Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Donald Trump: The Fear Factor

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.


Marsh said...

You're not even trying...

Ares Olympus said...

Well, it's nice to agree for the first 4 paragraphs. Fortunately we got back on track later.

Stuart: 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. ... 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.

Stuart: 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.

Certainly I have no disagreement that a President Trump would be an immediate disaster. You almost imagine Mexico would purposely empty their prisons and smuggle in all their violent criminals just to spite Trump, assuming he had nothing else to worry about, just to make sure he fulfills his promise to build a wall, so they can laugh at him when he demands they pay for it.

And as soon as Trump was over his head in ANYTHING, which really is EVERYTHING since he's not a detail person, he'd listen to whatever advisors were available, and follow their advice perfectly, with small adjustments like "needs to be classier", and when things go badly he'll say "You're fired" and find another scapegoat advisor to replace that one. Would anyone last more than 2 months in his White House during a crisis?

So as best I can tell the only GOOD outcome is for the GOP to follow through with their threats, for a brokered convention since Trump will have less than 50% of the delegates, and someone else will be chosen, and Trump will FAIL to be endorsed, mostly because guns were banned from the convention center.

Then his loyal followers will revolt and scream to start a NEW PARTY, and ask Trump to donate $1 billion dollars to get it started, and Trump will refuse to pay, but he'll take donations in promising to SUE the GOP for $1 billion, and use that money to finish paying back his campaign self-loans, and he'll muster a half-hearted effort as a third party candidate who will get on the ballot on perhaps 16 states, and be a write-in candidate for the rest, and get about 18% of the vote, taking 8% from the republicans, and adding 10% who would not have voted at all, helping Hillary win the presidency in a landslide.

And the first woman president of the United States will be at the helm during the Great Depression of 2017. And Trump can explain why it never would have happened if they had just elected him. But really Trump's going to be to busy working on his next bankruptcy cycle when his property values crash, so he'll be glad he's not president. He's going to have to sue a lot of people, and that takes time.

Anyway Obama's fake recovery legacy will be completely blamed upon the Democrats.

But what I can't see is how the next war fits in. If Hillary follows the GWB "war president" approach, and picks some insignificant enemies to blame, and steals of of Cruz's lines about laser-focused carpet-bombing, perhaps she still could hold a reelection in 2020?

I'm still not convinced the GOP really cares about winning the presidency for now. How can you feel good about leading a government small enough to drown in a bathtub? That work can only be done in Congress.

Anonymous said...

And Ted Cruz has the answers for the country. Wait, I mean Kasich does, I mean Romney did, I mean Jeb! could've, I mean Ryan might.
“Newt, Newt, Oh my god, Newt!.... are you busy?”
Such horseshit.
The Establishment Repubs are done, and the best part of this entire cycle is gonna’ be watching the uneducated, thirty-year forgotten American blue-color, white working class and working poor, turn this election for Trump, which will turn your stomachs.

Can’t wait.

Scullman said...

Scullman signals the above.

Stirge said...

Stuart had it right in the beginning. It is anger. I'm not sure why everyone who disagrees with Trump characterizes his supporters as fearful. The people who are dealing in fear have attacked Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, etc etc. No other candidate (not to mention our president, as pointed out in this article) has come up with a better alternative to the threat. Wanting to be safe, and having a healthy preservation instinct is not fear.

Anonymous said...

I will sum up most of your articles in the last year,Cruz good Trump bad. I can't wait for your next article.

Ares Olympus said...

Anon @8:05am, I agree it would be best if Stuart said "Cruz bad, Trump bad."

But I did find one pro-Trump article by William Greider at The Nation:
This week, while people everywhere were fretting over his violent talk, the candidate came to Washington and dropped a peace bomb on the neocon editorial writers at The Washington Post and the war lobby. Trump wants to get the United States out of fighting other people’s wars. He thinks maybe NATO has outlived its usefulness. He asks why Americans are still paying for South Korea’s national defense. Or Germany’s or Saudi Arabia’s.

“I do think it’s a different world today and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” Trump said. “I think it’s proven not to work. And we have a different country than we did then. You know we have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting probably on a bubble, and, you know, it’s a bubble that if it breaks is going to be very nasty. And I just think we have to rebuild our country.”

Will anybody give him an amen? Yes, lots of folks. People who read The Nation (myself included) have been saying something similar for a long time. So have libertarian Republicans on the right. But this sort of thinking is mega-heresy among the political establishment of both parties. The foreign-policy operators consider themselves in charge of the “indispensable nation.”

This new Trump talk is definitely career-threatening for the military-industrial complex. It was particularly playful of Trump to choose The Washington Post as the place to drop his bomb; after all, it’s the Post that has made itself such a righteous preacher for endless war-making.

The Donald, usually bellicose in style and substance, is singing, “Give peace a chance.” What does his detour portend for national policy? We can’t know for sure, since Trump also has a tendency to casually contradict himself before different audiences. Later on the same day, he addressed AIPAC’s convention and sounded like a warrior for Zion. He got thunderous applause after making the ritual promises that candidates from both parties always make at AIPAC meetings.

But Trump has, in his usual unvarnished manner, kicked open the door to an important and fundamental foreign-policy debate. It is far more profound than the disputes we usually hear between hawks and doves. He’s proposing a radical standard for testing US policy abroad, both in war and peace: Is it actually in America’s interest?

 “I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’d be blown up,” Trump told the editors. “And we’d build another one and it would get blown up. And we would rebuild it three times. And yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn.… at what point do you say hey, we have to take care of ourselves. So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that but at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially in the inner cities.”

The next thing you know, Trump might be talking about lead-filled water supplies and visiting Flint Michigan and announcing giving kids clean tap water to drink is more important than building walls.

They say liberals love spending other people's money, and you can almost imagine Trump as the next Santa Claus, raising taxes on billionaires so poor children can have opportunity to not die young in America.

It's not a great bet, but talking to Civil Engineers is a low-risk, high reward activity for benevolent dictators who just want to be loved.

If a Liberal talked that way, republicans would just say they're trying to buy votes with "free stuff", but if a new new conservative like Trump says it, perhaps conservatives will find they have a heart, not like the Grinch, 3 sizes too small, but BIG like Trump's biggest heart of all.

Shaun F said...

Trump is a showman, like a carnival barker. Think Tony Robbins. So his behaviour is no surprise. He is too narcissistic to be concerned about being president. With regards to the American people, fear (of losing their job, America’s further decline, etc.) often is the root of (emotional behaviour) anger. I get why Americans would be "afraid." It was also observed that if Hillary wins the democratic nomination the millennial Sanders supporters will not vote, opening the door for Trump to potentially win. I can't say I know, but I sure enjoy watching the show!

BrianE said...

While your implication is that America is paralyzed by fear, a healthy amount of fear is good, since it results in caution. But I do think it's more anger than fear.
I've been struck recently by the realization that the country is descending into madness. Trump is just one small manifestation of that, merely a consequence of 8 years of another unqualified person leading from behind. Everything is an offense, micro aggression, medium aggression, massive aggression-- we're just people gone mad.
We assign motives to people we don't know, straw man arguments that we blithely demolish and declare victory, and heap insults instead of dialogue with those we have chosen to hate.
As to whether any candidate has proposed solutions to the economic cliff where the entire world is running on margin-- I'm not sure there is a solution. The new economics posits that debt doesn't matter anymore. It is a simple solution, much akin to the emperor and his clothes.
But short of that, were interest rates to rise to historical norms, the interest on the national debt would rise to nearly $1 trillion annually.
Maybe we should be afraid.

Sam L. said...

It appears, out in the great vastness of America, that the big boys in the GOP don't care for, or consider, or have any concern for those who consider themselves Republicans. Certainly the Democrats don't. These things are obvious to us. Trump may be the spit in the eye of those mentioned above, as he seems to be, and I think that's enough for those out here being ignored/taken for granted.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Brian E @March 23, 2016 at 10:23 AM:

"The new economics posits that debt doesn't matter anymore."

Firstly, there is no "new economics," as much as those who are addicted to debt would have us believe. The wise man sees debt as a danger, the intelligent man sees debt as a tool, the average man sees debt as a burden, the unintelligent man sees debt as a luxury, and the idiot views debt as free money.

But there is no new economics, anymore than there was a "new economy" amidst the internet stock mania in the 1990s.

The market is based on trust. We saw in 2008 what happens when trust erodes: markets stop working. Money doesn't flow. Companies can't finance anything. We turn into a cash-on-hand economy. There's no way to level out cash flow. If money dies, we turn into a barter economy, because no one trusts the value of the fiat currency. It's a piece of paper we believe in, it's digits on the Glowing Box we believe are really there... and they're ours. Unless it's the National Debt Clock, and then "that's someone else's problem." Or going to be. Gosh, we love our children and grandkids, don't we???

I know you talked about the emperor and his clothes, and that we might be afraid of $1 trillion debt payments. We should be afraid, like the addict wondering where he will get his next fix. Because the truth is we are addicted to debt, and with a frightening cognitive dissonance. We are addicted to the easy path where we just "borrow more." The addict doesn't care about what you tell him... he just wants his next fix.

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend the documentary "Money for Nothing." It's about the history of the Federal Reserve: it's history, how it has worked, and how it works today. Today's Fed is a monstrosity of centralized planning, answerable to itself. Combine that with a spendthrift U.S. Congress, and we have a significant problem.

Ultimately, creditors expect to be repaid. Our nation is not going to snap back to a balanced budget mentality after many decades of massive deficits... whether in trade or in the Federal budget. We're given the money because we're seen as the safest debt instrument right now, and have been for about a decade. When we can't pay, there will be a great unraveling. Where will the money go? Perhaps it will just sit, and disintegrate in a hyperinflation. And we're getting there...

The greatest lie ever told, going back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, is that you can get something for nothing. Some will object, saying the Genesis passage is a myth. Perhaps. But in their rigid, rationalist view of the world they fail to see Truth... with a capital T. Because it doesn't matter if there was one man, one woman, one serpent, one tree, one fruit, or one garden at this specific, exact moment in time. God is the only constant, because God transcends time. The same sad human story plays out in the human world every moment of every age. And when we ignore limits, and the admonishments of wisdom, we become amoral, predatory animals. That's the Truth. Some will say religion is stupid. I say they'll find religion later, when the SHTF.

We must wean ourselves off easy economic solutions, or we're in deep, deep trouble. The people of this country -- the ones who make this country work -- know we're in trouble. They're considering outsiders like Trump because they're not being heard, and they know the centralization of power in Washington doesn't work. There's the Capitol and the Districts, and it's getting worse. Washington, D.C.. is looking out for itself, and the rest of us are coming to realize we're on our own.

No wonder people are angry. As I've said before, there is something instructive about the Trump phenomenon, if people are willing to listen and observe it for what it is. there are still practical people out here who don't believe in bullshit theories.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sam L.: Amen.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Shaun F: Are you an American?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @All the times you've ever commented on their blog:



Shaun F said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD - I am Canadian. I just find the Trump thing quite interesting. Reminds me of the Mule in the Foundation Series by Asimov.

Anonymous said...

This article is complete rubbish and could only have been written by someone who has spent his entire life in a bubble of the educated elite.

To make sense out of Trump one must distinguish between a Nation and a Country. A nation is defined by a group of people who share a common culture, values, and history. By contrast, a country is simply a self-governing political entity.

For most of its history America functioned as a Nation in the sense that most of it inhabitants shared a common European cultural background, common values, and a shared history. Of course there were differences between the English Protestants, the Irish Catholics, the Germans, etc., but the commonalities exceeded the differences.

America as a Nation is dead. It was crushed between the hammer of the 1965 Immigration Act, which disfavored European immigration and favored non-European immigration, and the anvil of liberalism, which has declared taboo most aspects of the culture that defined the American Nation. The Center for Immigration Studies just reported that 65 million Americans, nearly 20% of the population, are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Few of these immigrants are European. Most are Hispanic, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern. They come from vastly different cultures and, thanks to liberalism, have relatively little motivation to assimilate with American culture. You can't assimilate with a nullity.

Trump supporters aren't afraid for their nation. They have recognized that the American nation is dead and they are moving collectively through the five stages of grief. The election of Obama triggered the denial phase. Trump has tapped into the anger phase and maybe the bargaining phase--he is, after all, famous for the Art of the Deal.

America's descent into the multicultural abyss is now baked into the demographic cake. Trump may be able to slow it down but he can't stop it. The leftists won. The American Nation is dead. It will be replaced by a Country defined by a polyglot collection of competing race-based interest groups, each of which is vying for their share of the booty distributed by the federal government. Welcome to Brazil.

The next stages of grief are depression and acceptance. And with these will come a withdrawal from civic life and national institutions. This will all be fine with our ruling elite until we face a serious war. Men fight and die for Nations. Nobody fights and dies for a Country. The distinction is not merely rhetorical.

Anonymous said...

So with all that said.....I think the best strategy is to pay off all debts (even the mortgage), lay in food, water, and essentials and expect to have your life pummeled for the next four years.

g2loq said...

Who do I vote for then?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Shaun F @March 30, 2016 at 7:48 AM:

Thank you for clarifying. It sounded like you were on the outside looking in. Love Canada!

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: If you have Netflix, I highly recommend the documentary "Money for Nothing."

I'll check it out, although I expect I won't hear anything new.

I don't think anyone can defend our fiat money system on any time scale longer than about the 40-50 years we've attempted it, and especially the last 7 years of near-zero interest interbank loans, it all seems like endgame tactics, and there's no return to any old normal from here.

I'm almost leaning towards Martin Armstrong's views, although he predicted a world sovereign debt crisis October 2015, predicted clockwork style.

Its so impossible to imagine what a world looks like when fiat money fails, but you have to say it'll be connected to the end of globalization as we know it.

I don't think Trump's walls will save us, but its probably less wasteful than starting new shock-and-awe wars that cause new needs for walls.