All I Know about Power I Learned from Donald Trump

They used to refer to Ronald Reagan as the Teflon President because nothing bad could stick to him. Presumably this was because of his sunny personality. Donald Trump is a new kind of Teflon President because he is completely in-your-face, but still nothing sticks … with half of the electorate, anyway. This seems to be because of his mastery of how to obtain and use power. 

            I grudgingly acknowledge his genius in this regard, although I can’t really know how much is due to sheer dumb luck. Is he the new Machiavelli, or just the new Magoo? But whether or not he has employed these tactics intentionally and knowingly, here are two things I’ve learned about power from Trump’s Presidency. I admit to being astonished by both. 

1.     The more outrages the better. If you do something utterly beyond the pale, thereby stirring up controversy that could potentially un-do you once for all, simply do something else equally or even more outrageous that people cannot ignore … and so on indefinitely. Each outrage will be quickly eclipsed by the next, resulting in no impediment to your forward progress or retaining power. 

2.     Just do it. The kinds of constraints most of us work under – morals, public opinion, law, civility, etc. – are constraints only so long as they constrain you. All of them rely on people and institutions functioning as we might normally expect them to. But Trump has shown us that you can do anything whatever – as he quite accurately noted during his 2016 campaign, even shoot someone on Fifth Avenue; and as he actually did: put an ally’s and our own national security at risk for purely personal political gain; and does now as I write: whine like a child about losing the election and focus entirely on undermining the vote of the people while dismissing the severity of a raging pandemic and climate change; etc. etc. – and get away with it so long as enough people and their representatives support you.


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