A recent Internet perambulation brought to me an interesting assertion (can’t find it now, so I paraphrase and declare it’s not my own): Trump managed to turn the football-kneeling matter from a vague social protest into an overtly partisan issue. By criticizing the kneelers as he did, he invited (virtually demanded) their defiance, and by inviting their defiance, he changed it from an ostensible protest about police-on-black violence to a sign of disrespect for himself and, by extension, for the presidency, the flag, and the country. The Right, already highly motivated by and sensitive to the Left’s “America sucks” message (advanced by no less than Barack Obama himself), now “knows” that any kneeler is slapping them in the face.

Whether this is Machiavellian, instinctual, or just “lucky” is somewhat unknowable and mostly irrelevant. I don’t like a lot of what Trump does or how he does it, but I must admit that, if his goal is to keep his core energized, he’s getting it done.

My bet is on instinctual, and a recent article in Forbes backs that up: “Trump, for decades, has boasted about how he conducts his own research–largely anecdotal–and then buys or sells based on instinct.”

Trump’s behavior has, despite my repeatedly dubbing him “untethered,” been quite consistent. Unsavory, yes, but consistent. That consistency must have roots somewhere. Trump has managed to put voice to the fears and concerns of the “deplorables,” steadily, consistently, and over a sufficiently long span of time to validate the idea that he’s not just flailing about. Simultaneously, he’s made all sorts of unforced errors, which belies the assertion that he’s Machiavellian or is playing multidimensional chess. As regular readers know, I’ve called Trump an “orange id” on multiple occasions, and what we’ve seen in this kneeling kerfuffle is an id that mirrors the collective id of a large chunk of the American populace. As some pundits have observed, Trump appeals to his supporters because he is one of them, because he thinks as they do, and because he shares core/gut values with them. This is how he can manage to repeatedly, in the eyes of us cynics and skeptics, put his foot in his mouth while retaining his base’s support and admiration.

Trump the President would not exist were it not for the excesses of the Left over the past decade-plus. Trump is not an outlier, or a skew data point, or a freak occurrence. He is an outcome of those past behaviors, and until the Left wake up to this reality, they’re going to keep handing him wedge issues. The Left has expanded its long-running zero-sum attitude towards economics into the realms of society and politics. Nowadays, any success is deemed to come at another’s loss, any change has winners and losers, and where it’s more important that the other side suffer than that their side make gains. It’s no surprise that the Right put someone of the very same id-driven, zero-sum mind-set into the White House.

Politics today has become a ping-pong match of escalating outrages. Every time Trump seems to do or say something beyond the pale, someone on the left seems to say “hold my beer” and one-up him. Many are turned off and/or disgusted by this escalation, but neither Trump nor those on the Left who match or exceed his OFFS excesses show much concern about alienating these people.

What we witness, instead, is both Trump and his liberal detractors continuing to hold to a “this is who I am, this is the message I offer” philosophy. I can understand it in Trump, because it got him elected and because his base has not punished him for not becoming more “presidential.” I don’t understand it quite so much from the Left, however, because it has cost them dearly – to the tune of 1000+ electoral losses since 2010.

Those who believe that Trump would have much more success if he ceased his Twitter ramblings and acted more presidential are probably correct. Winning the Presidency is a different matter and involves a different skill set than being President does, and a more sober, measured, and prepared-speech Trump would probably make skittish Republican congressmen more likely to get on board with legislation. But, that’s not who he is. Just as Bill Clinton was a “me-first” horse trader, George W. Bush was affable to the point of mockery, and Barack Obama an “I’m always right” ideologue,” Trump is a from-the-gut sort, trusting his instincts rather than heeding outside advice, demonstrably willing to contradict his past positions and statements if it feels right, and

I used to call him a carnie. That implies that he cynically puts no credence in what he’s peddling, and it is a supportable conclusion if you presume a foundation of intellectual consistency. An id, however, has no drive to be consistent, so it’s perfectly capable of believing X when, 5 years ago, it believed not-X. So, not a carnie, but rather, a true believer who tends to wander about.

What of this? Why devote a thousand words to yet another attempt to figure Trump out?

To predict someone’s actions, to work with the fact that someone is in a position of power, to anticipate the paths someone will take, and to pursue one’s own goals under someone’s purview, understanding that someone is vital. Moreso, when dealing with those who project their own (erroneous) templates and masks onto someone, it’s good to have a solid foundation from which to argue and rebut.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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