It is hard for me to remember that I loved this presidential election. I look back on my blog posts from the spring, summer, and fall and they are joyful, gleeful, and disdainful. To name just a few of my favorite things. Going further back, I took a schadenfreudeishly fueled delight in each and every Republican candidate’s flame out of the race. I reveled in Bernie Sanders’ populism. I soared when Hillary was nominated at the convention. Every Trump scandal was a thrill and filled me with the dopamine of more and a nervous excitement.
But, today, today, I have a very difficult time remembering those emotions and events. Instead of the soaring joy of a Clinton victory that I, and so many others, had just assumed and believed would happen, I am now, like so many others, stunned, shocked, devastated.
One way that psychology can improve our understanding of our emotional memory of the election. When we look back on an event, according to Daniel Kahneman, our reaction is based on two things: the most intense emotional moment and how we felt when it ended. My most intense emotions occurred between the hours of 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM as Clinton’s path to victory slipped away. And, the end of night was just a flat exhaustion, both emotional and physical.
It’s a shame because we wasted a completely wonderful roller coaster of an election.
What will Trump do as a president? What does his psyche tell us about what he will do?
Trump is not driven ideologically. He is driven by revenge. Vengeance. He ran to avenge the thrashing that Obama gave him at a correspondence dinner. It is as simple as that. He wants to avenge himself against his detractors. He will do his level best to undo all of Obama’s executive orders. He’ll love to sign the repeal Obamacare bill. Beyond that, he’s not interested. He won’t push an agenda any more than he pushed his businesses.
His victory will feed his narcissism. He will be so inflated that he will feel he can do anything. He will be reckless. It will be short lived. He will issue executive orders because he can’t wait for legislation — his handlers had to hold him back from giving his victory speech Tuesday night until Clinton called. A reckless feckless use of executive orders will put him at odds with Congress.
Trump reacts. If he has nothing to react to, he won’t do anything. When he does get an idea — buying a commuter airline in the middle of an economic slump, for example — he pursues it without planning or insight. He shuns hard work. If he can’t do it off the cuff, he’s not doing it. He’ll get an idea and begins to grasp for it, he’s malleable.
His malleability is the scariest thing about him. You can work Trump like sadistic brothers will their developmentally delayed cousin. McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Vladimir Putin are all master manipulators. They’ll work Trump like he’s a big orange pudgy lump of dough.
Putin is the scariest. He is the most consequential. He is the most vicious. He has the most experience of working a mark — a useful idiot. Trump’s narcissism makes him exceedingly vulnerable to someone who can work his ego. Hell, Putin didn’t need to do anything to get Trump to advocate breaking up NATO or allowing Putin free reign in Syria. Trump gave Putin an end for free.
Trump needs to be contrary because there is a safety in contrariness. You don’t have to know anything or do anything to react with, I ain’t doin’ it that way just because. And, the harder you push him, the more he won’t do it. It doesn’t matter to him if he can do it any other way. It doesn’t matter to him if he actually does it the old way or the new. It matters to him that he is contrary.
He’s been rich his entire life and has used his charm, aggressiveness, and position to his advantage. He’s never been held accountable. He’s going to hate being president. Absolutely hate it. Too much pressure. Too much responsibility. Too much accountability. Too constant. He will rapidly cool to all of that and either leave it to his cabinet and Mike Pence or he’ll resign. He just doesn’t have the executive functioning to do anything else.
It is now a selfish short-sighted Republican wonderland where all your selfish short-sighted Republican dreams will come true! Trump won’t care about any of it. He won’t take responsibility for any of it. He will just lie and say whatever it is worked whether it did or not. He’s easily manipulated. And, he’ll leave a lot of the governance to Mike Pence and his cabinet who will be just like the Congressional Republicans.
Gird you loins, safety nets, abortion, Obamacare, minimum wage, the filibuster all of it gone. National debt will soar. Congressional Republicans who were willing to shut the government down over a minor abortion issue will now have two years to implement their “ideas” on governance. They will work to ensure a Republican majority just like they’ve done with gerrymandering and voter suppression. They’ll convince Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to resign so that Trump can appoint three justices in his first two years.
The other big concern is the emboldening of the alt-right. The election was not about policy. It was not about economics (Trump supporters average an income of $75,000.00). It was not about the media. It was about racism. The unifying shared quality of Trump supporters is discomfort with race. And, it has normalized the open expression of racism, misogynists, and xenophobia.
Gird your loins and lock up your dogs and daughters. It is about to get ugly in a way that we have yet to imagine.