Today on just the 88th day of Trump’s presidency I am frankly astonished by the speed by which his presidency is sinking. An insurgent Democrat is a deep red Kansas district came within less than seven points of beating a Republican, a district Trump carried by nearly thirty points. Today there is another special election in Georgia, in Newt Gingrich’s former seat. It’s unlikely that Democrat Jon Ossoff will win a majority of votes tonight and take the seat. It looks almost certain that he will win a plurality, which is a good sign for the general election.
The Washington Post calculated that so far Donald Trump has spent one in five minutes of his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago resort. For a president that said he was high energy and would never stop working, it’s clear he likes three-day weekends and spending much of his free time playing golf. It’s also clear that he doesn’t really like his job very much, which is why Mike Pence is spending ten days in Asia instead of him. Trump just loves to delegate stuff because this way he can forget about it. If worse turns into worst, he can fire them later and blame it on them. Those who he dumps his problems on know that their tenure is likely to be short. He’s a constantly vacillating president, moving the country in whatever direction satisfies his ego. He enjoys looking for new and shiny distractions.
And because of his supersized ego, he spends much of his presidency monitoring what others are saying about him. It used to be that presidents would be reading briefing books in the evenings, or be dialing up party donors. Trump spends much of this time watching Fox News and scanning headlines instead. Since a lot of it is disinformation or slanted he is not getting much in the way of objective news.
One thing is clear: he really wants to be liked and if not liked then feared. If you kiss up to him, as China’s president Xi Jinping did recently at Mar-a-Lago, then there can be some great bonuses. Of course it’s just coincidence that Xi brought his daughter Ivanka some Chinese patents with his visit and that later in their meeting Trump decided China wasn’t a currency manipulator after all, despite having run on how tough he was going to be on China. Still, the pattern is clear: flatter him and he will probably grant favors. Disagree with him and he will notice, hope to find ways to get back at you, but probably won’t bother. He can’t seem to find the time beyond the tweet, as he is easily distracted. “Crooked Hillary” was the obvious exception. Note that since he won the election, he doesn’t care, which is why his supporters are disappointed his Attorney General isn’t prosecuting her.
He did note protests around the country last weekend. Protestors were calling for Trump to release his tax returns. It’s an unsurprising request as all presidents since Nixon have done so. (Ford just released a summary.) But they are under audit so he says he can’t release them, even though (this will sound familiar) he said he would be happy to do so during the campaign and there is no law prohibiting him from doing so. Releasing them though might clear the fog on issues like the extent of his Russian business interests. That he prefers to keep the issue murky suggests that the fog may instead be smoke. That he tweeted about the protests though is quite interesting. These protests got his attention. He knows the issue riles people, including most Republicans and that on some level it makes him look bad.
There is nothing good about being a narcissist but knowing he has this clinical condition also gives his critics enormous insight into how to effectively work against him. As best we can tell, Trump isn’t seeing a shrink about it, and never has. I am hopeful we can get him out of power before he does something catastrophically bad, like preemptively use nuclear weapons against North Korea.
How? Let’s look at the characteristics of narcissists and figure out strategies that will play Trump’s narcissism for the country’s good:
- Grandiose sense of importance. Steve Bannon’s demotion and likely eventual firing is not an accident. That’s because Twitter’s been afire with #PresidentBannon This in turn has raised the question in the press: who is really running the White House? This is a good question because Bannon wrote his inaugural address, which Trump apparently only scanned and did not bother to edit. Lesson: aim fire at those in his administration who are or are perceived to be the power behind the throne. The many #PresidentKushner hashtags are a direct result of the success of this approach: Trump noticed! The more he believes others inside his government are undermining him to their benefit, the more dysfunctional his White House becomes.
- Preoccupation with unlimited success. Trump is really bothered that he has little to show for the first 88 days in office. It’s clear that there won’t be much of substance in the next 12 days either. Most of his policies have been blocked. Obamacare hasn’t been repealed. His tax overhaul is looking dead as neither party can get behind it. Courts have consistently ruled against many of his major initiatives. Additionally, protests are quite effective when you have a narcissist in chief. Lesson: keep pointing out Trump’s many failures. Feed, rather than try to heal the divisions inside the Republican Party. Stroke the egos of your fellow Tea Party Republicans if you have any. (“Never give up! Never surrender!”) Also encourage moderate Republicans to break with Trump on issues like tax cuts for the rich and ending Obamacare.
- Lack of empathy. There was nothing funny about the Syrian air force’s recent chemical weapons attack against his own citizens. Trump though did express concern about the pictures of dead children and said that’s why he lobbed 59 missiles at their air base. Only it seemed wholly insincere and was funny in a way. Why? It’s because he lacks the empathy gene. He can’t fake it because he never has empathized with someone unlike him in his life and who could be more unlike him than a dead, likely impoverished Muslim child? (It’s probably their fault for being born in Syria.) Remember the Flint water crisis he was going to solve? There are all sorts of positions like this he campaigned on that he can’t be bothered to actually do anything about because he just doesn’t care. From the blue-collar workers in the Appalachians who won’t see a resurgence in coal mining jobs to highlighting the story of those he would kick off Medicaid from these same areas, there is plenty to mine. Lesson: show how his lack of empathy is hurting those who voted for him and everyone else too.
- Arrogance. We know Trump will act like an asshole because that’s what he does. It was his entire shtick on The Apprentice. It was the entire basis of his campaign and now his presidency where unsurprisingly it works as well as a lead balloon. We are supposed to be tired of winning. Lesson: show how his arrogance really means he is incompetent because he lacks the people skills to get things done. I am using the #tiredofwinning hashtag when I see these egregious disconnects. Use it too every time he does something stupid and maybe it will become a trending hashtag. It should. Yes, we may know already but if it makes enough of a buzz, he hears it and it will feed his psychosis.
I’ll let you work with some of his other characteristics, but it’s not hard to pick at these and there is plenty to work with. If enough of us do, he will probably react, and react badly. Here are some to work on:
- He thinks that beauty and money mean more than character
- He won’t hold himself to his own standards
- He’s a coward rather than a great leader because he won’t release his tax returns. What is he hiding?
- He overcommits his staff and expects the impossible from them
- He has shamelessly ripped people off for his own profit yet feels zero remorse, like the many contractors who didn’t get paid, or got cents on the dollar
- He has an egregious sense of entitlement, and much of his wealth is made possible on the backs of others and taxpayers
- His Nixonian inclination toward paranoia and a president above the law, most recently demonstrated by his refusal to provide White House visitors logs
Trump’s fatal weakness is his narcissism. It means he can’t see or judge things clearly because he sees the world through a warped mirror. He’s already holding the anvil. We can speed up his fall by piling it on. And since Trump won’t get treated for his narcissism and dismisses the possibility that he has a case of it, piling it on becomes your patriotic duty.
So if you haven’t started and you love your country, get to work.