The simplest possible explanation for something is usually the best one, and as we watch Donald Trump rage on Twitter about “large scale voter fraud” and a “rigged system,” it’s not hard to come up with a simple reason for his latest outburst. The Republican nominee has, time and again, shown himself to be an egotistical narcissist who cannot admit to any form of failure. So, as he confronts his likely loss in the presidential election on November 8, he’s sketching the outlines of the story he’ll tell himself -- and the rest of the world -- about how he didn’t really lose.
It’s a reasonable answer and it fits the existing facts, but a little tidbit of information reported by the Financial Times Monday morning opens the door on a more complex, but still reasonable, explanation of Trump’s strategy.
According to the FT, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, recently met with a boutique investment banker Aryeh Bourkoff about the possibility of launching a Trump-branded television network after the election. Bourkoff founded the investment firm LionTree and has been a part of a number of high-profile deals involving media and telecommunications firms.
Rumors that Trump was looking to monetize his active base of supporters have been rife throughout his unlikely romp through the Republican presidential primaries and into the general election. When pressed on them, people close to Trump have generally demurred or tried to quash them altogether.
However, if the FT’s story stands up, it would add another element to Trump’s motivation for making sure his supporters remain enraged at a system many had come to mistrust long before Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to declare his candidacy in June of 2015.
Keeping people angry at the same thing helps keep them together. And if Trump wants to preserve his audience, what better way to do that than to unite them in outrage against a system that has deprived them of a Trump presidency? After all, as legendary Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins is supposed to have observed, “Nothing brings people together more than mutual hatred.”
Even if a dedicated base of 50 million angry supporters isn’t enough to win a U.S. presidential election, it’s plenty to support a cable television network.
Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2016
It would also explain his evident fury with Republican Party leadership, particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan, who pushed back over the weekend on Trump’s claims about a rigged election. Raging at Ryan has the dual benefit, for Trump, of reinforcing the “rigged election” claim with his supporters and furthering the “stab in the back” narrative that he has been cultivating for the past week.
The real tell will be if and when Trump starts telling his supporters that Fox News has joined the conspiracy against him, inciting rebellion against the conservative right’s go-to news source.