I find it fascinating that in the two weeks after the election, the enormity of the task before him seemed to humble the PEOTUS. There was a fairly magnanimous and generous acceptance speech; there were kind words in television interviews about his opponent and about those who opposed him; there was his long-famous “listening” expression as he visited Congress and took his first security briefings. Now, three weeks on from the election, we see what appears to be a return to form. He is not taking most of the daily security briefings, leaving that to underlings. Simultaneously, his social media persona has retreated yet again from triumphant to an almost petulant angry tone, revealing a need to respond to the sometimes incendiary posts of those who oppose him and to every event or action that appears to oppose him. And then there is the lying and/or making things up-particularly the unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. It’s what people who are painted into corners do. He is not painted into any corners–he will win the electoral college vote. It’s what toddlers do. He’s over 70. And it’s what addicts do.
To put not too fine a point on it, this all strikes me as addictive behavior…sure particular events can lead to sober episodes, but a return to the destructive, even self-destructive, behaviors is inevitable. The addiction? Some pundits suggest it is love, some suggest it is winning, some suggest it is being the one who is right. I think it is an amalgamation of all of these…to be beloved, to be feared, to be respected, to be to the biggest, the best, to have the last word. To be Emperor. He was Emperor of the Trump businesses; and now the empire has expanded.
A member of my congregation wisely noted in a conversation this weekend that she had been observing him for months and believes that, like many salesmen, he has a highly developed social intelligence. He can read the room he is in and tell them what they need to hear from him. But now, the partitions in the rooms are coming down. And less than a third of the people now in the largest room actually picked him, actually heard what they needed to hear and took his side. That was sobering. But in less than a month he has pivoted back to the incendiary behavior that fuels his most ardent supporters–and causes the world to look on aghast. Instead of “We are confident the Wisconsin recall will reaffirm our victory,” there is a stream of bile attacking the process…a process that is defined by law and required if the proper steps and the proper funding are in place. The toddler who is unsure of the result, the addict who is looking at his shrinking popular vote percentage needs a fix of being back on top…and being beloved, being heard, being respected, being the biggest, the best, having the last word. The Emperor sits unsteadily on his throne.
I’m no clinician, but that strikes me as pathological. I say that not as one who opposed him, but one who will now be a citizen of the country of which he will be head of state. And that terrifies me. And it should terrify those who support him.
Before this political neophyte now lies the task of governing, the task of shepherding an agenda that–while I find it deeply immoral and impractical at many levels–will require a sustained effort to convince the public and the more centrist members of the GOP Senate caucus to go along. Current proposals supported by his nominees to head HHS and Medicare alone face a huge uphill battle. They seek to utterly dismantle a nascent health care program and a mature elderly and disabled health care program in return for an untried and as yet ill-defined system putting our most vulnerable peoples’ well-beings totally in the hands of private enterprise. Selling the dismantling of Medicare to people who already are distrustful of Washington and fearful about health care will be a daunting task, one which I anticipate will mobilize many of the seniors that voted him into office to organize and protest against his administration’s plans.
Add to that the countless other domestic and global challenges currently facing us and I wonder, is it even humanly possible for him to function, to do the work of his office, if he is constantly distracted by his personal image and “pride” in the social media context, by this apparent obsession with being beloved, being heard, being respected, being the biggest, the best, having the last word?
I honestly don’t see how, not without surrendering the reins of actually governing to others. Given the public dog-fight already underway over Romney vs. Giuliani vs. Petraeus for Secretary of State among the camps in his own transition team, it is clear his coalition needs leadership to actually coalesce into a government. He must either put down the phone or face the prospect of a power battle among Ryan, Pence and McConnell for who will hold the reins while he rants and reigns as the Emperor of the one realm he can subdue: Social Media.
It would be worthy of popcorn and vitriolic tweet bingo cards if the health of virtually every American wasn’t at issue and the safety of the free world wasn’t at stake.