In the short time since his inauguration, Donald Trump has made quite a bit of noise. Trump’s noise is a frequent source of outrage for the left; with every new Trump administration blunder, America’s standing in the world is diminished, and it is unclear precisely how long it will take to clean up the damage done to our country’s reputation.
Liberals are so far able to take some solace in the fact that most of Trump’s policy proposals have yet to bear fruit; this, of course, is a source of great consternation for the right. While conservatives are overjoyed to feel that they have an ally in the White House in President Trump, they are unhappy with the lack of legislative progress. In other words, neither side is particularly happy.
Every day, the mountain of Trump’s misdeeds grows just a little bit larger. These gaffes remain in the news cycle just long enough to spark a new round of outrage from the left, which in turn leads to a rallying of the troops on the right to stave off the latest round of cries for Trump’s removal from office; by the time the smoke clears from the previous battle, the next has already begun.
All the while, President Trump occupies an office for which he is alarmingly unqualified, declining to advance any meaningful legislation while watching his personal brand and his influence increase in both value and scope. Because Donald Trump is conning us.
That Trump would attempt a grift of such massive proportions should come as no surprise. Though his business ventures fail as often as they succeed, Trump certainly does not lack ambition. After all, this is a man who has purchased his own airline; developed his own line of steaks; started his own mortgage company (in 2006); and established a Trump-branded travel site (though how he expected it to be profitable is unclear, since the purpose of travel sites is for users to save money on travel, not spend more on private jets and exclusive events).
There is one common thread connecting all of Trump’s failed business ventures: they were not done in by a lack of ambition, but by a lack of vision. Trump’s entire business model consists of taking an existing product or service, slapping his name on it and marketing it as a more glamorous (and, by extension, more expensive) version of the original. Sometimes his gambit pays off; more often, it doesn’t, because while Donald Trump is phenomenal at making promises, delivering on them is an entirely different story.
Trump’s campaign was a variation on the same old routine that can be charted throughout his career. The routine begins by Trump declaring that the existing product or service (in this case, the presidency) is insufficient for the needs of the buyer (the American voter). From there, Trump stakes his claim as the perfect person to rectify this problem; not only that, he can do it better, faster, and more efficiently than anyone else. Trump is, at heart, a salesman. He doesn’t care about the details or how (or if) he’ll deliver on his word; all that matters to him is the sale. The rest is just details.
Career politicians know better than to make unachievable guarantees; there is scarcely any easier way for a politician to lose their job than by failing to follow through on their commitments. As we all know by now, however, Donald Trump is not a politician — he is a salesman. Trump can afford to make promises he knows he cannot possibly keep: there is no higher achievement than the presidency, and it’s a temporary gig; after it’s done, he’ll go back to being a rich, private citizen. What does it matter if he doesn’t deliver the goods?
Everything Donald Trump does is, ultimately, in service of his own brand, to which his ego is inextricably linked. One might argue that Trump ran for President based on a sense of duty and a love of country, but various theories have surfaced that Trump never wanted to be President, that his goal all along was simply to boost his public profile. This is all speculation, of course — outside of Trump and his family, it’s possible that nobody will ever truly know Trump’s motivation for seeking the presidency. But we cannot discount the possibility that he only ran because he viewed a presidential campaign as good for his brand. So far, he’s been right.
Now that Trump has achieved the unthinkable, he is presented with a challenge. It is a common dilemma among salesmen, one that he has undoubtedly faced in the past: Once the sale is made, how do you deliver the goods? Or, if you can’t deliver the goods, how do you explain your inability to do so in such a way that your reputation won’t be tarnished?
Over the course of the first four-plus months of the Trump administration, it is becoming increasingly likely that many of the promises Trump made on the campaign trail will remain unfulfilled. Trump’s signature vow — building a 50-foot wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico — has yet to leave the realm of the theoretical, largely due to the fact that nobody (including the U.S.) wants to pay for it. To be fair, it is still possible that the border wall will eventually be constructed; however, some of Trump’s other promises — leaving NATO; labeling China a currency manipulator; prosecuting Hillary Clinton; bringing back coal jobs — are already dead in the water.
If it seems peculiar that a government — one in which the power in both the Executive and Legislative branches rests with one political party — is unable to pass legislation, that’s because it is. There is effectively nothing stopping Trump from doing any of the things he promised to do on the campaign trail. And yet, aside from the United States’ recent (and largely symbolic) departure from the Paris Climate Agreement, there has been little progress on any front.
The reason for this is simple: Donald Trump never had any intention of doing most of the things he promised to do. Trump may be brash, impulsive, immature, and prone to fits of self-indulgence, but he’s not an idiot. He knows that if he enacted any of the core planks of his platform, the effects would be disastrous. It’s all well and good to talk about the things you would do as President, but Trump is not delusional enough to believe that his ideas for Making America Great Again™ are actually feasible. By backing down from his promises, Trump would lose face, thereby negatively impacting his brand; by following through on them, Trump would leave behind a nightmarish legislative legacy, thereby also negatively impacting his brand.
So instead, he does nothing.
He justifies it by painting himself as the victim of a nefarious plot — carried out by the likes of the liberal media, the Democrats, “fake news,” President Obama, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, ISIS, and so forth — to hamstring his Presidency and prevent him from delivering the changes he promised his supporters. He makes his policy proposals so outrageous that Democrats wouldn’t dare entertain them for fear of losing their seats. He offers vague promises that his agenda would make him the greatest President ever, if only the system weren’t so irretrievably broken. He does this while shoring up his international business contacts, using the presidency to negotiate sweetheart deals for his private business, and using Twitter and his media appearances to ensure he (and therefore his brand) remain in the public consciousness as much as possible. Donald Trump’s ultimate loyalty is to himself and his own interests.
If you’re a liberal, you’re likely disgusted by Trump’s ongoing displays of narcissism and greed, to say nothing of the damage he has already done that will take years to correct. You can, however, take some small solace in the fact that from a legislative standpoint, he’s unlikely to follow through on his most damaging policy proposals. And by putting his legislation in the hands of the Judicial branch (as he did with the Muslim ban), he is ensuring that neither he nor his party can be to blame for his lack of progress. Ironically enough, Trump may actually be helping the left’s cause by spurring liberals to become more active in politics.
If you’re a conservative, I know you had your reasons for voting for Trump. Maybe you’re concerned about terrorism; maybe you’re tired of working too long and too hard for not enough money; maybe you’re sick of America bending over backward to help the citizens of other countries while ignoring its own. While I may not agree with your perspective, I understand and appreciate that you voted for Trump because you thought he could fix what’s wrong with America.
But no matter what he tells you, Donald Trump does not care about you, nor does he care about what’s important to you. If what he wants happens to align with what you want, so much the better, but if it doesn’t, his interests will always take priority over your own.
Donald Trump is not the answer. You’ve been sold a bill of goods.