Two recent takes on Donald Trump have me thinking about him in new ways. One is John Oliver’s brilliant dissection of Donald Trump (Make Donald Drumpf Again!). As Oliver points out, Donald Trump is blunt but dishonest; he is aggressive but insecure; and he is successful but this success is more in his own mind than in reality. In many ways, Donald Trump is Michael Scott – if Michael Scott had been born into money.
Trump is a big-idea guy who has no idea how to follow through on those ideas. Trump says he wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. How? Trump says, “you force them because we give them a fortune. Mexico makes a fortune because of us. A wall is a tiny little peanut compared to that. I would do something very severe unless they contributed or gave us the money to build the wall.” This is Michael Scott’s attempt to start his own paper company and undercut Dunder Mifflin writ large. He has big ideas and is sure he’ll succeed, but the logistics escape him.
The other take on Donald Trump I’d like to respond to is John Dreyer’s argument that Donald Trump is playing the role of “the ultimate heel working the audience and acquiring a following the same way Ric Flair was able to.”
Where Dreyer sees Trump as perpetrating some kind of long con on the nation, I am not convinced he is this deliberate or in control. Instead of scheming, Trump strikes me as defensive and reactionary. He claims power and success for himself and spends most of his energies on defending those statements (often simply by saying “Believe me!”) rather than on saying anything substantive.
Consider Donald Trump’s fingers. In 1988, Spy Magazine called Trump a “short-fingered vulgarian,” and Trump has been reacting to this ever since. The editor of the magazine says, “To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him…On all of them he has circled his hand…to highlight the length of his fingers.” These photos often come with a note: “See, not so short!” He has been insulted and he is so insecure that he cannot let it go. Consider, too, each of their relationships with the truth. One key characteristic of Michael Scott is his tendency to speak before he thinks. Sometimes he doubles down on such statements and sometimes he immediately recalls them or tries to weasel out of them, but the starting point remains the same. Donald Trump follows the same model. John Oliver points out that Politifact has rated 76% of Trump’s statements as false and says, “I’m not even sure he knows he’s lying. I think he just doesn’t care about what the truth is.” They both say whatever is expedient or appealing in the moment and simply change it later – sometimes immediately, sometimes years later. The truth is irrelevant; what matters to them is how people feel about them and whether they are winning in that moment.
Dr. Christy Tidwell is a humanities professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where she teaches literature and writing. You can check out more of thoughts at christymtidwell.wordpress.com
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