A week ago I wrote that ‘Donald Trump is going to snap very, very soon’, but I may have been wrong. In any case, there’s another possibility.
The Republicans who put him into power knew the risks of doing so. Three days after his ‘election’ I argued:
…the Republicans have anointed the worst white man in the world to replace the first black President. The problem they now have is that Trump is utterly incapable of governing. He is a man who will clearly be unable to master the complex tasks inherent to the job. Being President of a large powerful nation involves dealing with huge amounts of detailed information. Although there is some limited evidence that Trump has some ability to understand short written sentences, there is no way that someone of his *extremely* restricted intellectual prowess will be able to read the morass of documents he will have to handle on a daily basis, or even to understand the most basic gist when they are explained to him. There’s also the question of workload. Here is Obama describing an average day in his life as President. It’s demanding stuff, and the mere fact that the word ‘intelligence’ is used three times suggests strongly that the new President will struggle. By contrast, Trump’s typical day almost certainly revolves around a heavy schedule of cheating at golf, inspecting prospective line-ups of mid-teen prostitutes, spending seven solid hours on Twitter in an increasingly frustrating bid for ego-gratification, signing documents for buildings that he does not own, telling his children that they are worthless, and looking out of the window of his plane wondering why his own father hated him so much. Much has been made of his lack of political experience but few have considered the possibility that this is man so lacking in concentration and stamina that he has probably never sat through an entire episode of the West Wing. (Neither have I, but no one has suggested making me President.)
I don’t know the precise nature of Trump’s mental disorders. As I’m not a psychologist, I’ll just say he’s dangerously deranged. I know that his fellow Republican Paul Ryan is an admirer of Ayn ‘Medicare’ Rand, which according to my personal DSM qualifies him for psychopath status. However, I also know that not all conservatives are driven by the will to power and the eradication of the ‘weak’. They have values, believing strongly in the importance of duty, loyalty, faith, family, community, stability, and the Republic. Their notion of freedom differs from mine, and has been usefully defined as freedom from rather than freedom to. It’s a noble tradition, one which there’s some sign Mike Pence retains some respect for, despite his absolute contempt for more than half of the human species.
It is by no means impossible for liberals and those of us on the left to find common ground with conservatives. Please watch this 5-minute video by the climate campaigner George Marshall. It’s crucial to my argument and he explains it many times better than I ever could.
Climate Change is traumatic for people with a conservative outlook. It demonstrates that they were wrong about the free market and the supremacy of private self-interest over the private good. Naomi Klein explains this very clearly in ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate’. Many on the right have responded by going full-on psychotic in their denial of the facts.
Climate science is not the only thing that Trump’s administration is hell-bent on denying. It is also flouting basic constitutional rights and the political traditions of the United States in its pursuit of an openly sadistic agenda. Those who are not psychotic or driven by sadism, and who still respect the United States as an institution (as Trump clearly doesn’t), have to help get rid of him. I don’t know what form that will or should take. It would be good if grassroots Republicans could join the movement to resist the devastating (and probably illegal) changes he is imposing. Those who are in the centre or on the left need to be prepared to dialogue with them, using the techniques and language George outlines above. At the top of the Republican Party disposing of Trump will probably have to involve at least cloaks, if not actual daggers (we don’t want to be dealing with a martyr). I also wrote in November (in a mood of some despair):
“…the Republican Party is now faced with the conundrum of managing a situation which is to all intents and purposes impossible. There may already be whispers in the arras that he could be forcibly removed. In the light of his apparent insistence that Sarah Palin should play a prominent role in world affairs few rational people living or dead would be all that opposed to a good old-fashioned off-stage poisoning or stabbing. Or possibly an air crash? I sincerely hope that 1) there are still some Republican leaders out there who still have some measure of faith in the values they profess and the integrity to implement them and 2) that they have left no options off the table.
As I say, although I think it’s essential to avoid bloodshed as far as humanly possible, it will be very difficult for Republicans leaders to manoeuvre Trump off the stage. The fact that it may be dangerous for them doesn’t bother me unduly at this stage. In my darker moments I marvel at lack of the lack of suicides of leading conservative political figures in relation to Trump’s ascension. These are people who claim to love their country and cherish their democracy. Look at what they’ve done to it.
One commenter on this site described Trump’s present position as ‘thriving’. The situation of many of his first victims could fairly be characterised as ‘sitting at a foreign airport wondering how the hell to get back home to their families’. (Ironically, Trump himself is keen to spend as little time with his family as possible.) I think what we’ve seen in his first week in the White House is not an energetic burst of activity but a manic acting out of a mental disorder (whichever it may be) under the guidance of the nazi activist Steve Bannon, a proud wife-beater and probable alcoholic who will do whatever he can to destroy democracy and unleash chaos. Bannon resembles the trickster psychologists in the last few J.G. Ballard novels in that he seems to have learned to manipulate Trump’s psychopathology to the point where the ‘President’ trusts him and probably thinks he is his ‘friend’.
One comment I particularly valued among the hundreds of extremely wise remarks and reflections left in response to my first piece was the following, from someone called nychermes:
I respectfully disagree with your assessment that he will snap. I don’t think he is snapping anytime. That’s a misreading and I will explain as follows. You’ve reduced his complex assemblage to his insecurities – what YOU aren’t seeing is his very resilient, very strong core strength to always go for what he has his mind set to, however it may threaten his insecure ego. HE will NOT SNAP. He will get through every nuisance he creates even if he appears he’s in trouble – he WILL invert the very nuisance only to recreate more chaos to hide and bury his weakness while maintaining a storm of chaos and going after his objectives. HE will devolve the rest of the country and audiences into a pulp of insanity and emotional incoherence but he will stand. He is WAY more dangerous than your well meaning but one-dimensional – ‘insecure ready to snap manchild’ portrait for him. The ‘manchild’ is not ALL of the story as you have made it out to be in your article.
The title of my article was partly wishful thinking expressed as an extremely firm prediction. I think that’s one reason it was so widely shared and read, and I apologise if it made anyone feel in any way complacent about what lies ahead. Of course, Trump may well not ‘snap’ (not being a psychiatrist, I left that term unhelpfully vague). In the meantime, others need to snap into action. Debates over his mental stability need to take place in the open and journalists must openly challenge Government supporters and spokespeople on the issue. Then there are the politicians. According to Robert Reich, some Republican senators didn’t oppose Trump’s rise before the election because they were scared of being shot dead by his demented supporters. Well right now it seems to me that if the only people to lose their lives as a result of this madman’s brief reign as President were the people who installed him in the first place, it wouldn’t be such an absolute tragedy. The world is not going to suffer for their cowardice.
Donald Trump does not represent Republican values. If you are a Republican, you owe it to your country to help get him out of the White House as soon as possible.