“The girl next door” is a 2004 movie about a high school overachiever student who got in trouble in his senior year.
Everything was going according to plan. He was accepted to a good university; he was about to host a foreign genius whose opportunity in America was financed by his efforts. He was the pride and joy of his parents. The only problem: he couldn’t get a girl to fall for him.
Enter the girl next door. She’s funny, she’s gorgeous, she’s a porn actress. And then everything went south.
The more entangled they get, the more problems the protagonist faces, up to the moment when he loses all the money he had gathered to bring the foreign student. It’s not her fault. It is all of his own makings, being a teen and all. Nevertheless, troubles aggravate, and at every corner, facing every new problem, the kid doubles down his bets.
Doubling down on fate is a popular feature in American movies. It is a proven formula for uplifting humor. It is also an effective way to build-up tension, and to allow for relief at the end.
Life is no Hollywood movie, right?
Back in reality, Trump’s presidency has been on a double down path all these years. The more at bay he finds himself, the harder he bets. So much so that he managed to get both impeached by the House and protected by the Senate. That is governing precariously. His last bet was the confirmation of Amy Coney Barret for the US Supreme Court. This was to push him to victory in the courts. It doesn’t seem to have paid off.
As expected, Trump lost the election. He lost the popular vote, he lost the electoral college, he lost five red states since the last election, two of which were long held republican bastions, he was the first president in over two decades not to be reelected. By any metrics but his own, Americans ousted him from the presidency. Nevertheless, like a good gambler, he keeps trying his hand.
Trump’s move right now is to keep pushing the idea that he won the election. That’s a bluff, of course. The matter is: what is on play right now? My guess, this is about his pride and his future; but it’s not about the 2021 presidency.
Such a move is not new to Trump’s playbook. A lot of commentators said, back in 2016, that his candidacy was not about being president, but about getting free airtime on the media. Many said it was a way to keep being notorious — I wouldn’t go so far as to call him relevant up to that moment. But Trump won 2016, and the bet paid off handsomely.
In 2020, everyone knows the president’s finances are in dire straits. The Financial Times and Forbes don’t go as far as to say Trump is broke, but both outlets agree that, although not insolvent, he owns over 1 billion dollars. If so far his debts are payable, Trump is supposedly net worth of 3.5 billion dollars, the president’s primary source of income — Television deals — are more and more deficient. As money dries, debts bulk because Trump’s investments in golf courses are bleeding money.
It is a bleak prognostic: he is not president anymore; he has a huge debt to pay on the pandemic hard-hit business industry. And the president can’t be on TV anymore, or can he?
Enters the betting strategy.
People tend to think money buys everything, but that’s not true. There are things that money can’t buy as there are things not priced in money. Political capital is a non-monetized wealth that can become a hard currency. And that’s the coin Trump is gambling his cards right now.
As his presidency wanes, President Trump tries to gather attention and political power close to him. He’s doing this by being a sore loser. By crying foul results and hoarding Republicans around him, he keeps himself in the spotlight. This way he builds a path to sustainable political influence.
Political influence is gathered by power or by media. Since he was ousted, Trump can play the Trump-Channel card:
“The idea of a “Trump TV” channel, show, or network was floated by numerous pundits prior to Trump winning the 2016 presidential election, and the subject has regained traction in the days following Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.”
After all, if Trump is a media sensation, his most powerful product is his connection to the Republican voters. To them, he could play a “pretend media shadow government”. By doing so, he would hold influence on the GOP.
So the script ‘practically writes itself’. The president doubles down on not losing the election, holds the GOP behind him, becomes influential after leaving office, builds a network, and becomes a kingmaker at the party. He may eventually even try running for office in 2024.
The only thing is that, instead of ending in humor and relief, this movie could have just a regretful sequel.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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