As a result of Trump loudly acclaiming himself a “stable genius” last week, I wound up having an conversation with my chum, David Curp, who teaches 20th century Eastern European history at Ohio University. He’s one of my favorite people on the planet. Here’s how it went. Somebody remarked that Trump’s tweet was the mark of an imbecile (I agree). Dave replied:
The challenge here is we have to explain a remarkable problem – how did he manage to get to be President? While I’m willing to grant, a’la an English publication, he isn’t as nice as he seems on Twitter – I think we should at least entertain the possibility that he isn’t that dumb either?
He’s a ruthless predator. The willingness to violate norms and unleash brutal passions in a mob was mistaken for intelligence in the great brutalists of the 20th century. People spoke of Hitler’s “genius”. But once the one trick pony’s method of just mowing down all decency was challenged by superior force, suddenly he revealed himself as a moron, committing incredible blunders. Trump is a moron who started with a fortune, found a base that adored his brutality, added to it a baffled nihilist conservative leadership and punditocracy that chose to roll the dice and support him (as the industrialists in interwar Germany did, saying “We can control him”), and conned his way into a job he never dreamed he’d win. For the past year, he’s defecated all over normal social and moral limits, keeping decent people reeling. But it is starting to meet diminishing returns and he is too stupid to think of anything else to do.
That is why his tweets last week were hysterical. Faced with Wolff’s book he knew of nothing to do but what he always does: shriek and call names. And instead of hurting Wolff, it just sold more books for him and made him richer.
The same panic pervades him as Mueller’s vice grip is slowly closing and he knows all that has been hidden shall be revealed. It is *impossible* for it to end well for him. Because he is an idiot.
We will see… I would point out that it was more than a conservative base that won him the presidency – Michigan, Wisconsin and PA are NOT conservative strongholds – and Ohio went for Obama twice…conservatives tried to stop Mr. Trump (who got more negative votes than any Republican in primary history) – and open primaries helped Mr Trump quite a bit….
So if his base is simply brutal it is bi-partisan – and again, God forgive me but I think Michael Moore’s assessment has a great deal of value – Trump’s victory in places like Michigan wasn’t an embrace of brutalism per se – but rather was an effort to throw a monkey wrench into a globalization from which too many people in the rust belt feel is killing them…. I think they made a disastrous mistake, and I loathe Trump – honest injuns Mark – I have no desire to make any peace with him – but I don’t want to so focus on symptoms as to miss underlying illnesses- and Trump is much more symptom than cause….Oh- and as a historian allow me to say your reasoning here – ” It is *impossible* for it to end well for him. Because he is an idiot.” is deeply flawed, given the successes of idiots throughout history…. I would say it is at least even money he is impeached or gets a second term….
ps – if you want to get rich in politics – bet against anything I back though….
I think of George McClellan. He brought superior forces to Antietam. Fortunately for Lee, he also brought himself. Trump brings himself to everything. He could ignite war or international crisis or inflict untold wreckage on the economy by January 15. He is, like the Joker, an agent of chaos. He has been cocooned from consequences all his life. But he appear, like a man with a death wish, driven to expose himself to more and more opportunities for consequence to finally catch up with him. That’s why I just cannot believe it will end well for him.
I agree with Moore. And I think the people he describes who voted for Trump for those reasons of economic desperation have already peeled off, realizing he was a con man and predator who has already betrayed them. What we are down to with his base now, the roughly one third of the electorate who still adore him, the 80% of the GOP, dominated by Good White Christians–*is* a racist, revanchist core of people full of nihilist spite. Moore’s people are ones who saw Trump’s repulsive behavior as a *bug* but who pulled the lever in desperation and took a chance that he would not screw them. He has and so they are gone. Trump’s *base* are people who see his repulsive behavior as a *feature* and who *admire* his racism, his “making liberals cry”, his cruelty and spite, his ignorance and stupidity. He affirms them in their okayness and tell them that their spite is their strength. There is such a thing as dark joy in sin.