No one is going to accuse investment banker Merrill Lochmaier of being a low-information voter. A Palm Beach neighbor of Donald Trump, Lochmaier told the New York Post why he was voting for the Teflon Don:
If the Titanic is going down and you’ve got one guy that can run the life boats, you want him running the show – it doesn’t matter if he’s not politically correct.
Inadvertently, Lochmaier demonstrated that the brains of even high-information voters can be addled by the Donald.
But, Lochmaier was right, up to a point. When the Titanic hits an iceberg, you do want a take-charge guy. But, whatever led him to imagine that Trump is the only one who can run the boats. Surely, you do not want a captain whose main qualification is that he attends boat shows. And, you do not want someone who runs to the lifeboats screaming: “Me, first; Megyn Kelly, last.”
Lochmaier did, however, identify a central emotional issue in the campaign. Even though most pundits and politicos have concluded that Trump’s support is driven by anger, the truth is, it is more about fear. Americans are terrified that their nation has hit an iceberg and is sinking.
Many Americans are frightened for their nation. They are frightened by an economic recovery that feels sluggish. They are frightened by markets that seem to have detached from reality. They are frightened because their president has diminished the country on the world stage. Most especially, they are afraid because their president is terrified... and has been throughout his presidency. Obama's veneer of cool is, as many have noted, a deer-in-the-headlights look.
Having have watched President Obama apologize for America, lead from behind, stand by while Syria burned, sell out to Iran and refuse to call Islamic terrorism by its name, Americans are looking for a candidate who appears to be fearsome and fearless. They know that weakness invites aggression, so they are afraid. They are looking for an antidote to fear.
For them Donald Trump is therapy. For Donald Trump, they are therapy. It’s a mutually therapeutic relationship. If it doesn’t solve any problems, it makes a lot of people feel a lot better.
More demoralized than angry, Trump’s supporters do not know how to right the ship of state. So, they have glommed on to a candidate who does not know what to do, either.
In Trump, they see someone who covers up his fear by lashing out in anger.
Trump puffs up his confidence by demeaning and threatening others. Thus, he provokes fear. By making other people afraid he is showing the world and telling himself that he is unafraid. He never apologizes because the least intimation of weakness might break the spell.
Of course, the bullying is a bluff. When Trump says that he is going to force foreign governments to do what he tells them to do, his supporters cheer. They do not understand that foreign leaders are looking forward to enhancing their own stature by calling his bluff.
Trump puffs himself up, contorts his face, spews invective and pretends to be bigger than he is. He calls his opponents idiots and fools; he showers them with contempt; he insults them to their faces. Everyone in business and politics knows that he is not acting like a leader.
Trump’s supporters do not understand that someone who asserts his confidence at the expense of others has no confidence. His has to inflate his confidence because he has no reason to think that he can do the job. If Trump is not afraid of becoming the president, he is not human.
And someone who does not take advice, who does not consult with people who know more than he does is afraid to find out how little he knows. We have seen this before.
Remember the president who said:
I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my director.
Strangely, the more Trump blusters the more people like him. But, he also feeds off of the crowds. He needs the crowds to boost his flagging confidence. He surrounds himself with sycophants and Mini-Mes, but the crowds seem to have persuaded him that he can win the election and do the job. They seem to enjoy being the perfect enablers.
One suspects that when Trump first announced his candidacy, he did it on a lark. He had nothing to lose. He could gain publicity and enhance his brand. Had he lost to a politician, he would have been able to write it off easily. He was an amateur playing against professionals.
But now, Trump is reaping the whirlwind. As the adage suggests, once you sow the wind you will be faced with unpredictable and uncontrollable consequences. I suspect that Trump never really believed that it would get this far. Surely, he is reveling in the ego boost that he is getting from the crowds and the polls and the election results. He needs them because he must recognize that the higher he flies the further he can fall. And he does not have a parachute.
By now, Trump has turned a win/win proposition into a lose/lose situation. If he loses the nomination at the convention he will come away as a loser. If, as seems plausible, he loses the general election, he will be a bigger loser. But, if he wins the election and takes over the presidency, he risks becoming the biggest loser.
It will not be a happy day when he discovers that he is more show than substance. Hopefully, he will not have to learn it the hard way.
Hubris can only get you so far.