As I write this on Monday evening I'm aware of how many people feel about jinxes and other such tempting forms of bad logic, so let me preface this by saying that the assumptions here are based on all of the available data (actual data, discounting hunches, gut feelings, magical theories about how data is wrong, and so on) suggesting that Trump is highly unlikely to prevail on Tuesday.
If you're Donald Trump, this has been a hell of a ride. He relishes attention like whales relish krill, and it's hard to think of any person in the history of the modern world who has gotten more attention of this duration and intensity. American media, and to a lesser extent that of the world, has been Trump-focused for the better part of 18 months now. It has been impossible to get away from him or to avoid hearing his name, and god knows a lot of us have tried. If his goal was to bask in publicity and attention, to force everyone to focus on him whether they want to or not, then inarguably he succeeded. He succeeded beyond even his own wildest dreams. 2016 has been the Year of Trump.
It's all about to come to a screeching halt, and I think he knows it.
Three weeks ago, noted twit David Brooks offered a surprisingly thoughtful take on "Donald Trump's Sad, Lonely Life." It felt premature; as long as this election continues, he will be surrounded with people variously doing his bidding or kissing his ass. I do think Trump is sad, as Brooks muses, but I believe it's because some part of his twisted psyche knows that he isn't going to win and he knows, ultimately, what that means for him. On Wednesday morning, he is going to wake up to find himself the most hated man in the world. He will be able to count the people who want anything to do with him on one stubby little hand. That everyone to the left of Mitt Romney hates him is obvious, not to mention already true. But for the sake of the party, many people in the Republican orbit have been…well, they've pursued a number of strategies. Humoring him. Faking enthusiasm. Going through the motions. Tepidly and generically offering ambiguous statements of support. Endorsing him in language that does not actually endorse him. It's rational behavior on their part.
But here's the thing about Republicans, and about American conservatism more broadly: the movement can never fail or be wrong. It can only be failed and be wronged. It is always the candidate's fault. And oh my god and baby jesus in heaven are they going to throw Trump under the bus the second this election is over. He thinks, at this moment, that his followers are going to be loyal to him. Some of them will retreat into fantasies that he was cheated out of victory. Most of them will grow to see him (with the encouragement of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and its mouthpieces) to see him as that most loathsome of all things in their worldview. They will see Donald Trump as a loser. For a movement based entirely on concepts like superiority, dominance, and nonspecific Winning, for a group of people that adulate Winners above all else, Donald Trump is not going to be able to survive being a Loser.
The Republican establishment, already in full Damage Control mode, will declare him persona non grata. His paid campaign staff will drift away and sell their stories to salivating media outlets – "You won't believe how terrible he was!" The media will leap at the opportunity to stop pretending for the sake of Balance to treat him as anything but a joke. And that army of numbskulls he believes will follow him to Trump TV will find that Fox News, right wing radio, and the rest of the noise that makes up their lives is pushing a new, curiously convenient message: He was the problem. He's a loser. He failed. We need a winner. We need to move on. We were so close, and we would have won if he didn't screw up so much. People who screw up and say "Grab 'em by the pussy" on tape aren't winners. They're losers.
We all know how effective the noise machine is at establishing its preferred narrative of reality. It will turn on Trump. Everyone associated with him will run for cover. Every Republican failure in this election year will be laid at his feet. And then it will move on. Fox and the RNC and the Koches and everyone else will say, "See? We told you so. Now never disobey us again," and the entirety of the Trump phenomenon will go down the memory hole. He will be marched before the firing squad and preserved as a corpse that will be dragged out only when the base needs to be reminded of the consequences of deviating from the path determined by their right wing elders.
Remember, nobody in the GOP wanted or likes this guy. Fox News banged the drum against him and only recently (and half-heartedly) supported him out of some sense of obligation toward the R next to his name on the ballot. We've seen the right tear into one of their own with amazing ferocity even when that person is someone they generally hold (or held) in high regard. Imagine what they will do to a con man who infiltrated their ranks at a time of weakness and made a mockery out of the party to the point where the brand name may be damaged permanently.
Trump on Tuesday evening will be a convict enjoying his last meal before execution, and he knows it. The saying goes that in politics that first they love you and then they turn on you, a bit of wisdom that bodes particularly poorly for someone who They didn't love in the first place.