Finally, the day of Jan 20th arrived, which marked a new beginning in American history. Not because of Joe Biden (the oldest President) or Kamala Harris ( the first female vice-president), but because that day was the last day of Donald Trump in acting President. I am sure many Americans must have felt relieved and even happy ( not those 48 million who voted for him) with his departure. His chaotic presidency certainly led to wide scale polarization in the States. Whatever he did was right or wrong, good or bad for America is something historians and political pundits will keep analyzing for the rest of their lives. Hence, I won’t delve into that further, as this is a part of history now, and certainly, those 4 years almost felt like a decade for many of us. Hence, it is better to stay away from choppy waters!
Well, having said that, then what is this post about? I am writing this post to try to understand what made Trump the person he is today. I have always been curious to know about his life, and the experiences he has had which must have moulded him to become what he resembles under his brand ‘Trump’. This is not about how he became president, or why did Americans accept him as their President. Neither would I like to delve into the causes of his winning and losing. Rather, I am writing this post to shed some more light on the ‘Trumpian’ mindset.
The Dictionary.com defines Trumpian as an adjective form for President Donald Trump. The term is especially used by critics to characterize his language, conduct, and policies. To understand the psychology of Trump, I read his biography book, watched Netflix TV show Trump: An American Dream, watched a few documentaries about Trump and read/watched several articles/youtube videos about him. Ofcourse, to clarify, I am not trained as a researcher or even a psychologist to make a statement about his personality. But out of sheer curiosity and with an intention to know this dark side of human personality, I tried to read and know as much as possible about him.
And, based on this, I did get to some facts or events which must have played a definitive role in Trump’s life which shaped him the way the world saw him especially for the last 4 years. Starting from his childhood, Trump was born with a silver spoon. His father was a real estate developer in New York city, and was a millionaire. His father was not only a very smart real estate businessman, but also very ruthless and cunning when it came to profits and competition. He tried to instill this attitude in his sons. Trump had an elder brother, who eventually committed suicide later in life. So, this background of having a strict father, being raised up in New York city and seeing elder brother commit suicide are the key elements which influenced Trump’s later life.
Because, Trump grew up in an environment where competition was considered the only form of survival. It’s almost like the hardest form of survival of the fittest. And this was natural because, living in New York city during the 1960’s and 70’s was not a cakewalk. Those days were some of the tough days when everyone flocked into new york for a better life, and hence, the competition for survival and to grow rich in life was harsh. In such a scenario, the Trump’s were millionaires, and so naturally, they had a natural instinct to protect their wealth, and hence, do whatever that is possible to not only stay in the competition but also come out as the best. Another important aspect of New York city life is the diversity that city imbibes, just like Mumbai. People belonging to different ethnicities and religions lived and worked in the same city. It was not uncommon to see Jews dominating the banking, particularly Wall Street and even to large extent the real estate business in the city. While Italians owned the mafia ( though this does not mean all Italians were a part of it). Irish Americans filled a large chunk of the working class population, while the elite WASP’s( White Anglo Saxon Protestants) formed the cream of banking, education, law firms and business conglomerates. And the rest of the others like Afro-Americans, Spanish-Americans, or even Indians and Chinese were mostly considered as aliens living out of the city.
Now, one of the most important things is that Trump’s belonged to neither of them. Because they had a German ancestry ( original name as Drumpf), and hence the mood at that time was anti-German due to WW2 and Nazi concentration camps which had happened, So, they had not only anglicized their name to Trump, but also lied to everyone that they had a Swedish ancestry, just to avoid the hatred from fellow jews. But the fact that they were kind of a minority in the city dominated by other groups, made them conscious of their survival. And hence, Donald Trump became aware of this and hence, did everything to maintain their richness, which was rather rare in the city. The real estate business consisted of several jewish businesses, and due to their competitive nature, it was rather inevitable for him to even scale further on becoming more competitive in order to survive. Ofcourse, this does not imply that the environment made him competitive. It did play a minor role, but the fact that Trump always feared losing whatever he had, and hence, this fear and insecurity made him become aggressive.
Also, he never got accepted by the city elites, because of many reasons. Firstly, the Trump’s did not belong to any dominant groups like the Jews or WASP’s. Second, Donald Trump was not very educated or sophisticated either. His father was not much educated, but had worked hard to become a millionaire which was respected by the then 1940’s society. But Donald Trump grew up in a millionaire family. At that time in the 1950’s and 60’s, the students were expected to study and go to Ivy league schools. But Donald was not a very bright student, and due to his rebellious attitude, his father sent him to a military prep school to instill in him some sense of discipline. He did graduate and only learnt too well to be disciplined. He later transferred to Univ of Penn, but never got mingled or accepted into the student life. He was more like a loner, and hence never had any good friends. He envied those who went to Ivy league and hence, this later made him despise the eliteness of Ivy leaguers or even higher education. And that’s why we see, his supporters are rarely highly educated people, but those who are just high school pass outs or even borderline illiterates. Because Trump has never been comfortable around those who are more educated or smarter than him. That’s why he despised scientists like Anthony Fauci, who were trying to give him advice on how to tackle the covid pandemic. But his hatred for educated men and women, steamed out because Trump knew he was not smart and could never get accepted into the highly educated circles. But at the same time, he understood, the only way he can beat others is by becoming more rich and famous. And hence, he shifted his attention to family construction business, which was like a cash cow for the family.
Donald Trump’s decision to enter the family business was not just motivated by his desire to beat his peers who were already studying in the Ivy league, or by the New York city environment. But it was also motivated by his father’s wish to launch him into the business, after seeing the elder Trump ( Donald Trump’s elder brother) fail miserably at the family business. His brother did not like business, and hence, the onus to carry on the family business came on Donald. But the crux of this story was not only Donald Trump wanted to become rich and successful in business, but also wanted to get into his father’s good books. Why? Because Donald Trump had seen how his brother had failed to live upto to his father’s expectations, and hence, had been insulted and eventually compelled to move out of Trump’s house. He later became a drunkard, out of regret and depression, and finally committed suicide. This event must have shackled Donald. Because he then not only had the responsibility to keep the business intact in that cut throat New York city competition, but also had to prove his worth to make his father proud. He feared that if he did not succeed, then he would also eventually die being a drunkard like his brother. That’s why Donald Trump became a teetotaler, and also became more aggressive, ruthless, greedy, cunning and selfish.
For him, the only way to survive and grow is to beat the competitors. And that’s why his mantra became ‘the end justifies the means’. He would use all sorts of methods, good and bad, nice and dirty, all ways to climb up the ladder. He made the notorious lawyer, Roy Cohn who used to work for the five Mafia families in New York as his personal lawyer. He corrupted the mayors of New York, filed cases against them if they did not follow his orders, requested for tax breaks etc to grow his business. But the most important and daring act Trump performed is to enter Manhattan. Why? Because his father had constructed projects in other boroughs of New York city, but never dared to enter the elite Manhattan. He had become a millionaire inspite of not having any construction projects in Manhattan, and he was happy and satisfied with it. But for Donald Trump, who always wanted to prove to his father, and also beat his peers, he dreamed big. He wanted to enter Manhattan and build the Trump tower. Because entering Manhattan will enable him to become a billionaire, which his father had not achieved in life. It would also make him get the respect from the Jews or WASP’s which he desperately craved for. It was a risky gamble, but it worked out at the end. Had he failed, it would have been the end of the Trump empire. But Trump got lucky and he excelled.
He not only successfully constructed his hotel in Manhattan, but also later built his iconic Trump Tower. And then he never looked back. But even though he became a billionaire, he still never got the respect and admiration from his other business colleagues or peers. For them, he was the guy who got a headstart from his father to get launched into the business. Also he had corrupted the new york officials and hence, become rich by unfair means. Ofcourse, Trump was not alone. At that time, most of the new york businesses were known for their selfishness and greedy nature. But Trump went much further.
He not only entered the Casino market, but went on a spree of buying golf courses, hotels, yachts, airlines, and even writing books. And then eventually it backfired. He lost a big chunk of it, & became bankrupt. At that crucial time, no one supported him but only his father. Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy not one, not two but whopping four times. And his father poured in his millions to bail him out. Well, what lesson did he learn? Trump learnt it quite a bad way that he was not good at running family owned construction business. Yes, this may shock us because the world knows he has been a billionaire for a long time. But in reality, as many have speculated over his real net worth ( which sparked the controversy due to his denial to make the tax-returns public), the fact is that Trump after the fiasco of becoming bankrupt four times, he switched over to reality business. Yes, and that’s where he earned his millions. It is his entertainment shows like ‘The Apprentice’, speeches, talk shows, books, beauty pageants which garnered him the attention and fame, which led to the rise of brand ‘Trump’. That’s why we see for the last few years, even though his company still manages construction projects, but they only lend their brand name and earn royalty. And going further, it is interesting that Trump even used his presidency to earn money, He did by selling stuff like flags, coffee mugs, shirts, banners etc all with Trump name, thus earning the royalty paid by his foolish loyal supporters. He even made the US government pay the Americans taxpayers money for his stay in Mar-A-Lago, owned by none other than Trump himself!
Anyways, the point is that Trump realized early in life that he is not smart or intelligent, and later in life, that he is not good at his family business as well. So, then what was he good at? And the answer is attention seeking. Yes, he used his display of flamboyant wealth, his personality, his charisma to get the attention he needed, desperately, so that he could earn his millions. Else, there was no way he could have maintained his wealth. That’s why, he talked rubbish, hated the media which ridiculed him, acted like a buffoon, criticized women who disliked him, and made his marriages and family affairs like a prime TV show. He created a brand out of nothing but narcissism, bombasting attitude, pompous, chaos and flamboyant lifestyle. With his books, like ‘The Art of the Deal’ and ‘The Art of Comeback’, he tried to portray being one of the most successful businessmen ever born on the planet. And unfortunately, Americans who could not become rich like him became his loyal followers.
The worst part is that his supporters often came from humble backgrounds, especially from mid-western, northern rust belt and southern USA. And these regions are usually known as being part of the bible belt, with pro-guns attitude, farmers or working class, traditional or cultured, and staying away from California, New York and Florida, due to their belief of atheist or sinful people living in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall street and Palm beach, Miami. But the irony is that Trump, to whom these people supported to win the presidency, has always been a part of that sinful Hollywood, New York and Florida lifestyle. People like Trump as rightly said by,
“I’ve dealt with guys like Donald Trump my whole life, who would look down on us because we didn’t have a lot of money or your parents didn’t go to college. Guys who think they’re better than you. Guys who inherit everything they’ve ever gotten in their life and squander it.”
have always looked down upon these people. But just to prove to Barack Obama ( who had apparently mocked Donald to run for the president, after Trump had falsely accused Obama of being born outside the USA) that he can win, and thereby hit back the insult, he ran for president. Ofcourse, he had the added advantage that running for presidency will get him the attention and fame, and thereby dollars. That’s why he always told he will run for president since the late 1980’s, but never took it seriously, only until his BIG Ego got hurt in 2011 by Obama and other democrats, and that’s when he took it pretty seriously. Why people supported him is altogether a different ballgame, and it will probably take a book to elaborate on that. But the fact that he had marketed his brand and gained the support for all these years since early 1990’s business failure, came handy for Trump. And then what happened on Nov 8th, 2016 is history.
Finally, in this pursuit to understand the Trumpian psychology, the book by Mary Trump, his niece, is exceptionally helpful. Even though I haven’t read the book, but based on reviews and articles, Donald Trump is not only a narcissist but also suffers from anti-social and dependent personality disorder. This answers why Trump is so greedy for being the center of attention. His lack of trust in anyone is due to his antisocial personality disorder which resulted due to his isolation from New York business circles. Trump saw his brother die of suicide, and this made him fearful of his own death, if he fails. And this fear led to him becoming greedy and selfish. He became devoid of morals and principles. For him, nothing is good if it doesnt let him win. That’s why, he believed that the election was being stolen, because people like Trump cannot accept defeat. For them, accepting defeat is equivalent to committing suicide. And that’s why we see why Trump remained in denial of his defeat, and never conceded in person to Joe Biden.
People like Trump suffer from lack of empathy and love for others, and that’s why when thousands of Americans were dying due to Covid-19, or even were thrown out of the USA for being just immigrants, he did not care. Because his heart does not have any soft corner, and is just as hard as rock. His dependent personality disorder makes him dependent on his family only, and that’s why we saw why his closest advisors had been his beloved daughter, and son-in-law only. His reckless attitude, his utter lack of concern for laws, and value system made him fire several people in his own cabinet. Even though he showed that he cared for his supporters, or even for the military, but in reality, all he cared for was his popularity. Because, he very well knew that he would get the unwavering support from these poor people who had never seen the likes of wealth and fame that he had achieved. In other words, he used them for making his brand stronger. But unfortunately, after 4 years, it seems that not only has the brand become weaker, but also it has been labeled as a symbol of racism, narcissism and ultra-right wing conservatism.
So, before concluding this post, my main purpose to write on this topic is to understand what conditions make people like Trump live on this planet. And by knowing this, the good side of humanity will make sure never ever such mentally sick, narcissist, and morally depraved people ever come to power in any part of the world again in future. Else, the world knows what happened in the USA after 2016.
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