The danger in believing Trump's actions are rational

On October 9th, at the second Presidential Debate, Donald Trump threw away what had been a genuine chance of his becoming President.

As several people remarked in the period leading up to that town-hall debate, Trump had the perfect chance to convince all the people who usually vote Republican that he was willing to meet them halfway. There would be a huge audience for that debate. Many who had repudiated Trump could have been won back by some slight concession on his part to the reality that the October 7th release of the Access Hollywood/Billy Bush tape had critically wounded his candidacy.

As our own RickJay wrote (in the “Clinton v Trump” thread):

All Trump had to do was give the dismayed GOP voters a justification, no matter how tiny, for voting for him.

But he chose not to do so. And the reason he chose not to do so is critical for understanding what he’s doing now and what he will do in coming weeks to endanger the public safety:

Donald Trump’s first priority is to make sure there will go on being rallies and crowds at those rallies who will cheer and adore him.

Being President–with all the loot and prestige and continuing power that implies–is important to his conscious mind (and certainly to his children). But at the fork in the road marked “This way leads to the presidency but means upsetting your Rally Cheerers” and “This way leads to the Rally Cheerers cheering even harder, but will lose you the presidency”…Donald Trump is helpless to choose the presidential path. Utterly, completely helpless.

He cannot give up the cheers. It is the only thing in his seventy years that has felt to him like “love.”
This is why John Kasich was told that if he accepted the vice presidency, he’d be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy, while Trump would be in charge of Making America Great Again. We know now that what this meant is that Trump fully expected to go on appearing before rallies of tens of thousands of cheering fans on a regular basis.

(An unrealistic expectation, of course: once he’d have become President, those fans would have started focusing on the results they expected Trump to provide–and since he would have been unlikely to come through, any cheers he’d inspire would have been meager. To get them excited again he’d have had to keep coming up with new enemies to keep the outrage going. And we know how that turns out.)

This is why Trump, bizarrely, has invited Obama’s half-brother to sit in the audience of tonight’s debate. Obama’s half-brother won’t rattle Hillary; the choice makes no conceivable sense in terms of ‘tactics that would provide an advantage in the debate.’ It makes sense only in terms of pleasing the fans at the next Trump rally. Trump is, no doubt, eagerly anticipating their pleasure at the way he “stuck it to” Obama.

And most importantly, this is why Trump is hitting the “rigged election” theme hard.

Sure, he’d like an excuse handy for when he loses. But that’s not why he’s talking about election-rigging; he’s talking about election-rigging because it’s a crowd-pleaser.

It’s dangerous to assume that Trump is making these choices–to focus on supposed Election Fraud; to double down on open hostility to Hillary Clinton and to Barack Obama; to heap contempt on the women accusing him of groping them against their will; to fail to win over the doubtful Republicans by apologizing–out of anything approaching rational thought.

It’s dangerous because it lends legitimacy to all he’s doing–including the ginning up of his fans to violence in the name of ‘protecting the integrity of the election.’ Bending over backwards to attribute logical reasons for Trump’s choices (such as the ridiculous theory that he’s carefully, intelligently putting in the planning needed to put Fox News out of business with his own network) is having the alarming unintended consequence of making Trump’s message look lawful, justifiable, and “normal.”

It is not normal. It is not rooted in reason. It is the product of a mentally ill man who will do anything–anything at all–to keep those crowds cheering.

Persuasive. But I wonder how many people are left who think that Trump is capable of making rational choices. He has willingly shot himself in the ass too many times.

To a large extent I’m thinking of professional journalists. They continue to legitimize all the violence-inciting stuff coming from Trump by talking about him as if he’s rational.

It’s understandable, of course: how many of us, professional journalists or not, like to admit that so large a chunk of the American electorate has such poor judgment? National pride is part of the reason that people speak of Trump as if he is making decisions based on logic and intelligence.

But it’s still dangerous.

Well, the press can’t write about Trump as though he were literally mentally ill; that’s a territory the untrained probably ought not to venture into, and while most of Trump’s bluster about suing people for libel isn’t worth the horseshit it so closely resembles, he might have a legitimate case if the media started referring to him as mentally unbalanced.

Bolding mine.

So, telling the absolute truth is bad? :smiley:

I don’t disagree with you, Nonsuch. But it would be more than appropriate (and legally safe) for them to refrain from making excuses for him.

The ‘Trump is positioning himself to create a network’ theory comes almost solely from professional news people trying to find a rational explanation for Trump’s conduct, for example. No considerations of avoiding lawsuits forces them to go down that road. Partly it’s about filling time, of course, but it’s also about ‘finding a rational reason’ for what Trump does. And they don’t have to do that.

I don’t really disagree with you either, Sherrerd; I guess I just don’t see what the alternative is. And there was at least scant reasons for supporting the “Trump TV” theory, as Trump and his sons/lackeys have been reported discussing the prospect with various people.

Well, sure, Trump and his family would like to own a powerful television network. But I still say that interpreting Trump’s words and actions as being purposeful attempts to attain that goal requires a leap of logic that is irresponsible (again, because it tends to legitimize all of Trump’s words and actions).

He’s plainly saying and doing what he does in order to keep the cheers coming. That’s his goal. If he coincidentally gets some free stuff along the way (a Presidency; a network) he’d be pleased…but that’s not what he’s working toward. That’s not what he needs.

It’s kind of like, “As long as I have an audience, I’m a winner.” He sells books he doesn’t write, HE’S the winner, not the ghost writer. He makes money on a building, calls bankruptcy, screws the investors, he’s the winner. Not paying taxes? Everyone does that, he doesn’t so he thinks he’s a winner there too. You pay taxes? You’re a loser. Doesn’t pay contractors? Why? They’re losers, he’s a winner. Sells steaks, vodka and Haberdashery but doesn’t make money on them? It’s got his name on it, so he considers that a win.

If he’s ever taken into custody for fraud, tax evasion, whatever, he’ll say they arrested him because they’re jealous of him. They’re the losers, he’s thinks he’s a winner for screwing them over for so long.

The man is an idiot. The man is a scumbag.

That’s right; as long as there are cheering crowds he can convince himself that “most people” in the USA want him to be President. Clearly reality has been chipping away at this belief----but in his crowds more than in his own brain. Hence the “it’s all rigged” theme—he needed to acknowledge his fans’ growing perception of the reality that he’s got no path to 270 electoral votes, while still keeping them revved up with resentment.

The problem for Trump is that after the election his crowds will shrink. He will fight with everything he can bring to bear to keep them coming…but the only sure way to keep them coming is to pump up the outrage; pump up the sense of victimization; pump up the hatred and fear of “those people.” And there are limits on how far he can go without putting himself in real danger of prosecution for incitement to violence.
A serious threat to Americans is that the media will be anxious to help Trump pump up the hatred, fear and resentment…because how can you win promotion and awards unless you are bravely heading into the danger to cover the story? For there to be an award-winning story, there has to be danger.

I am not claiming that the heads of the major media companies are overtly–or even consciously–planning to help Trump keep his rallies big and keep his fans agitated and spoiling for a fight. I’m just pointing out that it’s actually in the interests of the media–as individual reporters looking for promotion and awards, and as profit-seeking corporations looking for ratings and audiences–to help Trump keep the hatemongering strong and visible.

They should be aware of what they’re doing.

I know it is gauche to diagnose people over TV, but if you look at Trumps behavior as if they are motivated by narcissism, they make sense. Everything he does is to feed his own ego.

Admitting defeat doesn’t feed his ego. Ergo, the election was stolen because the people love him too much to not elect him.
Admitting wrong doing doesn’t feed his ego, so deny everything if called out, even if you need to engage in obvious lying.
Being criticized doesn’t feed his ego, so react brutally to any criticism.
The blacks, the latinos, the women, etc as he calls them all ‘love him’. What will he do after the election when they vote against him?

His entire stance of ‘make america great again’ is really just him feeding his own ego. How will he make america great again? By blessing it with his leadership and brilliance.

Bill Maher said recently that Trump seemed to change his views in reaction to his crowd. Whatever got him the most adulation from the crowd is what he started to believe and say. I agree with this, and this is a trait among sociopaths (not sure if Trump is a sociopath, just go with it). Sociopaths, from what I’ve read of them, do not have a true core identity. Neither does Trump. All Trump has is his ego and feeding it.

Trump will believe and say whatever he needs to believe and say on a moment to moment basis to feed his narcissism. If he has to bring down the GOP or start an armed insurrection to do it, so be it.

If Trump does win (which he won’t) he would just be a showman. All he’d do is give speeches and feed of the crowd applauding him. And he’d say whatever he needed to say to whomever he needed to say it to to feed off that applause. The real job of governance would be left to his cabinet and vice president. He would be busy feeding his narcissism.

The scary part is people like that have no empathy, no moral compass and are very easy to manipulate and rile up. Just use praise and criticism as carrots and sticks, they will do what you want. Putin and Clinton both figured that out. Putin praised him, now Trump promotes pro-Russian policies. Clinton criticized him, and Trump became unhinged and drove away swing voters (educated women, latinos, etc). Both politicians played him like a fiddle for their own benefit. Imagine him as in charge of the military and economy.

I predict he will get even more unhinged after he loses. The blow to his ego isn’t something he can handle. Combined with all the hatred the core right wing feels because they don’t feel that ‘their’ country is theirs anymore it is a really bad mix.

The worst part about this whole debacle is seeing how many tens of millions of people are perfectly happy to have a deranged, mentally ill, unstable, unqualified, dangerous criminal narcissist with psychopathic tendencies as president just so long as he is part of the same political party as them. That is deeply depressing and something a lot of us will have to live with. Even if Hillary wins, that doesn’t change the fact that 50 million people are going to vote for Trump.

Trump’s razor:

You keep talking abut violence, but practically all the violence at Trump rallies was fomented by the Left.

Trump is a jerk, and many of his fans are delusional. But they’re NOT violent, except when deliberately provoked by people TRYING to get a violent reaction.

So it’s proper to beat someone for wearing an offensive shirt?

It’s not Trump who needs to be discredited – it’s his supporters. When that happens, this will be a better country. I don’t know exactly how that happens, but I suspect that they will eventually become toxic like the KKK and segregationists were to mainstream conservatives. We’ll be left with silent bigots but the ones who bark at the moon at Trump rallies will eventually be confined in the basement.

A Trump supporter was just busted planning to blow up an apartment complex because Muslims lived there. That’s not a scuffle in the heat of the moment, it’s murder on a fairly large scale.

Or when provoked by people deliberately being Muslim, or deliberately looking Mexican or Arab. Or being guilty of deliberately supporting Hillary:
At a rally for Pence attended by a few hundred people in Salem, Va. last week, I met a man who told me to remember that everyone in the audience was a gun owner and that if Clinton won the election there would be a civil war.

At an Iowa rally the week before a woman in the audience told Trump’s choice for vice president she feared the election might be stolen and that “If Hillary gets in, I myself I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in.”

Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein face federal charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction to blow up an apartment complex, a mosque and Muslim immigrants from Somalia, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

Federal court documents reveal how the trio’s hatred and Islamophobia coalesced into a plan for domestic terrorism.

Instead of promulgating the fiction that violence is all the fault of “the Left”, it would be constructive to understand that bigotry and the violence that bigotry promotes stems from a society’s culture and its belief systems, and this is exactly what Trump is poisoning with his toxic rhetoric to an extent unprecedented since the turmoil of the civil rights era or the Nazi pogroms.

I generally agree with your entire post, and in fact I think that the whole thing, quoted parts and all, is very well written. I would just make the minor point with regard to dichotomies like the above that this need not be an “either-or” situation – it can be both. Trump is a pathological narcissist, by which I mean that he’s narcissistic to a degree classifiable as a mental illness, so the “rigged election” meme is not only a satisfying crowd pleaser, but also an emotional necessity to deal with the inevitable election loss.

One might also note that if it was explained to Trump that his “rigged election” rhetoric is doing his country a great deal of harm both in its international prestige and its foreign policy credibility, as I noted over here – and I’m certain that this has been explained to him – Trump couldn’t care less. Because the best interests of his country or its citizens is absolutely nowhere on Trump’s priority list. In fact the only thing on Trump’s priority list is Trump.

He’s a raving fucking lunatic, nothing less, nothing more.


The eagerness of those on the right to claim that the violence at Trump rallies is ‘all the fault of the left for fomenting it’ is of a piece with the rest of the basic mindset behind ALL rallies, which might be distilled down to the theme: We Are The Righteous Victims.

To a Trump supporter it makes perfect sense that* the responsibility for violence lies not with the person who committed the violence* but with the person who “provoked” it–by making a remark, wearing a t-shirt, or simply being the “wrong” ethnicity. (And let’s face it, the Venn diagram of these folks, and the folks who beat on the less-strong members of their own families with the explanation “she made me do it,” has a lot of overlap.)

The refusal to take responsibility for one’s own actions is characteristic of those who have decided to define themselves as victims.

And this is Trump’s base. They are enjoying the sweetness of taking NO responsibility for anything in their lives, while asserting their own Nobility and Purity and Righteousness. It’s a heady brew–as addictive for them, as is their applause for Trump.

Historically speaking they are far from being the only human beings who have fallen into that particular ethical trap–but they are the ones who are currently threatening our peace and our democratic ideals.