To understand the Donald, one first has to understand this picture. Fred Trump Sr. was a prominent real estate developer who rose to success through the 1930’s and 1940’s. Fighting his way through the cutthroat and unforgiving world of the New York City real estate market was no easy task, and he wanted one of his sons to learn to carry the torch, to acquire the acumen and ruthlessness that allowed him to succeed. The pressure and enormity of this task was too much for his first-born son, Fred Jr., who Fred Sr. would often ridicule for his failure. It drove Fred Jr. away from the whole business, who became an airline pilot and eventually died of alcoholism.
The responsibility them came to fall on his second son, Donald. It appears Fred Sr. was successful in crafting a capable successor, one who gradually grew to withstand the brutal nature of the world that he inhabited. He challenged Donald in every way, training him to be a killer, to be invulnerable, to become a king. And you can see in the picture above the respect and understanding that father and son came to have for each other- a rare trust in a business world that was and largely remains almost entirely devoid of it.
Fred Sr. was an exceptional judge of character, fine-tuning the ability to read people like a card-player – a fitting attribute for someone with the surname “Trump”. And this skill is the way in which Donald came to survive, his ability to feel and read what hand his opponent or competitors are holding. His style of doing this often comes by prodding or testing or insulting the other person or group so that he can judge their reaction. Every interaction he learns something about the other person, he sees what strengths they have, what weaknesses, how much fear they have, how much power they have – and then he adjusts his position accordingly. It is what makes him so unpredictable, and it is also what has made him successful. He isn’t working with his mind, he is feeling his way from one thing to the next, continually in motion yet completely certain that things will work out how they need to – primarily because he has no fixed outcome in mind to begin with.
Interestingly, the way in which his father trained him is how Donald came to treat his own children, and it was the general theme of his reality show The Apprentice – pushing and challenging people to see what they would do. There is a very, very tough love involved there, he is continually trying to sculpt people and find the same strength in them that he has – the same invulnerability to obstacles and criticism.
The reality show then evolved into Washington, where Trump decimated a dozen or so Republican opponents – as well as a legacy establishment figure in Hillary Clinton – to win the 2016 election. The same game was at work here, reading where he needed to be and what he needed to say in order to be the winner – in this case seizing on the populist anger of the people and how fed up they are of the broken Washington machine. Trump lets the world guide him based on the interactions and challenges he faces, and the caliber of opponent he faces. A policy wonk he is not, but a daring opportunist without compare.
After spending time in Washington, Trump remarked how the nastiness and ruthlessness of the real estate world he came from was nothing compared to the world of politics. Trump again employed his usual style of pushing and prodding every politician and world leader to see what they are made of. In doing so, he has gained an understanding of what is at stake, what business as usual is like, who supports him and who wants to fight him.
What he has found is people playing his same game, although not nearly with his skill. Opportunists, negotiators, and salesmen of every stripe, but with one difference. They are playing it for someone else. They are by and large bought and paid for by vested, powerful interests. And they hate that Trump is just playing this game for himself, he leverages the powerful interests in order to get what he wants – not vice versa. The entire media and political body came to be utterly infatuated with him, whether for or against, because of the simple fact that he is just enjoying himself and not trying to hide who he is.
Because of this comfort with himself, and because of the ruthless and bizarre world he was brought up in, he is perhaps one of the few people in Washington who are honest and transparent. We may or may not like what we are seeing when we look at Trump, but we are in many respects looking in the mirror at ourselves – a shameless and insatiable lust for power and attention, a greed and ego unable to be quelled. The difference is that, while most people try to hide or suppress this feeling, Trump has accepted it totally and lived it for his whole life, it comes naturally – sort of a living embodiment of the capitalist, consumer culture we find ourselves in today. It simultaneously exhilarates us and horrifies us, we aren’t collectively sure how to react to this kind of energy.
And in our reaction we inadvertently expose ourselves, we tip our hand to the master poker player. The presidency of Trump is an exposé in and of itself, because that is what he does. He is a killer and instigator, trying to find something that can withstand his relentless assault. The vacuity of the Republican party was exposed first, they had and still have no real message or popularity beyond Trump himself – a fact they are agonizingly coming to grips with this very moment.
Within the Democratic party lies the necessary counter-balance to the Trump energy. But since the empty and corrupt, establishment Clintonian wing of the party still largely remains in control of things, they too have unsurprisingly spent the entire four years of the Trump presidency reacting to him. Clearly that is because they do not have a viable, populist message that can stand up to his. Well, they do in figures like Andrew Yang or Bernie Sanders, but they have chosen to ignore it repeatedly.
Unfortunately for the establishment Democrats (and the nation at large), their unwillingness to embrace populism and the most authentic wing of their party has pushed them into a very weak position. They too are utterly dependent on Trump, since their whole message consists of not being him. So, if he is removed, what remains? The same empty, moderate, corporate Democrat stance that lost to Trump in 2016. They have gone to such insane lengths to push the “not-Trump” mantra that they are literally destroying the country with the COVID-19 hysteria and its economic and social fallout – which I’ve previously documented in detail.
All Trump is looking for, and all the people are looking for, is authenticity. They want something real, and because Trump is such a natural bullshitter it makes the rest of Washington look like children in comparison – they just aren’t of the same caliber. And they don’t need to be, we don’t need any more Trumps. What we need is an end to this game of lies and deception, we need both sides to just be real. And in that exposure lies the uncomfortable truth of things – the mess of a reality that we need to come together and deal with, as a nation. One way or another the truth will find its way out, and I suspect the Donald isn’t going anywhere until it does.