|For the record, this is Paul Krugman's T-shirt. I want one.|
The first time I saw Donald Trump -- in the early 70s? -- he was bragging about a hotel he bought. I thought, "What a jerk!"
What he was displaying, I now know, was narcissism. It's never an appealing attribute, though it's often on display wherever powerful people exercise their power.
There's a balancing act to most of these displays. Steve Jobs was horribly narcissistic, but he managed to temper the public display of it by turning "Isn't it amazing how amazing I am?" into "Isn't it amazing how amazing iPhone is?" He basked in his products' glow and wore simple black shirts, apparently aware that if he didn't his narcissism would obscure his obvious creativity.
For contrast, think Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. These are major success stories untainted by narcissism. Barack Obama, for me, also comes to mind. He carries himself with grace and dignity because of his innate self-assurance. He knows he's cool but doesn't abuse the edge it gives him. He faced mindless resistance his whole time in office, and yet he prevailed and made his opponents look like clowns, while maintaining dignity.
Then we come to Donald Trump. He is narcissism unbound, untethered. The issues surrounding his megalomania are catching up with him and appear, now, finally, to be his great undoing. Thank heavens. As he unravels, he is lashing out at everything around him -- mostly the Clintons and the "traitor" GOP -- ever since The Tape dealt him a near-lethal blow.
Witness his debate performance where, at its lowest point, he vowed to jail Hillary Clinton. It was the biggest threat ever launched to our fragile democracy, but more on that another time.
We don't yet know exactly the outcome of all this, though the momentum has shifted noticeably. Trump is self-destructing. Ironically, that's the other side of narcissism. It consumes itself.
Unfortunately, along the way he's unleashed the hounds that lurked in the hinterlands of America's dispossessed. They have a cause, we know, but it it weren't for the fiercely racist component of their collective zeitgeist they could have found a hero in Barack Obama, who was poised to be their champion, but for them it was a bridge too far. More's the pity.
Instead they've hitched their wagons to Donald Trump, who has no roadmap to the promised land. So after Trump's demise, they'll stew and, yes, cling to their guns and religion. Why they follow false prophets like Trump shouldn't be surprising, but it is deeply distressing.
Trump, even as he devours himself, is not finished. He may attach himself to Breitbart and the alt-right, develop "Trump TV" and urge the dispossessed to coalesce around him. Hopefully he's flawed enough -- he won't think so! -- to be incapable of organizing that proverbial basket of deplorables into a threatening movement. Trump's ego demands he gather as many people as he can, to prove the game is rigged and only he can fix it. In truth he has spent his life rigging it to his benefit, but hey...
Will his beloved "poorly educated" follow him off the inevitable cliff and in doing so damage much of America? Will it only lead to the death of the GOP? We'll see.