With Trump just being acquitted in his senate trial, many people are again asking how Trump does it. How does he disrespect and disregard everyone around him, get enemies to fight for him, make weekly mistakes that would destroy any other politician?
I’ve thought a little about this, but after hearing Sam Harris and Paul Bloom talk about it and ultimately walk away unsatisfied, I decided to take a swing at a description.
First, I think we’re conflating multiple things about the situation. There are many things that contribute to the Reality Distortion Field, or Trump Derangement Syndrome. Some of these include:
- He says non-sensical things and doesn’t pay the price
- He’s obviously being shady (still no tax returns?) but doesn’t pay the price
- His MeToo past has completely failed to stick to him
- He turned the GOP from his enemies to his supporters
- He bypasses government completely and markets to the people, which control the government
- You have a downtrodden white, middle-America cohort that is willing to support him no matter what because he’s promising to bring them back to previous glory
- There is actual, acute incompetence in US government, which he’s promised to address
- He’s an experienced showman from pro-wrestling and reality TV
The problem is when people try to describe how Trump does X, or Y, the explanation might apply to some of the items in this list, but not to others.
So what I’m going to specifically try to address is how he can be immune to damage from his own mistakes, and how he can continue to attract supporters despite constant blunders.
The theory I’ve come up with is a somewhat simple one: it’s that there is a certain type of male personality—which is actually quite common in real life—that is a special combination of selfish, arrogant, delusional, and relentlessly repetitive about his own success.
This type of person doesn’t like talking about other peoples’ successes. They talk about their own. Everything in their life is great. They have the best business, the best steaks, the best buildings, the best car. The best barber. The best everything.
Their enemies? Worst ever. Dumb. Stupid. Not smart. Worst ratings. Nobody likes them. Total losers.
And this is just at a dinner party with friends.
But if you go to their house it’s the same thing. It’s a single narrative on repeat. They are awesome. Their opinions are the best opinions. They are powerful and successful. And most other people are stupid, unless they’re helping their goals in some way—then that person is a stand-up guy. Until they aren’t.
This type of person uses humiliation and ridicule as their main weapon, drawing power from taking down others. Notice most of Trump’s humor is based on making fun of people. Even his own friends. He makes up nicknames for generals. He totally disrespects almost everyone around him, at least some of the time.
Now, you might think that this would be horribly unsuccessful as a way to live in the regular world. Like, who would tolerate this?
As it turns out, lots of people. This personality type is remarkably effective at attracting followers. They might hate the guy deep down (as so many obviously do with Trump), but they like his charisma, his refusal to admit wrongs, and his constant broadcast of a winning mentality.
They’re hating from a position of weakness, and they like being close to strength, so they tolerate him.
We’ve all heard that assholes get all the girls. And we’ve seen that be effective from grade school through college and into real life. Well ask yourself what assholes and many CEOs have that most regular guys don’t? It’s basically this:
There’s often insecurity on the inside, of course.
- An unshakable belief that they are the best.
- A constant, repetitive broadcast of that sentiment.
- A sense of humor based on making fun of people.
- An unwillingness to participate in conversations that aren’t about them and how great they are.
- Disdain for people who aren’t powerful or popular in some way.
- Seeing everything as a competition that they must win.
If you ask a common follower-type (woman or man) if they’d be attracted to a guy like this, you’ll definitely hear them exclaim, “Never! I hate people like that!”. But notice how they act in their presence and you see something different.
Ted Cruz comes to mind. Supposedly a strong moral backbone (gag), a strong conservative leader (gag), but look who’s following Trump around with a pooper scooper. He’s been turned into a moral cuckold who basically carries water while Trump has sex with everything he used to pretend to stand for.
That’s the power of a charismatic asshole.
They create acolytes all around them, which are treated horribly by the supreme leader, but somehow they feel they deserve it. And when he’s crushing someone with cruelty they’re just happy if it’s not them.
Tech companies are full of these types, and while they might have started the company on their idea and their force of personality, those same Divine Asshole qualities often create the toxicity and dysfunction that inevitably destroy it.
And for the Asshole, it’s a constant battle to suppress the natural, decent tendencies among his followers. If he were to show weakness, stop winning, or stop humiliating people for too long, the spell can instantly break.
Suddenly everyone would look at each other with clear eyes and a bit of embarrassment, and say, “Wow, he’s a really horrible person. I’ve always hated him.”
Everyone will agree, and they’ll vow to pretend the whole thing never happened.
This theory does raise the question of how Trump was able to pull this off when other people with similar personalities would be—and have been—taken out of contention far before the presidency.
Being helped by Putin doesn’t hurt either.
I think that’s where all the other factors come in. Being rich. Being a reality TV star. Being a perplexing combination of idiot and genius. Having a very 50’s and simplistic view of America vs. the world. Etc. I think all those variables just made it so that he was able to survive long enough for his Divine Asshole personality to take hold and start broadcasting its Reality Distortion Field.
And once that starts, it’s hard to stop.
- All Divine Assholes have the ability to disrupt reality and make people love/follow them based on being a horrible person.
- This no doubt goes back to our desire to back winners in an evolutionary playing field. If someone in the African plains was killing all the enemies and bringing home the most food, he was going to be the most popular even if (and perhaps because) he was an asshole.
- Trump just has the biggest antenna because he’s the president of the United States, which results in the most powerful Reality Distortion Field.
America is particularly vulnerable to the Popular Asshole trope because of our national DNA. Winning World wars. Football. Quarterbacks. Cheerleaders. Wall Street. Picket Fences. Consumerism. Hollywood.
America is about winning, and so is being an asshole. Trump’s presidency is just that dynamic at the grandest possible scale.
This, more than anything, is what makes him dangerous in elections. Just like in normal life, you can’t ask the current or potential follower of an asshole if they like assholes. That’s not good information because they’ll tell you no every time.
But just like in 2016, that’s not what happens when it’s time to pick. When you’re not asking the cheerleader (America) what they like, and instead looking at who they decide to date, well, they pick the rude guy who won the game—not the skinny nice guy who would treat them well.
That’s what America is doing right now. It’s picking Chad, because they think Chad wins games. Until the left figures out that 1) this is the problem, and 2) how to deal with Chads, they’re hopelessly lost.
Talking about how Chad won’t let felons vote in jail is not a solution; it’s an opportunity to get made fun of by Chad on national TV while everyone points and laughs. Same with giving migrants free healthcare when Americans themselves can’t afford it. Sanders might as well be part of Trump’s campaign staff.
The left needs to stop studying political science and debate tactics, and start looking at high-school dating activity.
If you want to see biblical levels of preference falsification and cognitive dissonance, look no further than the groupies and romantic hopefuls fawning over the local bully.
That is what both makes Trump powerful and makes the polls highly ineffective at estimating that power.