Misunderstanding Trump

After his third press conference on Charlottesville, the near-universal conclusion is that President Donald Trump is a racist.

There’s a moral awakening taking place across America, but President Trump is still hiding under his blanket.

The racists’ march in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, a protest against the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, presented Mr. Trump with the most glaring opportunity yet to separate himself decisively from the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who have cheered him on since he announced his candidacy, and to make clear that America has no room for what they stand for. He blew it. After the marchers turned to violence, and one of them plowed a car into a group of counterprotesters, injuring at least 19 and killing a woman named Heather Heyer, Mr. Trump said only that he rejected violence “on many sides.”

Trump also said there were “fine people” on both sides, as if there could be some fathomable aspect of being the “fine” sort of white nationalist. As commentator after commentator from both left and right opined on the tube, Trump has now shown what he really believes.

But what if that’s a completely wrong assumption, a projection of morality of the people who have beliefs, even if they differ, on a person who has none. Over grilled steak the other night, I spoke with a few people who are in the CEO class, who had done business with Trump over the years, who have serious issues with the Democrats and Hillary, and who, to a person, thought Trump a blithering idiot and a disgrace.

But they did not believe that Trump was immoral. They believed he was amoral.

What if there was only two things that drove Trump: self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment? What if he’s not racist, not because he’s against racism but because he has no moral compass to steer him toward or away from racism.

For people who have any sense of morality at all, it seems almost impossible for any person to be amoral, to simply feel nothing about morality and be truly sociopathic. The people who knew him, did business with him (or at least tried to, as a recurring theme was that he was so utterly lacking in integrity that neither handshakes nor contracts constrained his actions). His word meant nothing. Not to him.

So what was this tone deaf, impossibly stupid noise that was emitting from his yap? Others more qualified to explain pathologies have, and will, provide better explanations, but consider that the narcissist believes his golden tongue can somehow talk his way through the middle of a situation so that he can walk away making everybody happy, feigning concern for the bereaved without alienating perhaps the only group who has anything nice to say about him?

Like most insipid thinkers, Trump assumes others parse information like he does. If it works for him, it must work for you. And if it doesn’t, then it’s because you are wrong, you don’t “get it” like he does, further entrenching him in his own bizarre narrative. The depth of his compensation for his Impostor Syndrome precludes his ability to recognize that his mad rhetorical skillz didn’t cut it. After all, he got himself elected president spewing empty nonsense and attacks. He must be smarter than everyone else.

Among the wealthy, Trump was considered a vulgar boor, unwelcome in polite society. Mar-a-Lago is a monument to his effort to buy his way into Palm Beach society, reflecting his utter lack of grasp that one can’t buy one’s way into acceptance. He was the quintessential nouveau riche, ostentatious and tasteless. Trump was the guy who thought gold toilets showed class. He could impress others of his ilk, but he would never be accepted by the wealthy. Becoming president would show them.

Around the table the other night, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax returns had nothing to do with Russian collusion, even though it was certainly possible that there would be evidence to that effect. What drove Trump was the fear that he would be revealed as a phony, not a billionaire at all.

It wasn’t that Trump didn’t have money, particularly as compared to the groundlings, but in the realm of the wealthy, that “b” was a critical distinction. And to Trump, pretending to have that “b” was what made him appear to matter. Without it, he would be revealed to all as the impostor he knew he was. As for the misguided groundlings who conflated his wealth with a broader intelligence that would enable him to change government, even they would laugh at the hidden child who feared being outed as a nobody.

Perhaps we’ve given Trump far more credit than he’s due by imputing immorality to his incapacity to condemn white nationalism and racism. That would require him to hold a belief, wrong as it may be, about an issue of substance. Perhaps he holds nothing dear except himself.

What’s worse than immoral is amoral, no sense of right or wrong at all.

16 thoughts on “Misunderstanding Trump

    1. B. McLeod

      But with apparently no sense as to everyone else in the room. I don’t see that as a useful “skill.”

  1. Dan

    “Trump also said there were “fine people” on both sides”

    This is by far the more shocking remark that he made. Oddly, the media are focusing more on the “fault on both sides” comment, which seems (to me, at least) to be beyond reasonable argument. Both sides initiated violence at different times. Therefore, there was fault on both sides. But the fault isn’t equivalent–only one side murdered someone on the other. So, tone deaf? Sure. Suggesting equivalency where there is none? Agreed. But at least defensible.

    But to suggest that there are “fine people” on the white nationalist/supremacist (which aren’t the same, of course) side is just mind-bogglingly wrong.

    1. SHG Post author

      The murder is a post hoc red herring, though a tragedy nonetheless. At most, it wasn’t the cause of anything, but the effect. It explains nothing about what went very wrong in Charlottesville, and viewing it backward (someone was killed afterward, so it taints what came before) is not a useful or legitimate lens to consider what happened.

      1. B. McLeod

        Media accounts referring to “the fatal white supremacist rally” have muddied the waters, the rally having actually been cancelled well before the vehicular homicide occurred. The driver’s conduct is being imputed to the whole group on the basis that he was a racist and they were racists, but there is no indication that the crime was approved or sponsored by any group present for the rally, and only the driver has been charged.

    2. paleo

      Apparently there were some people at the park protesting the removal of the statue who weren’t part of the white supremacist group but were simply part of a heritage society of some sort. Maybe that’s who he was referring to. There were also some Christian-based groups who were there on the other side to “stand up” to the supremacists or whatever. So while it’s probably technically correct to say that there were “good people on both sides” there’s a time to say something and there’s a time to STFU. As is his habit, Trump doesn’t seem to understand that.

      To me, the most disturbing thing that he said was that the murdered woman’s mother was fine with his prior statement, or something to that effect. It the real world, the two hadn’t spoken. Why bring that poor woman into this at all? There’s something really messed up going on inside the man’s head.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    Amoral, Immoral, potato, potato. Sounds like every election. It’s so great the righteous aristocrats hate him too. It’s part of Trump’s allure that the wealthy turn their snobby noses up, sadly. You know what they say about matters of taste.

    Much Love,

      1. PseudonymousKid

        That’s more than a hop and a skip from what I said. You can think of other things, but does it matter whether a psychopath or sociopath kills you if the end result is your death?

        Speaking of lost in the weeds, we’re still too far from the ignorant bliss of legal pot and orange-dusted fingers. What were we talking about again?

        1. SHG Post author

          but does it matter whether a psychopath or sociopath kills you if the end result is your death?

          To the dead person, no. To those trying to prevent another death, very much so.

  3. st

    Most occupants of the Oval office appear utterly amoral. Trump’s predecessor made his bones with drone killings within days of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He ordered the execution of a 16 year-old boy, a US citizen, because the boy’s father had said many things the government didn’t like.

    The one before that was no better, putting us into several wars that have run for over a decade.

    Holding nothing dear except himself seems to be a requirement for winning this office. Carter was the last occupant whose actions suggested some level of moral reasoning and awareness.

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s certainly an element of it, and massive narcissism, in every person who runs for/wins the presidency. But real amorality is rare.

  4. ShallMustMay

    Robert Hare has extensive research into the psycho/socio pathetic mind. Originally based on criminals however his works have been expanded by more research into those who walk among us.

    1. SHG Post author

      Imagine the greater utility had you used your comment to provide substantive information rather than the name one (of many) researchers. It would have been informative.

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