On Trump, Keep it Simple (In 5 Points)

Josh Marshall on TalkingPointsMemo:

1: Trump is a Damaged Personality: Trump is an impulsive narcissist who is easily bored and driven mainly by the desire to chalk up ‘wins’ which drive the affirmation and praise which are his chief need and drive. He needs to dominate everyone around him and is profoundly susceptible to ego injuries tied to not ‘winning’, not being the best, not being sufficiently praised and acclaimed, etc. All of this drives a confrontational style and high levels of organizational chaos and drama.

2: Trump is a Great Communicator: Trump has an intuitive and profound grasp of a certain kind of branding. It’s not sophisticated. But mass branding seldom is. It is intuitive, even primal. ‘Make America Great Again’ may be awful and retrograde in all its various meanings. But it captured in myriad ways almost every demand, fear and grievance that motivated the Americans who eventually became the Trump base. It is almost certainly the case that MAGA is entirely Trump’s invention, not the work of any consultant or media specialist but from Trump himself. The Trump Trucker baseball cap, a physical manifestation of Trumpite branding, is similarly ingenious. In conventional design terms it is almost ridiculous. Loud red, simple font and campaign motto on an intentionally cheap design. But you cannot see that cap, even at a great distance, and not know what it means. It embodies as an artifact what Trump represents. Despite his manic temperament, impulsiveness and emotional infantility, this acumen gives him real and in some ways profound communication skills.

3: Trump’s Hold on His Base Is Grievance: People continue to marvel how a city-bred, godless libertine who was born to great wealth could become and remain the political avatar of small town and rural voters of middling means. The answer is simple. Despite all their differences, Trump meets his voters in a common perception (real or not) of being shunned, ignored and disrespected by ‘elites’. In short, his politics and his connection with his core voters is based on grievance. This is a profound and enduring connection. This part of his constituency likely amounts to only 25% or 30% of the electorate at most.

4. Trump is Possible Because of Partisan Polarization: Partisan polariziation is profoundly important for Trump. In a less polarized partisan environment Trump never would have been elected and, if he had, might already be looking at possible impeachment. I think the greatest single explanation of Trump is that his politics profoundly galvanized a minority of the electorate and only a minority of the electorate. Almost everyone who wasn’t galvanized was repulsed.

5: Trump is Surrounded By Extremists and Desperados: Trump is primarily driven by impulse, grievance, the need to dominate and the need to be praised. There are core political beliefs Trump has had for decades which we should expect him to stick to. They almost all turn on being taken advantage of by other countries – whether in terms of trade or defense. The common thread is a deep belief in zero-sum relationships, whether in business or foreign affairs. As business columnist Joe Nocera put it after decades of observing Trump: “In every deal, he has to win and you have to lose.”

One of the best summaries I’ve read of Trump.