Why the Morbid Fixation on President Donald Trump?

Trump's iPhone.
President Trump has an iPhone with one ap: Twitter.

Are We Neurotic or Is He Too Much?

My wife wakes me up this morning at a quarter to six.
“Good morning, what is it?”
“Oh, nothing, never mind.”
“What do you mean ‘never mind?’ You woke me up to tell me something.”
“Yes, but it was about Trump, never mind.”

We–you, me, my wife and millions more around the world–are not neurotic regarding the threats posed by President Donald J. Trump. We’re gravely concerned. And we have cause to be worried. For the first time in our lives our fate is in the hands of an apparent megalomaniac sociopath who has stretched the already alarming degree of American executive power to the snapping point. We have seen him arrogate to himself powers that few previous presidents have ever considered: the power to lie obviously and repeatedly; the power to slander and ridicule his political opponents, the press and his own staff; the power to defy normal standards of decency and humanity. Gravest of all, he has in his right forefinger the  power to launch single handedly world history’s sixth great extinction. In reality, the “nuclear button” is not a button. It’s a briefcase. According to the Washington Post, the president is always accompanied by a military aide carrying a “football” with launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons. The football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase.

President Donald Trump personifies the quintessentially American saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” His public image is deplorable for about half of America, but it could not be more highly esteemed by the other half. Whatever he says, whatever he does, he manages to keep the country–and the world–in thrall, as if we were all watching the evolution in slow motion of the same multi-vehicle car wreck. He has taken the American presidency into the realm of snuff films. It’s too sick, too outrageous to bear. But we can’t resist watching. And when he oversteps even his own limits, instead of apologizing, he doubles down. Nobody has ever seen, nor imagined, this sort of presidential behavior.

Trump’s Communications Strategy

It’s not clear where the idea came from but President Trump employs a novel medium for getting his presidential messages out to his following: the tweet. It’s perfect for his peculiar style of communicating as Twitter messages are limited to 280 characters (raised from 140 in November of 2017) and he rarely needs more space to express his narrow range of boasts, threats, insults, and dismissals. This communications channel is immediate, direct, universal and free. And it’s capable of reaching in real time the entire 81% installed base of smart phones in his country.

This system does, however, have two drawbacks for the president.

  1. It exposes him to ridicule for his fifth-grade spelling.
  2. It gains him criticism for his frequent temper tantrums.

But this is a small price to pay in exchange for direct, unedited access to the American electorate. We must never forget that President Trump has only one objective: reelection. Any other consideration is not even secondary; it’s non existent. His followers don’t seem to object, and the rest of the electorate is irrelevant for President Trump.

What’s more, the recipients of his tweets are not limited to Twitter users, as the American media–both mainstream and alternate– give them viral treatment, passing them on to you whether you like it or not. So the entire US territory–and a great part of the rest of the world–is treated to a permanent warm bath of the president’s smarmy banalities. Before we start feeling too superior in the face of this lowbrow communications campaign, we must remember an overriding fact: It works for him. It probably got him elected in 2016 and may do so again in 2020.

The President’s Act

Perhaps the greatest part of President Trump’s draw is due to the fact that he is unique among the world’s leaders, past and present. The world has never seen anything like him. His oafish part-clown, part-bully persona evokes different levels of shock and awe depending upon which part of the world is watching. In the more open and informal, English-speaking countries like Canada and Australia his messages and their curious presentation leave listeners either laughing or mildly horrified–or more often both. But in more traditional, straight-laced nations like Japan and China the President of the United States looks and sounds as if he were from another planet, which is not to say he’s not fascinating in the way a tornado ripping down Main St. is fascinating. Unfortunately for him, however, fascinating  is not the same as trustworthy.

President Trump’s manners are exaggerated and unusual. His barging, me-first gestures, his stiff, posturing body language and awkward speech patterns have prompted some experts in abnormal behavior to suggest that the president may be entering into senile dementia. An opinion article in USA Today from Dec. 2019 affirms:

If Donald Trump were your father, you would run, not walk, to a neurologist for an evaluation of his cognitive health. You don’t have to be a doctor to see something is very wrong. 


The Collateral Damage

At the same time that President Trump is mesmerizing the country and winning reactionary, corporate, and Evangelical votes with his grotesque stagecraft, something different is going on the wings. His hand-picked crew of anti-government trolls–picked for their simple-minded ideology and loyalty to Trump, not their expertise–is busy dismounting the American government as we know it. The running of a country as big and complex as the United States requires brilliant managers, specialists trained,  experienced, and dedicated.

These have traditionally been people who could have made more money in the private sector, but have opted for public service. That is to say, some of the best, and most capable and disinterested people in the country. To take them off the job and replace them with unqualified minions dedicated to following orders from a chain of command that leads ultimately to deep-state oligarchs, places the entire country in serious danger. It’s like pulling all the air traffic controllers out of America’s control towers.

Shouldn’t something be done? Obviously. One thing is a riveting spectacle, quite another a mortal danger to the entire world. The obvious solution would be that the American voters were to vote President Trump out of office. Could that happen? Theoretically, yes. But what if he were to lose the election–despite the sophisticated methods of election tuning at his disposal–would Trump go tamely? Or would he precipitate Armageddon? This is just one more fascinating question that holds the world in thrall and to which only the president has the answer.


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