No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Mencken’s famous quote continues to resonate in Donald J. Trump’s case – arguably the bloviating presumptive billionaire’s modus operandi – and has once again borne fruit for the consummate confidence artist in the office of president overseeing one of the most powerful nations in the modern world. Though, whether Trump holds his most recent acquisition as a reward is yet to be seen — the presidency rapidly ages those who occupy the office, something Trump’s fast food diet can only exasperate (I’m half this asshat’s age and I can’t eat that way!), he is already the oldest president ever elected and, so far as I can tell, this will be the first actual job this daddy’s boy is expected to show for up in the seven decades since he began his creep on the world that he now holds in his stumpy hands.
I’m disappointed in the election result. But I’m not surprised. We Americans, taken as a whole, are a brutish, illiterate, incurious, unsophisticated lot — all qualities, born and bred, that make us excellent consumers, fatted calves. Who better then to represent such a people than Trump, a true product of the system.
In a stunning – but also not surprising – act of hubris, Trump’s opponent and her supporters failed to recognize just how desperately fucking stupid we Americans are. I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter and Berner’s like myself tried to warn the haughty Hillary folks – blind in their media bubble of inevitability, the echo chamber atop their ivory towers – of this unsavory truth only to be roundly dismissed, told to grow up, fall in line, get with the program and other infuriatingly tone deaf condescensions. She ran a bland, uninspired campaign without vision or foresight, clearly. I cast my vote for Hillary as a pragmatic vote in my own self interest but she and her asshole supporters made that as difficult as it could possibly be. And now we all suffer the worst for their arrogance. Even, perhaps even especially, the Trumpeters.
Many of the people who carried water for Trump will find themselves all the thirstier for it yet again. These are so-called “middle America” folks who depend the most on government and yet trust it the least. Who resent government, view it as a imposition on, a hindrance of their god-given rights and earnestly believe that they would be better off without it. This distrust, this xenophobia, extends to all other groups, ethnic, religious, political, geographic, generational, socioeconomic and so on. Ignorant of the connections they as we all have with one another, they then also fail to see the irony in their information-deficient decisions that only serve to act against their own self-interests. This repeating pattern, this downward spiral has continued for generations resulting in ever increasing poverty of mind, body and spirit in those rendered completely incapable of helping themselves much less acknowledging that they need help in the first place. In their pain, frustration and lack of self-accountability, they blame others for their plight like dumb beasts reacting to a threat they do not understand. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they also did not understand.
Past Is Prologue
Trump is a narcissist. I write a lot about my own experience with narcissism and I consider the possibility that I’m suffering psychology students disease by projecting my own interests to the exclusion of others in my diagnosis of Trump; however, I’m not alone in this observation, many qualified psychologists (of which I am not one) have been so alarmed by this textbook case in Trump to have broken with the tradition if not rule of not diagnosing those other than their own patients and go on record with these same observations, and Trump’s childhood history would strongly suggest a family environment primed to produce the caliber of narcissism Trump exhibits. This is far beyond the already high level of narcissism exhibited by other successful politicians.
As a classic narcissist, pathological dishonesty is a lifestyle. Feelings literally equate to facts for Trump and people like him. He lies constantly. So much so that it’s impossible to keep up with all the lies and he suffers no readily perceivable consequence for them because it’s difficult if not impossible for us to comprehend that someone could continue to gush this much bullshit and still somehow remain a functional person in society. And so, in our shock and awe, we tend to accept if not believe this volcano of crap just to cope with the idea of ourselves coexisting with it, thereby enabling its existence in the first place.
I worked for a man like Trump once. This guy, Mike, could sell ice to Eskimos but was so divorced from reality that he couldn’t deliver for shit. His business plan changed every other day or so. The development staff and I opted to start work earlier and earlier — early enough to make some progress before Mike would show up, call a meeting and destroy everything. Mike, like so many salesmen, fancied himself a “idea guy”. One of his ideas was an online art sales service and though we were able to cobble together a quite advanced website (for 1999 especially), he didn’t so much as consider much less secure any sort of order fulfillment and we ended up purchasing art from our competitor to do so! Eventually Tony, the marketing guy, was let go for which he accused Mike of racism (maybe true, he was certainly a sexist who told me women lacked the logical capacity to be programmers), went back to all the investors he had pitched to and told them the truth which, along with the rest of the Dotcom Bubble bursting, spelled the business’ swift and inevitable demise and at least a half million dollars – much of which came from a settlement Mike was awarded from an automotive manufacturer after a rollover accident left him paralyzed and his fellow co-investors in his previous failed venture took the coma he was left in as a opportunity to bolt – was essentially lit on fire and flushed down the sewer. Since then, Mike’s left a similar trail of destruction in his wake and I hear fled to Florida to escape lawsuits from the federal government, the State of Kansas, the City of Wichita and numerous unpaid contractors for his failed Joyland renovation. Mike is a small fish compared to Trump but – Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks, Trump Water, Trump Wine, Trump’s casinos, shit, even Trump Hotels are taking a dive – does any of this pattern of fraud, litigation, screwing over workers and failed investments sound familiar?
It’s no accident then that Trump’s former writers, accountants, consultants, contractors, employees and straight up victims of his various scams near unanimously came out with the same warnings to us all. But, like Trump, people believe what they want to, what feels good, and Trump gives us a torrent of material to choose from. Even I like some of what he has to say but all of it’s moot because for better or worse, like Mike, he’s completely incompetent.
Is a businessman who outsources his manufacturing going to know how, much less want to, bring jobs back as president? Does bankrupting six businesses demonstrate good fiscal discipline? Does a businessman who routinely, deliberately fails to pay his workers (who he tends to outsource for) have better wages for you in mind? Probably not. But it sure feels good to believe it. We’ll have to see if the Trumpeters can feed their families on faith alone because the man they put their faith in has no history of giving anything back. Clinton, as hawkish and corrupt as she was, would have provided nonetheless. Too late now.
By the time Trumpeters, swollen with his recent victory, realize that they’ve elected a fraud, a personality disorder rather than person, at their own expense and the sinking regret begins to set in it’ll be too late for them to take the evasive action many of the rest of us are now preparing in order to mitigate in our lives the effects of their failure to recognize the nature of the thing they were seduced by. And now the elephant is in the china shop, it honors no allegiance to anyone but itself and it will indiscriminately break everything around it with impunity because that is what it is, that is what it does, that’s what it’s past reveals it to be.
Don’t Know Much About History?
True to Godwin’s law, Trump has been compared to Adolph Hitler extensively. So was Obama, Bush, etc. for that matter. But for some of the circumstances surrounding Hitler’s rise to power – ridiculed before seizing on economic desperation, antisemitism, appealing to populism, nationalism, being legitimately, democratically elected and unhinged narcissism – I do not find the Nazi comparison useful. It says more about a small but very loud contingent of emboldened, white nationalist Trumpeters that his crude, vocal exploitation of the divisions in our country appeals to. Hitler was a self made opportunist who rose from obscurity. Trump has always enjoyed celebrity. Only Hitler’s insane ambition eclipsed his competence in manifesting his horrifying vision upon the world. Trump lacks competence, mitigated by the wealth and repute he was born into — and this is ultimately a good thing for everyone, I think.
Trump is more like Caligula. Both were born into wealth. Both went to military school, where Caligula got his nickname from his father’s soldiers. The two both present with incestuous tendencies. Caligula, his sister. Trump, his daughter. Both exhibit particularly notable, sexually perverse behavior. As a ruler, Caligula is described as an insane tyrant who redirected the wealth of the nation to provide for his own lavish lifestyle and eventually was done in by those closest to him.
Trump’s paranoia, thin-skinned-ness and racism are also reminiscent of our own Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon who was forced to resign when his Republican party turned on him. The media that initially empowered Nixon’s political career was also the media that destroyed him and he grew to loathe to media.
Taken together, Trump’s personality traits present not just a threat but also opportunity.
The Tweeting Trump Bomb
Narcissists tell you who they are. Everything they want and fear is projected outward as they neither have the means to process these impulses internally or the impulse control to keep from expressing them externally. The difficultly is believing it, taking it seriously — because it doesn’t make sense to normal, healthy people who then tend to rationalize it away.
Trump’s cartoonish behavior lead others to repeatedly dismiss him as this or that, never getting what he was telling all of us to our faces what he actually is. All the symptoms were on full display – the childish behavior, tantrums, vengefulness, lack of boundaries, lack of any sort of personal discipline, the constant dishonesty, a complete disregard for other people – but culled over by a media that couldn’t accept that an adult could exist, much less succeed, this way in society. We tried to understand and treat Trump like a normal, responsible human being — and that was (obviously) and is still a mistake.
And it’s a mistake that the Republicans also make. Establishment politicians are entertaining a fantasy if they think they’re going to be able to harness Trump for their own ends — because their ends aren’t his ends, their rules aren’t his rules and they have absolutely no leverage over a creature like this. He will not hesitate to attack them, their friends, their families, their interests to the approval of roaring applause. They will bend to his will (as they’ve shown themselves to do) or be punished.
A narcissist, lacking a functional internal means to process input, relies on external objects to validate their sense of the world. It’s like not having teeth and requiring that others with teeth chew food and spit it into your mouth for you for nourishment. The regurgitators in this metaphor are Trump’s inner circle, those closest to him that he depends on to process feedback. It’s why Trump, preparing for his Comedy Central Roast, would ask others around him if a joke was funny and didn’t understand punchlines. It’s also why he’s all over the map on every issue — he’s probing for feedback in the absence of any principles or guiding philosophy of his own. Trump is not a thing with any basis to be able to reason with. To change his mind, one must replace those he trusts to regurgitate reality for him.
Trust for a narcissist like Trump is a tenuous, grasping thing that is constantly tested against results which come down to how he feels in that moment. Paranoia emerges from his simultaneous need for and lack control. He doesn’t want to rely on anyone else but he must and he’s predisposed to resent those he relies on for it. And herein lies the aforementioned opportunity.
If Trump loses trust in his regurgitators before he has a chance to replace them, he will essentially lose his mind and, having no means to face reality on his own, will melt down and lash out just like an angry, confused, frustrated toddler does under pressure. Except that Trump has power and he will raze everything within close proximity to him without exception, including all the slimy, spineless obstructionist parasites who presume to suck up to him for power.
If Trump were a bomb, it wouldn’t take much to set him off. Any perceived slight, any betrayal no matter how small will do. This is where the media becomes instrumental. It’s well known that Trump only reads about himself, scans the news obsessively for how he’s being received and trolls people on the internet critical of him. Think of this as a raw nerve. Any implication that Trump’s regurgitators may be conspiring against him could be picked up by the media which, given it’s current state, would connect the dots provided for the salacious clickbait headlines they trade in, lend legitimacy to the story, and be predictably received by Trump in a way that makes him feel used, humiliated, betrayed. Before the media could or would issue any sort of retraction or correction, Trump would’ve already been triggered, the damage done, those punished trying to come through his tantrum by any means available to them and each other, looking all the guiltier to him for it and, without his trusted regurgitators to inform his decisions, he would have no means of discerning what is real. He would end up isolated, a man perceiving himself under constant siege. His allies damaged, at the very least. Better that Trump trust no one than trust those who cause the people of this nation so much suffering.
There’s a good chance that Trump will bring about this destructive dynamic on his own. But it can also be inspired. There’s also a chance that Trump consolidates power enough to insulate himself against such threats. And, there’s also a chance that Trump manipulated the rage and despair of Americans to ascend to the presidency where he implements a relatively moderate, even somewhat progressive agenda, if only by accident – Republicans did just elect a man who is essentially a life-long Democrat – though there’s nothing in Trump’s past to indicate he could effectively plan much less see any agenda through before losing interest in it.
Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.?
It appears that America called Donald Trump’s bluff, that he never wanted what is one of the most difficult, trying jobs in this nation. Nor did he ever want to live onsite, barely above the ground in an old house built by slaves in a neighborhood far less white than Manhattan if his flying back to Trump Tower every evening from campaigning around the country on the Republican donors’ dime is any indication.
But whether he wants it or not, whether we want him to have it or not, the people elected Trump to the job by the rules of our nation and all the responsibilities that come with it. Despite his bloviating, there’s nothing to suggest (and no tax records to scrutinize) that Trump knows how to grow an economy of any size, quite a bit of evidence to suggest he’s better at bankrupting businesses (his own and others’) than building them and, if the pattern holds, the economy (not the government) will shrink under a Republican administration bringing down with it all the consequences thereof — notably an ever poorer, angrier proletariat and wealthier, more powerful upper class. Knowing this in advance of Trump taking the helm, we have a few months to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
In the meantime, it looks like I’ll probably have to wait for the episode of American Greed on Trump that I was eagerly anticipating and he’ll probably settle the fraud charges for the Trump University scam he was running in a case presided over by a judge who happens to be of Hispanic heritage that Trump accused of being unfairly biased against him for Trump’s racist remarks about Mexican immigrants that he kicked off his presidential campaign with. And for the next few years I get to ask Trumpeters one question over and over again:
So, how’s that wall coming along?