the chances that it’s raining in downtown Los Angeles.” The odds of the latter are one in ten. None of that matters if we don’t follow through, show up, vote.
After superstitiously worrying if I’d jinxed everything by writing a version of Trump’s next few months and years, I was surprised to read this morning that Trump had done the same. Late last night, Heather Cox Richardson wrote:
Tonight, at his Georgia rally, Trump outlined all the ways in which he was being unfairly treated, then mused: “Could you imagine if I lose?… I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”Heather Cox Richardson
Early in Trump’s political rise, I read about the influence of Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking on his life. For a time, Trump was even associated with Peale’s Manhattan church. I have understood many of Trump’s most outrageous statements to come from a twisted adherence positive thinking at all costs. He will only say things out loud that he wants to happen in the world. If he says something inexcusable — “Russians, if you’re listening,” or “one day, like a miracle it will disappear” — I can point to his adherence to positive thinking to rationalize it, to understand how his brain works. The same goes for his stubborn unwillingness to say inconvenient and unflattering facts out loud. He is incapable of letting facts impede positive thinking. It is the inverse of my reluctance to publish yesterday’s speculation.
Peale’s philosophy is dangerous to the degree that its adherents allow faith in positive thinking to get in the way of rational thought and action. It is the same thread of belief that kept my spiritually inclined Grandmother from seeking medical treatment as her health declined in her later years. Eventually, my parents and uncle intervened and persuaded her to see doctors. She had diabetes. With this help, she successfully managed it in her last years.
The fact that Trump uttered the words, “could you imagine if I lose” — putting the image in his followers’ minds, in his own mind — is an uncharacteristic crack in his positive thinking. That he is describing a need to leave the country is even more alarming. What are the circumstances he images will require him to live in exile? It’s a path typically reserved for corrupt authoritarians when their reigns come crashing to an end.