Donald Trump The man who would not be president

That won’t happen. I see a high chance of disaster within the first year of the new presidency. Trump won the game. But now the game for him could be up. Or perhaps the world will go down in flames.

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What was evident during the campaign is more apparent after Donald Trump’s election: Trump is deeply ambivalent about becoming president. He’d rather stay in his lavish New York penthouse. Policy is a headache. It requires concentration. There are annoying laws against nepotism. Trump won 4.1 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia. Washington does not pine for him.

It all began as a game, turned into an ego trip and ended in a strange apotheosis. Trump has uncanny instincts but no firm ideas. He knows the frisson authority confers. A rich boy from Queens who made good in Manhattan, he understands the galvanizing force of playing the outsider card. A man who changed his past, purging German lineage for “Swedish,” he understands America’s love for the outsize invented life. For his victory he depended on America’s unique gift for amnesia.

Trump saw the immense potential appeal of an American restoration — all nationalism finds its roots in a gloried, mythical past — after the presidency of a black man, Barack Obama, who prudently chose not to exalt the exceptional nature of the United States but to face the reality of diminished power.

The proposed restoration went beyond that. It was of the Judeo-Christian West against what Trump’s chief strategist (read propaganda minister), Steve Bannon, calls “this new barbarity.” That barbarity has many components. One is the crony capitalism of the “party of Davos” — the elites who have the system rigged. Another is the dilution of Judeo-Christian values through rampant secularization, migration and miscegenation. The mass 21st-century influx of Muslims in the West may be equated, in these people’s eyes, with the mass emancipation and emergence from the shtetl of Jews in 19th-century Europe: disruptive, threatening, a menace to the established order.

Obama is of mixed race. Who could better symbolize the looming decadence? For “Make America Great Again,” read “Make America White Again.” Trump saw that racism and sexism could be manipulated in his favor. He was the self-styled voice of the people to whom he bore least resemblance: those at the periphery far from the metropolitan hubs of the Davos consensus.

From headline to headline Trump stumbled, ending up with the last thing he wanted: a minutely scrutinized life. You can wing a campaign; you can’t wing the leadership of the free world. An unethical commander in chief is a commander in chief with problems.

Trump knows all this. He was big on hat; now he needs cattle. That’s problematic. He does not really know where to begin. Clearly not at the State Department, which has yet to hear from him.

One is put in mind of H.L. Mencken: “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Except that Trump is no moron. That makes the outlook more sinister. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, got it about right when he said of Trump: “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.” He might have said a gifted charlatan.

Bannon, as set out in remarks to a conference held at the Vatican in 2014 and reported by BuzzFeed, believes that “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict” that will, absent a firm stand by “the church militant,” “completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."

The thing is, of course, this fight — this imagined restoration — will be waged against the very essence of the modern world: the movement of peoples and ever greater interconnectedness, driven by technology. Taken to its logical conclusion, the Trump/Bannon war can only end in apocalypse.

I believe that money binds Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Trump. Precisely how we do not know yet. But there is also a cultural aspect. Putin has set himself up as the guardian of an absolutist culture against what Russia sees as the predatory and relativist culture of the West. The Putin entourage is convinced the decadence of the West is revealed in its irreligious embrace of same-sex marriage, radical feminism, euthanasia, homosexuality and choose-your-gender bathrooms. Enter Bannon.

It’s all a terrible mistake. Trump affects something close to a regal pout, close enough anyway to be perfected through Botox. He loves gilt, gold and pomp. He’s interested in authority, but not details. He yearns to watch the genuflections of the awed. He loves ribbon-cutting and the regalia of power. Used to telling minions they’re fired, he prefers subjects to citizens. In short, he’d be better off at Buckingham Palace.

That won’t happen. I see a high chance of disaster within the first year of the new presidency. Trump won the game. But now the game for him could be up. Or perhaps the world will go down in flames.

What women should look out for before voting this year

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