The Slatest

Trump Vincibility Watch: Over and Out

A helicopter seen in the distance flies past the Washington Monument.
Donald Trump leaves Washington on Wednesday in his little helicopter. Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

The Trump Vincibility Watch was a subjective and speculative estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump would actually lose the 2020 election or, in other words, that he would suffer the consequences of his actions for the first time in his life rather than wriggling out of yet another jam (see: the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine scandal, the 2016 popular vote, his six bankruptcies, and everything else).

Here is an excerpt from the Trump Vincibility Watch that Slate published on Nov. 10, when then–President Donald Trump was launching his attempt to overturn the results of the election:

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We posited that our preelection Trump Vincibility Watch would be the second-to-last one ever. Unfortunately, we overestimated the president’s level of human dignity, somehow, after five years of close observation. We will not do that ever again, and will refrain from declaring a “final” Vincibility Watch until Biden is sworn in.

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Promise made, promise kept! Joe Biden is the president now and Donald Trump is not. This outcome is as richly justified as any in our nation’s grand and sweeping history. Blessed for his entire term with a low unemployment rate he inherited from his predecessor in office, Trump saw his approval numbers surge just as the general election campaign began because of the “rally ’round the flag” effect triggered in the early months of the coronavirus crisis. With Congress prepared to spend almost literally any amount of money to fund virus response and economic recovery, the 45th president’s reelection prospects were very good, at that time. While the world’s major democracies have dealt with the pandemic in more and less successful ways, none of their leaders, besides Trump, ended up being deposed by voters or forced to resign. Projecting concern and following the advice of public health professionals has been a winning strategy almost everywhere.

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But bro, that is not, as cool historians will say, how DJT liked to roll. He put his daughter’s socialite husband in charge of COVID testing, took unpopular positions on issues like mask requirements and business reopenings, and created an antagonistic relationship with Anthony Fauci, who’d become the most unifyingly popular figure in the country. He was too uninterested in negotiations with Congress to pass sufficient relief spending. And he reacted to the other major development of election season—nationwide civil rights protests—in the least effective way possible, bogging himself down in conspiracy theories about antifa, fixating on the preservation of monuments to slaveholders, and ordering federal officers to tear-gas a nonviolent crowd in front of the White House. On every issue, his instinct to amplify and pander to the far right served him poorly.

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When voting began, his supporters turned out. But many, many more people turned out for the chance to vote against him, with a higher portion of eligible American adults casting their ballots for Joe Biden than had done so for Ronald Reagan in the landslide year of 1984. Trump lost in states that Republicans hadn’t lost in years and states in which Republicans had blocked changes that would have allowed COVID-cautious liberals to vote more easily. He lost Colorado by so much that it’s not a swing state anymore and did so poorly in Georgia that it has two Democratic senators. He lost the votes, then lost the lawsuits to overturn the votes even when they came before judges he’d appointed. After the courts rejected him, he tried to get Republican state officials to intervene on his behalf, which failed, then tried to get Republican state legislatures to intervene on his behalf, which also failed.

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In the end, all he had left was retweeting white supremacists until a mob attempted to overthrow the Capitol for him, which, of course, failed, and resulted in his losing the support of his own vice president. He got impeached for the second time, he was removed from the social media service most critical to his relevance, and he might be prosecuted criminally in Georgia. He also faces a debt crisis and potential civil and criminal financial-fraud cases in New York.

The Republican Party used to sell itself as the party of personal responsibility. Trump put an end to that. But apparently—and, to be sure, this was something that was in question until a few weeks ago—you still can’t get by on spin forever. We’re bringing accountability back, folks, and we’re bringing it back very bigly. Have a nice life, Mr. Ex-President.

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A "Trump Vincibility Watch" graphic of six rows containing decreasing portions of the word T-R-U-M-P. All the letters have been removed on the row that is highlighted.
Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images.
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