Trump lost the 2020 election in the most ironic way possible

James Hibberd
·4 min read

Evan Vucci/Shutterstock

Donald Trump lost.

But the president wasn't merely defeated in his 2020 bid for reelection.

Trump learned of his failure in a manner that could not have been more ironic.

Since Tuesday night, Americans witnessed election results slowly trickle in from several critical battleground states, anxiously awaiting each new drop of ballot numbers, watching as vote count margins gradually expanded or contracted. As many have pointed out on social media, the drip-drip-drip of updates was a massively anxiety-inducing experience for anybody with strong feelings about this election.

But let's, for a moment, think about this from Trump's perspective (no, really, stay with me here, it's worth it).

By all insider accounts, Trump is a hardcore cable news addict. He reportedly watches between four and eight hours of television a day (mostly Fox News and sometimes "hate-watching" CNN).

He is also, it must be said, quite skilled at manipulating the TV news cycle. Trump's reign has been a constant process of the president consuming media, then tweeting or taking other actions in reaction to what he watched, observing the results, and then rinsing and repeating.

This week, the collapse of Trump's presidency didn't just play out across several primetime hours on election night per usual, but across five days of nonstop 24/7 coverage. Rather than the usual ripped-off-Band-Aid reveal of typical election results during a single primetime evening, Election Night Week 2020 was an extraordinarily slow death for Trump's presidency by tens of thousands of ballot cuts. Michigan is going for Trump! Michigan has flipped for Biden! Arizona is widening for Biden! Arizona is tightening for Trump! Why aren't ballot totals being released by Clark County? Isn't Las Vegas supposed to be good at counting?!

And those numbers, dear lord, so many numbers sluggishly updating minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Network reporters, by and large, did a terrific job under extraordinarily challenging circumstances, but their stamina and professionalism could not prevent the experience of watching their coverage from being excruciating and tedious. The incremental changes in network graphic boxes representing each battleground state as they crept toward 100 percent of ballots counted was like watching a batch of Windows 98 programs updating for 98 hours straight. All the while, CNN's tireless John King echoed the phrase "count the votes, count the votes" like a glitching android. Marveled CNN's Dana Bash at the nailbiting margins in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona: "It's like having four Floridas," referring to 2000's infamously protracted election standoff.

And for once, there was nothing that Trump could do about it. There was nothing he could do to change the story. No outrageous tweet, no executive action. He was, at last, helpless. (And, indeed, every action the president took only made his press coverage worse – even on Fox News.)

If a group of Hollywood writers were tasked with scripting a limited series about Trump's final year in the White House (as, surely, somebody eventually will be – if they're not doing it already), it's hard to imagine they could have invented a more "ironic hell" fate than this: A president that lived by the endless cable news updates, witnessed his reign die by the endless cable news updates.

We already heard that Trump reportedly called up Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch and "screamed" about the news network calling Arizona for Biden on Tuesday night. Eventually, we will get the rest of the presumed fast-food binging, hate-watching details of what exactly transpired behind the scenes at the White House this week. Nobody expects even Trump's closest advisors to keep a lid on what happened. To paraphrase a line from the movie Ransom, "Do you know anyone that wouldn't sell you out for a book deal? I don't think you do."

On Thursday evening, Trump took to the White House briefing room to ramble a list of false claims about voter fraud and various grievances and, at one point, something about binoculars. The broadcast networks decided to cut away and not show the rest of his speech. Once again, there was some irony and, perhaps, prescience as well. With nearly 75 million American voters clearly telling the former NBC reality TV host "you're fired," Trump might soon finally suffer his most dreaded fate: Being ignored.

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