Opinion - Politics

Trump is in the endgame now, but he is far from inevitable

Key Points
  • A Trump campaign Twitter account blasted out a doctored video featuring the Marvel super villain Thanos proclaiming, "I am inevitable."
  • Only, Thanos' purple, CGI'd version of Josh Brolin's chin-heavy mug is, courtesy of some cheesy graphic effects, overlaid with President Trump's smirking face. The message: Impeachment can't stop Trump's reelection.
  • But identifying with a villain has its drawbacks, too, mainly because bad guys are often done in by their own hubris.
President Donald Trump speaks during a tour of Apple's Mac Pro manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas, November 20, 2019.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

A Trump campaign Twitter account on Tuesday blasted out a doctored video featuring the Marvel super villain Thanos proclaiming, "I am inevitable."

Only, Thanos' purple, CGI'd version of Josh Brolin's chin-heavy mug is — courtesy of some cheesy graphic effects — overlaid with President Donald Trump's smirking face. And when Thanos-Trump snaps his fingers, the video cuts to House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, fading into mere dust.

The tweet, put out by the official Trump War Room account, tied the meme to the Trump impeachment inquiry in the House, which kicked into a new phase on Tuesday as the leaders announced they would seek two articles of impeachment against the president. The message: Impeachment can't stop Trump's reelection next year.

Critics were puzzled and aghast by the choice to depict Trump as literally laying his political opponents to waste. Thanos is a villain, after all. Not just any villain, either. The biggest villain in the biggest series of global blockbuster films ever. When Thanos snaps his fingers at the end of "Avengers: Infinity War," he wipes out half of all life in the universe.

The creator of the Thanos character, comic book artist and writer Jim Starlin, weighed in, too.

"After my initial feeling of being violated, seeing that pompous fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego, it finally struck me that the leader of my country and the free world actually enjoys comparing himself to a mass murderer," he said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "How sick is that? These are sad and strange times we are going through. Fortunately, all things, even national nightmares, eventually come to an end."

Doesn't the Trump campaign realize they were likening their candidate to a super villain?

Don't be naive. Of course they do.

They know that to liberals and Democrats especially, Trump is a villain. And they love it. Remember that Trump and his followers embraced the "deplorable" label gifted to them by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

Even before running for office, Trump himself thrived as a pop culture villain. This is the guy who turned "you're fired" into a catchphrase. He is in the WWE Hall of Fame. He only likes to watch the violent scenes in Van Damme movies. Sure, Trump also thrives on the adulation of his followers and memes depicting him as heroic and strong. Remember the doctored "Rocky III" image from just a few weeks ago. But make no mistake, being a larger-than-life heavy is integral to the Trump persona, and his success.

So in this context, the Trump campaign's meme masters were consistent and on brand. But they also messed up. Villains, after all, are often victims of their own hubris. This is certainly the case for Thanos.

The "I am inevitable" scene is from "Avengers: Endgame," and, well, things don't actually go so well for Thanos after he issues his doom-laden quip. Bear with me as I get into some nerdy detail. (This is also a big spoiler for the end of "Avengers: Endgame." But, let's face it, it's the highest-grossing movie of all time, so you've either seen it, or, if you haven't seen it by now, you don't care whether it's spoiled for you.) In that moment, he is actually outsmarted by Iron Man, who has snatched all the Infinity Stones. So after Thanos' big line, Iron Man offers a rebuttal -- "I am Iron Man" -- and snaps his fingers to make Thanos disappear.

Trump's reelection is anything but inevitable. He is likely going to be impeached by the Democratic-led House, although he probably won't be removed from office by the Republican-led Senate. He'll continue running for reelection. And even though his Democratic rival is a long way from being determined, the president will likely be in for the fight of his life leading up to November's election. He's the incumbent, and he has a strong economy behind him, at least for the time being. But his approval rating has remained consistently underwater.

All signs point to another tight contest. And, honestly, no one can predict the outcome. It would be good for Trump and his campaign to understand that, with a snap of their fingers, a handful of American voters in swing states could well make Trump's hope for a second term fade away in a cloud of dust.

Mike Calia is the politics editor for CNBC.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @Michael_Calia