“I’m just now slowly emerging from what feels like a horrible hangover, “wrote a friend a couple of days following the Donald Trump presidential victory a week ago. I have felt a little nauseous myself, though alcohol over indulgence quite likely contributed to that. Now my condition is best described as one of cognitive dissonance. I’m having trouble stringing together the words “President” and “Donald Trump.” They don’t fit.
The problem is he will be President soon, so I’ll have to get used to it.
I do not assume the worst of Trump as many other never-Trumpers seem to. While he has obvious prejudices, I have thought emphasizing them missed the mark. The key aspects of his personality are his drive for self-aggrandizement which includes a need to always be perceived as a winner. Both of those needs has produced a man with a genius to manipulate others. And he did it brilliantly in working his way from being an initial laughing stock, except to his immediate followers, to becoming, sigh, President Trump.
Trump’s manipulative ways disgust me, and I think his narcissism produces a total unconcern for those harmed by his ways of winning. But I do not think of him as someone evil, like Hitler. I think of him as shallow and, except for treasuring loyalty, largely amoral, which certainly can do much harm, but I fear those qualities less than I would a fervent ideologue. Again he will often sound like one, but the way he keeps reshaping his positions suggests otherwise.
He’s a guy who wants to make deals that make him look smart. He employs hyperbole as a way of firing up his base and to give himself a lot of room to negotiate later. How many things has he said, such as his policy towards illegal immigrants, that he has “walked back” over time?
The puzzle here is while winning the presidency is a clear cut matter, winning as the president is far from it. To begin with there are no exact standards of measurement, an arbitrariness that leaves room for historians to reevaluate greatness over time. I would think that ambiguity would bother Trump. But I also think he will come up with some kind of definition for himself.
It would seem a good part of that definition would likely depend on getting laws passed through Congress. Because he is not rooted in an ideology and cares little about the future of the Republican Party (unless it continues to bow down to him), he might be in a unique position to break through the gridlock and get some useful legislation passed.
I’m not counting on it, but I have some hope.
On the night of Trump’s election win Chris Mathews of MSNBC, no great fan of Trump, captured my sense of wanting to wait for awhile to see what plays out rather than vilifying our new president right off the bat. He put it this way:
“I am just determined to find an optimistic notion here which is there must be some talent here to be president because he is going to be our president. Is he going to recoil everything he said because it was all just a game?
Is it ‘that got me what I wanted to get but I don’t need that anymore. What I need now is calm confidence building measures that I can actually build this economy back up again.’
Do the brains that got this guy elected president tonight apply to being a good president. I leave it as an open question.”
Though recent talk of Trump’s White House team, including his children, and prospective cabinet members do not ease my mind, hey, President Obama shook Trump’s hand and wished him success because America’s success depended on his own.
In honor of our president, I can wait for awhile to rush to judgement on the next in line.