8 Features of Donald Trump(OR ANY POLITICIAN)
An essential insight about Trump — or any politician — is that they do not learn from history. That’s obvious, but interesting in its own way. Trump arrived in Washington intending to destroy public institutions, for example, and he’s now doing just that.
But Trump’s inability to learn much may only be a feature, not a bug. After all, on a number of the most important leadership matters, his ignorance is both common and widespread.
8. Calling out politicians for hypocrisy
This is not a new problem, but for far too long it’s been one of the few areas in which we have had to shout obscenities at politicians as a group.
There are several principal reasons for this, but no matter how much we’re watching public figures lie and deceive, we mostly just accept those lies as facts, and accuse them of lying. This is beyond embarrassing, it’s stupid. It is a sign of a media that, like all the media, has gone insane.
Do not take my word for it, consider the words of James Baldwin, who wrote a famous anti-war essay that’s often cited as a model of how to criticize, namely that “what appears politically correct today will be the equivalent of another popular saying tomorrow.”
7. Naming names
Once again, think of who spoke most forcefully against taking up arms to make war on other nations. It wasn’t Trump, it was the great John Steinbeck, who famously denounced the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a “policy of ethnic cleansing.” Steinbeck was an obscure voice in an obscure literary milieu, but his speech was electric and meaningful.
Because politicians don’t name names, we sometimes believe that our politicians are beyond reasonable criticism and are mostly just ploys, or a bunch of furrow-browed mortals of little consequence. The fact is, we need to call out Trump, Pelosi, the G7 summit. We need to say, “This man’s not telling the truth. It’s just not credible.”
6. Saying thanks
What kind of leader congratulates his opponents and then sends them out to be attacked? What kind of leader takes credit for his followers’ work and then sends them out to get punched in the face? What kind of leader, on the other hand, is right to be critical of his supporters and harshly criticized his opponents and put them out to be attacked?
If you say it’s “just politics,” you’re doing not just Trump, but any politician who thinks about politics as something to be played and often won. If you say it’s the truth, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You don’t know who is right. Nor are you aware of what’s already been said.
5. Refusing to compromise
Trump didn’t study foreign policy, but that didn’t stop him from governing it. No one who engaged in bipartisanship really believed that it was in their interests to entrust his “my way or the highway” approach with America’s indispensable role in the world. Similarly, no one gave Trump credit for his willing flexibility on China and NAFTA.
The real problem is that no one, particularly Republicans, who had a balanced and serious vision for what U.S. foreign policy should be.
4. Incorporating new ones
We have ceased to even bother to interrogate candidates for public office, judging them by who they are, where they come from, and what their attitude toward racial diversity is. Now that most candidates simply don’t have strong views, it’s no longer an issue.
This is a profound and dangerous mistake, and it says something about our political culture.
3. Not understanding how to compromise
Party loyalty is a grave luxury that most voters can no longer afford. Now that partisans know that they can rally around their chosen candidate, and lock out others who are not in agreement, they come to believe that they know better than anyone else what’s best for this country. That’s wrong.
The voters deserve better, and so does the country.
2. The excuses
The U.S. economy is fine, the world is fine, the federal budget will not be in deficit for 15 years. If it’s all the fault of the president, the blame should fall on the leader of the opposition, who could and should do much more to restrain spending and rein in tax cuts.
The majority of voters are not blind to the fact that they’re living in a very dangerous time, and they want sensible answers, not bad rhetoric and empty promises. But that is so rare that no one has a clue how to deliver them. What we desperately need is a Democonstruction.
1. The politics
All of these blind spots stem from a particular set of politics that is also a particular set of prejudices and social realities. Who knows what other qualities of leadership aren’t currently obvious?