Friday, 16 October 2020 01:57

OPINION: The excuses for Donald Trump

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Last week I wrote about the way in which Donald Trump defends himself. He casts blame on to others in order to move the spotlight away from him. He knows that it is easier to spread lies than it is to fact check lies. It takes mere seconds to falsify something than it does to research that thing. 

But Donald Trump isn’t the only one defending himself. Many of his supporters do it for him as well, and it is an invaluable, totally free service that they perform. Every excuse is already lined up and is ready to wash away any misdeed Trump has done or will do. Let’s discuss three examples: lying, narcissism, and the Deep State.

Let’s start with the lying. Trump lies a lot. The Washington Post has counted more than 20,000 times that he has lied since becoming president. What do Trump’s supporters say? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some supporters say that other politicians lie as a way to excuse Trump, others say that Trump is doing so purposefully to set the media and liberals in a rage, and others say that this is just a part of politics. All of these sidestep the issue: Trump does lie, and he lies a lot.

Trump lies so much that he lies about unimportant things: the size of his inaugural crowd being the largest ever (it wasn’t), that the flu kills 100,000 Americans a year (it doesn’t), or that the predicted path of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 would make landfall in Alabama (it didn’t). Even in the 80s and 90s, he used his John Barron alias and his undisguised voice to talk about his sexual prowess. He also lies about legislation: he claimed that he passed a VA bill that was crafted by John McCain and passed by Obama in 2014. 

No other politician lies like this. He is a lying machine. And this certainly doesn’t fit the bill for politics as usual. Otherwise, why would he need to lie on the day after his inauguration about the size of his inauguration? 

Perhaps his lying does fit the bill for spinning the media into a tizzy, but even that is flimsy. He has lied many times about doing more for the American people than any other president. I wonder what FDR or Eisenhower think of that? 

But regardless of whatever excuse his supporters give him about his lies, they are still lies. Excusing him does nothing to address the problem of politicians lying. We don’t want our politicians to lie. But I don’t care about what other lies other politicians have told when Trump is our president right now. Pointing to other politicians does not excuse Trump’s lying, especially since he has lied so much more than any other politician. You don’t get to hate the lying of other politicians and then proceed to excuse your politician. Whataboutism is no defense.

Let’s move on to narcissism. Almost everyone acknowledges that Trump is a narcissist, perhaps even the best example of one. We have all known a narcissist personally, and many of us have been hurt by them. What do Trump’s supporters say? “I don’t like Trump’s narcissism, but sometimes it is needed to get things done,” is a common trope. Before we get much deeper though, it should be noted that narcissism is a psychological personality disorder and not simply a disposition. In short, narcissists can’t get cured of their narcissism; that’s why it’s a personality disorder. Let’s think about this a little deeper. 

Maybe some narcissists can get amazing things done. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, likely had very many narcissistic traits. Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX likely has some too. Both of them have been very successful and have created incredibly useful technologies. Many people who have worked for them, Steve Jobs especially, have noted how hard, and sometimes abusive, their temperament can be. People have had their lives and relationships ruined because of the demands placed on them and many have been fired because of it. Maybe this temperament is needed to get some things done. However, there is a major difference between running a company and running a country.

For Jobs and Musk, they lead their own companies. For Trump, he is leading our country. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are able to use their companies to achieve their personal goals. For a president, this is not the case; presidents don’t get to use our country and our public trust to satiate their personal goals. 

It is sometimes true that narcissism can be effective in private life (at least for that individual), but where is narcissism effective in the domain of public service? There is no narcissistic reward for benevolence; benevolence is entirely contradictory to narcissism itself. 

For Trump, however, his goals aren’t simply abstract, public goods; they are for his personal benefit. He has used the powers of the presidency for personal enrichment. In one example, Trump tried to get the 2019 G7 Summit, a meeting between global leaders that would bring in lots of cash, moved to his hotels in Florida. In another example it led to his impeachment. Is this narcissism good? Did these examples of narcissism provide a public benefit? 

In short, if Steve Jobs or Elon Musk crash and burn because of their narcissism, then it is only their companies that fail. If President Trump fails, our society as a whole fails. Narcissism might sometimes be effective for personal gain, but it is dangerous in the public, governmental domain. There is no type of narcissism in which the afflicted person gets that narcissistic dopamine hit by being benevolent.

 Trump is using our public trust to achieve his personal goals, not our public ones. Ask yourself, if someone with a narcissistic personality places themselves at the center of the universe and more important than all else, will they ever put their ego aside to be a part of something bigger than them like, say, the United States of America? Or would they use the United States of America as a vehicle to achieve their goals?

Let’s move to the “Deep State.” The Deep State supposedly is a secretive, underground group of individuals that actually pull the levers of our government. For those who believe in the Deep State, these hidden people are an unelected group of elites who use our government for their gain. Our president and Congressmen and women are just a façade in this view. 

What does this have to do with Trump? When Trump fires his advisers, goes after political opponents, or contradicts his scientists, his supporters often say that he is combatting this “Deep State.” Sounds great right? Trump should be fighting this, shouldn’t he? Not so fast.

The Deep State simply isn’t real. This Deep State defense is used to preserve the ideas of the people who hold this view. Climate change or coronavirus statistics, for example, are all some ploy to benefit these elites. In this view, these ideas aren’t and can’t be true. Instead of supposing that the government is operating on facts that happen to misalign with their worldview, it is easier to suppose that some conspiracy is going on. Because these ideas are discarded as a Deep State conspiracy, they will never feel the need to confront the evidence. In this view, Trump is on to something, and the media and government are trying to oust Trump so that their Deep State plot will continue. Because of this view, it will never be considered that Trump may be corrupt and wrong.

All of these defenses have one thing in common: they are all used as an unconscious mechanism to erase the immense discrepancies between reality and their viewpoints. Instead, these are a way to discard the possibility that Trump and themselves are wrong. In short, they are used as a way to delegitimize the other view. This is a way to preserve their ideas instead of confronting them. It allows them, in every case, to continually justify their viewpoint. It is a way to make sense of the world. The world looks so much simpler in this view rather than being convoluted with messy, complicated facts that disagree with their viewpoints. 

Just like lying, it is easier to create some elaborate excuse or Deep State conspiracy than it is to consider the overwhelming evidence that they themselves are wrong; the fairy tale never collapses in on itself and Occam’s Razor remains dull. In this view, there is always an excuse ready to be used. And you can be sure that one is lying in wait in response to this piece.

Alex Auman is a Richmond Country native. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He writes about politics, ideas and current events.