Trump and the power of magical thinking.

  There is a glaring contradiction at the center of Trump’s rhetoric. He claims that government in general, and the federal government in particular, is inefficient and wasteful. The president, he says,  is incompetent, weak, and makes “terrible deals”.  In that respect, Trump sticks close to the general Republican and Libertarian core belief, “Business, free markets — good! Government — bad! If Trump is elected, however, he will build a wall between the US and Mexico, he will deport roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants, and he will somehow enable border agents to tell Muslims apart from other people and slam the door in their faces. Apart from the extremely dubious merit and feasibility of these proposals, we must wonder: Did he stop for a moment to think about the expansion of government involved in those pursuits?

If he did indeed consider the added government jobs his pet projects entail, he must then think about how to pay for them. I don’t think Mexico is overeager to accede to his wishes and pay for the wall… and I doubt the Donald wants to sink his personal fortune in the great wall with the great door — although he might want to put his name on it. What to do? This is where I think magical  thinking comes in. Through the force of his personality, Trump will make all this happen. Trump is a wealthy man, more power to him, but the tactics he used to build his fortune may not be as easily applicable to politics and diplomacy as he thinks they are, even if he sells expensive penthouses to “the Chinese” and has a great relationship with “the blacks”. His whole political philosophy, such as it is, is based on the strength of his personality.

Trump loves to refer to Bernie Sanders’ self-definition as a socialist, hoping to suggest visions of governmental jack-booted thugs. References to Europe before WWII are cliche at this point, but it must still be noted that both Sanders and Trump are riding a very real wave of discontent among voters. Not only are many working- and middle-class workers stuck with stagnant wages, they are also, through the media, painfully aware of the wealth being accumulated by corporations and individuals, some of whom get their wealth by manipulating the financial system. They feel the odds are hopelessly stacked in favor of the status quo. Sanders wants a “movement”, a “revolution”, and comes out with proposals rooted in reality. Trump, on the other hand, designates scapegoats (Muslims and undocumented immigrants), crudely dismisses his opponents (Hillary does “disgusting” things on her bathroom break, Carly Fiorina does not have the face of a president) and encourages a cult of personality that is, frankly, alarming.

Trump may genuinely believe that he can make any and all problems facing the US disappear by the simple magic of his personality. But we should not drink the Kool-Aid. Such fantasies are dangerous.


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