Welcome to your Kleptocracy.
When this whole thing crashes and burns, every GOP operative and representative are going to be trying to distance themselves and their ideology from him. A key part of doing that will be rhetorically distancing themselves from the notion that his Presidency was legitimate or anything other than an aberration. So it’s actually really important for you to not use nicknames to refer to him, and to use the proper honorifics associated with him: President Trump, the Republican POTUS.
Further, diagnosing mental illnesses is something that even professional psychiatrists tend to refuse to do unless they have personally assessed the patient, so maybe you qualified solely with your browser tab to the Mayo Clinic open shouldn’t do it either. Further, it will make 2018 harder. The policies that Trump has been supporting have existed in some form or another in the GOP for decades, albeit in somewhat watered down forms. So if the narrative is, “Trump was crazy,” the GOP can easily demur. But if we make the accurate narrative “He was just giving your base what they’ve always wanted,” that’s something that not only swings elections, but changes the electorate for generations.
I’ve gotten snippets of today’s press conference through Twitter osmosis, and it really seems to be an exercise in surrealism so profound that I couldn’t even come up with a joke to match it. So let’s look at Trump, what he wants, and where this might be all going.
Trump is someone who was born into unimaginable wealth, and if he had not worked and simply put his money in an index fund he would be 8 times wealthier, instead of having gone through several bankruptcies. He went into the family business not out of any great passion, but because it seems to have been expected of him. He devoted his life to doing two things: elevating his own image and the ways that people saw him, and recklessly over consuming whatever worldly pleasures he could.
So we have someone who lives in a three story solid gold Park Avenue penthouse and would show up at a myriad of fundraisers without actually giving a dime. He was generally apolitical, and considered himself a Liberal insofar as it was allowed him to blend with New York society. I’m not sure how he saw discriminating against black tenants or sexually assaulting women fitting into that, but cognitive dissonance isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon, and plenty of Liberals are racist.
Here’s my first real big piece of supposition, and it comes from reading about wealth, from Medieval Feudalism to stories of our modern Gilded Age. I think that he experienced something that many children of wealth do. Most of us have to work very hard to attain milestones in our lives. Our achievements are slow: the new car we want; owning a home; a promotion at work. In large ways we are consumed with the mountains we have to climb. Children of wealth tend to not have that. If they’re raised with some semblance of responsibility, they might take up a trade. Or they might devote themselves to philanthropy. But most simply accrue revenue from their capital, and compete to see who in the Vineyard can have the longest yacht, or the most net worth.
Trump isn’t a 19-dimensional bocce ball master. I think he’s pretty dumb, and a lot of what he does makes sense if we realize that he just hasn’t thought it through. His other two dominant traits are selfishness and narcissism. So when Trump had this late in life existential crisis, he needed a way to further elevate himself so he could say, “I did something.” And after he was harangued by Obama at the Correspondents Dinner, I think he saw “become President” as basically the only thing that could elevate his station.
When he first started his campaign, his pitch was simple: “Build a Wall.” People act as though he had thought this through, that it was some genius master stroke. In truth, I think it was something that he blundered into.
Trump is an avowed consumer of cable news. Look at who he follows on Twitter, and you can see the kind of news diet he’s been getting. Anyone who watches nothing but FOX would absolutely get the sense that our borders are undefended and that cities are apocalyptic wastelands. (Yes I realize Trump comes from New York, and I don’t think he could find his way to the nearest Pizzeria or Hot Dog stand to save his life.) So as a dumb person, he took all of that blazingly hysterical representation of America and the vaguely xenophobic rhetoric around immigration and cooked up a solution that only an idiot could: “Build a Wall.”
Now here’s where a lot of the racists in the Republican Party started getting energized. They’d been fed dog whistle racism for years by Drudge and his ilk, yet the GOP would never actually do anything to overtly hurt brown people. And here’s someone who is talking just in one step towards plausible deniability from that. Jeff Sessions was one of the first to endorse and start campaigning for him. Sessions isn’t the Attorney General because Trump’s conscious instinct was to built an apartheid state, it was because Sessions saw the dumb idea, felt it came closest to what they’ve been wanting for years, and climbed on board. The same thing happened with Bannon and Brietbart, it was this process of people feeling attached to this racist message, coming on board early, and Trump feeling indebted. It’s been a cycle.
A billionaire is friends with other billionaires. He staffed his cabinet with them. Think they will be valuable business contacts later?
Coming to the election, Trump was driven by ratings, and convinced that he had good ideas that would eat up air time. So things like the Muslim ban were rolled out.
I earnestly believe that Donald J. Trump would like nothing more than to switch positions with Hillary Clinton. He really wanted to win the popular vote and feel that he had received the adulation of the nation. But he doesn’t want what is clearly one of the most difficult and demanding jobs on the planet.
So what does Trump want now? To get even more rich. I mean, here is a guy who created a fake charity so that he could pay $10 for his son’s Boy Scout entry fee. Avarice doesn’t begin to describe it. He’s got that instinct to acquire, and he hasn’t waited to further enrich himself, nor done a particularly good job in hiding it. So far:
- Used diplomatic phone calls with Turkey and Argentina during the transition to push through real estate deals there
- Doubled the entry fee at Mar-a-Lago and made sure to spend an inordinate amount of time there with club members. $200k gets you Presidential access.
- During the transition, saber rattled about recognizing Taiwan, backtracking during his Presidency and announcing support for a One China policy, then what do you know it, China immediately grants him a long sought after trademark there.
- Renting out space at his residences to the Secret Service at the price of millions instead of letting them use it for free. Keep in mind he will be entitled to their protection for life.
- His daughter’s business has been defended by his surrogates.
- His sons have been busy crossing the globe making deals.
- With having already filed his paperwork for a 2020 run, he has been airing commercials and collecting money that he can then use to pay some of his personal expenses.
- So with all of that, I think that Trump is very committed to continuing to enrich himself. He loves the adulation his supporters give him, so he wants to at least be seen as having tried to give them some of the big things he promised.
- If there’s some way he can appear forced out while still saving face enough that he can Tweet to his followers that what really happened is the “establishment” sacked him to further suppress them, he’ll take it.
The Republicans know they’re in a Party civil war. They’re not aggressively acting against the President and his flagrant wrongdoings because they are afraid that the Trumpists might leave the GOP if they do.
Welcome to your Kleptocracy.