When the Coronavirus crisis came calling, Trump voters of 2016 might have
expected Donald Trump to do well.
If the 2016 voter had bought into the story of Donald Trump as a successful
businessman, a sage on unleashing top talent, a canny deal-maker, a maestro
orchestrating the best and brightest in a way no career politician could, etc.,
this should have been his time to shine: clear communication, rallied
industrial sectors, hot-spots of need snuffed: the team of America that churned
out B-45’s for Europe united, quarterbacked by Donny from Queens.
That myth was a tragic farce: Trump’s many pretensions to business
leadership were unfounded.
As I type this, my relative is in a hospital, his wife is ailing at home, and
the US saw a record day of infections on November 4th, 20201. Trump’s no Harvard Business School case-study chief
executive, clearly. Satya Nadella, Jack Welch, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet: to
these ranks of vaunted business leaders like these, Trump’s name will never be
added. His companies’ six bankruptcies2, his
personal financial losses3, and that proven
leaders reporting to him (Rex Tillerson, Gen. James Mattis) walk away, and even
repudiate him in existential terms (Mattis4), prove that.
He’s leveraged dynastic wealth made by his grandmother (and loaned to him by
his father) and a favorable tax code to fail upward into the nation’s highest
But if there was one area in which his toxically macho and latently-violent
persona should face headwinds, it would be when a nation was in need of
healing. A distractible pugilist by nature and ever on the defense against
litigation, Trump can concede no ground — ever. His narcissism can
brook no “How might I be wrong?” or “How might it be different than what I
feel?” Consequently, he can has no-to-little empathy. Consequently, he
can build no shared emotional arc whereby he and an other are changed and, in
that shared change, find understanding, growth, and/or reconciliation.
He is temperamentally unsuited to communicate healing.
His zealous and passionate rallies (with droves of attendees braving a
pandemic, maskless to show their commitment despite the publicized
deaths!5) prove that he can perform, he can excite, he can
triangulate, he can tap into latent pools of class anxiety and grievance and
mobilize action…but healing? This he simply cannot communicate.
Barack Obama could communicate healing in the wake of the grievous killing of
children at Sandy Hook. George W. Bush could communicate healing on the
scraps of the World Trade Center. Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, even George H.W.
Bush had a capacity for communicating healing. But Trump’s greatest emotional
intelligence is grievance recognition and amplification thereof for purposes of
manipulation to his ends.
And if ever there was a topic that wept for a healer, it was the two
racially-charged killings that (yet again) ripped open the slapdash suturing of
the racial divide in America that’s been malignant, gangrenous, and fetid for
And if ever there was a man perfectly inadequate for that task, it was Donald
Trump. And if ever there was a genius on how to turn true human suffering into
a handy tool to triangulate and engage a voting bloc for his election bid, it
was the same man. So in this world-historical year, surrounded by pandemic
death, the racial blister popped (again).
- Smashing a single-day record, U.S. enters new terrain as hospitalizations increase. (2020, November 5). New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/11/05/world/covid-19-coronavirus-updates#smashing-a-single-day-record-us-enters-new-terrain-as-hospitalizations-increase
- Lee, Michelle. (2016, September 26). Fact Check: Has Trump declared bankruptcy four or six times?. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-presidential-debate/fact-check-has-trump-declared-bankruptcy-four-or-six-times/
- Buettner Russ, Susanne Craig, Mike McIntire. (2020, September 27). Trump’s Taxes Show Chronic Losses and Years of Income Tax Avoidance. New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3jmgeBf
- Goldberg, Jeffrey. (2020, June 3). James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/
- Stracqualursi, Veronica and Karl de Vries. (2020, July 30). Herman Cain dies from coronavirus. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/politics/herman-cain-dies-coronavirus/index.html