“The most hateful thing about Trump remains his monolithic selfishness. He’s only happy alone onstage at a rally, where the focus is entirely on him: not on his country or even his supporters. Before the election he’d accuse the media of refusing to turn the cameras around to reveal the crowds, but even back then, he rarely liked to share the spotlight. And now almost no one bothers to attend his sad little Viagra-like attempts at mustering those former throngs.
Trump tweets because it’s not a conversation. When he’s been forced to meet with other world leaders, whether it’s Merkel or Trudeau, he’s miserable and antsy, not due to any policy disagreements, but because someone else is being allowed to talk. He doesn’t like press conferences because he has to pretend to listen to the questions.
Trump’s minimal understanding of, or interest in, say, healthcare, job creation or infrastructure is always apparent. He’ll repeat a few bland slogans and leave everything else to demonic minions like Paul Ryan, who slobber over the opportunity to deny healthcare to the elderly or infirm. Trump can barely remember to nod.
Everyone’s been wondering about Trump’s refusal to abandon his absurd claims of wiretapping. It’s not so much a matter of pride; he adores the entirely fictional notion of President Obama hanging on his every word. Requiring Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway, who’ve become international punchlines, to repeat his lies keeps the headlines right where Trump wants them: not on the economy or ISIS, but on him.
The Trump voters barely notice this relentless and torpid egotism, or assume that it proves Trump is a great businessman. When these voters are questioned by reporters, about losing their health insurance, or how NATO actually works, they look puzzled and spout things like,
‘That wasn’t what I was told.’
Trump voters are also content because whatever else happens, Trump is a cartoon of a very white man, a distracted Dad who’d rather be golfing.
Trump’s vicious self-regard is most apparent around his family. He walks yards ahead of his wife, barely acknowledges his idiot sons, and uses Ivanka as a blonde prop, because he feels that her prettiness reflects well on him. As with many distant and loveless parents, this causes his kids to compete for his attention, which was just what he had in mind.
So where does this leave America? In slow-motion quicksand. Liberal Democrats live in constant rage and anxiety, as Trump’s cronies do their dirty work without supervision. Very little is actually getting done, both because of the standard congressional stalemates but even more because no one’s in charge, and so much time is being wasted, on both sides of the aisle, dithering over Trump’s latest useless sideshow.
The upside is this: the nation’s new hunger for political involvement. Voters aren’t so much just battling Trump as filling a scary void. People care more than they ever have, because caring has become so necessary. For Trump, nothing matters except his own constantly photographed face. He doesn’t care about anything else, so everyone else is stepping up.
Paul Rudnick is a New York author and screenwriter best known for movies like Addams Family Values, The First Wives Club, In & Out, as well as the screen version of his play Jeffrey.