Thursday, June 14, 2018

Four Things to Bear in Mind in the Age of Trump

1. Until a few decades ago, when things got a notch or two warmer/fuzzier, most of our presidents were narcissistic racist pompous blowhards. The greats were standouts who (mostly) transcended that. That's why they were great! But the rest were varyingly ignorant, vain, blustering, unself-aware bossy boss predators who'd clawed their way to power. You know, like the asshole managing your workplace. Things have been that way since the dawn of time, yet we survived. In fact, we thrived.


2. History is full of odd footnote characters - aberrational dolts who squeaked into power and did unbelievably crazy shit. Such characters were infuriating to live under, and required diligent cleanup from their successors, but they are not the ones who destroy societies. Societal destroyers are different from boobish footnotes. The destroyers are smart enough and competent enough to execute their awful ideas. Remember Leff's Four Scenarios of Authority. In declining order of preference:
1. Smart ideas, good execution

2. Dumb ideas, bad execution

3. Smart ideas, bad execution

4. Dumb ideas, good execution
Trump's actually the second best possible scenario. Infuriating to live under, and messy to clean up, but never forget that societies are destroyed by #4 (and terminally demoralized by #3).


3. When you hear people complaining about how Trump isn't "normal", you're hearing hypocrisy. Back in 2015, when it looked like the 2016 race would be yet another Clinton versus yet another Bush, most of us groaned in exasperation. We prayed for someone different - someone iconoclastic - and, alas, our prayers were answered. The left, god help them, got Bernie, and the right, god help us all, got Trump. But while we all wanted a fresh start, only the Trumpers have remained steadfast while the rest of us flip-flopped (lord, what I wouldn't give for some boredom and normalcy) and even conjured up mass amnesia re: ever having wished it!

So while I condemn Trump's bigotry, his ignorance, his corruption, his narcissism, his authoritarianism, and his treason, I am not hypocrite enough to whine about his abnormality. (Everyday abnormality, anyway - the breached decorum, the Twitter decrees, the unfilled positions, etc. When abnormality is harmful - not merely surprising or distasteful - I call out the harmfulness....but never the divergence, per se.)


4. We hear constant kvelling re: Trump's lack of discipline and expertise; his unwillingness to read and to inform and prepare himself. His unshakeable confidence in his own gut instinct elevates willful ignorance to a point of pride. When Michael Bloomberg suggested he hire advisors smarter than him, Trump's inevitable reply was that nobody fit that bill.

Disgusting, no? Yes, I think so. But I'm gobsmacked by the hand-wringing. Most 21st century Americans are exactly the same. Right, left, and center, this is an American norm. We exhibit little mental curiosity or elasticity. There's virtually no interest in exploring diverse opinion; even intelligent people mindlessly ape talking points. And there's no humility whatsoever to be found. Everyone harbors delusions of superiority, deeming their guts the keenest possible arbiters of truth. We're a nation of self-regarded "stable geniuses".

While Trump's sentiments, inclinations, and tone are hopelessly outdated (his ascension marks The Un-Self-Aware Assholes’ Last Hurrah), his willful ignorance, hubris, and penchant for "winging it" perfectly mirror how Americans roll right now. It's flabbergasting that so few see themselves in him.

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