At least we finally have a book about Donald Trump which isn’t just another version of how the MAGA movement will usher in a Fascist dictatorship if Trump is allowed to run again in 2024. We’re at the brink of the Fourth Reich even if Trump doesn’t stay in the middle of things, but if he does keep himself afloat, American democracy as we know it will surely come to an end.
For a more realistic and certainly less hysterical analysis of what Trump represents, I recommend the slim little volume by a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California/Irvine, Aaron James, with the wonderfully prosaic title, Assholes – A Theory.
James published this work in 2009, and Trump only rates a brief mention in several sections of the text.
In fact, when it comes to contemporary political assholes, the book is rather thin in naming names, basically skipping quickly over Rush Limbaugh and Roger Aisles, both of whom are now dead, along with several media loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews, who nobody listens to anyway.
What stands out, however, in this narrative, is the author’s definition of ‘asshole,’ as well as his theory for why assholes seem to abound these days and in both respects his argument is entirely germane to understanding what Trump means and doesn’t mean.
Basically, an ‘asshole’ manifests three, basic behavioral traits on a regular and recurring basis:
1. He allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so on a systematic basis,
2. he enjoys these advantages based on an entrenched sense of entitlement,
3. his sense of entitlement immunizes him against the complaints of others who do not enjoy the same degree of advantages.
Professor James then goes on to describe how the ‘asshole’s sense of entitlement also shapes his relations to others, particularly when he “is often rude or more often borderline nasty. The ‘asshole’ gains special advantages from interpersonal relations, not by stroke of continuous luck but because he regards himself as special.” [pp. 15-16.]
If that’s not a clear and concise portrait of how Donald Trump behaves in the public and political spheres, I don’t know what is.
Most of the book’s text then goes on to talk about how the behavior of current-day assholes reflects the degree to which contemporary capitalism is fast becoming a system which rewards a few at the expense of the many, thus justifying and promoting the sense of entitlement which is shared by the asshole population while making the non-assholes like me (and everyone else who bought this book) feel they are missing out.
This is all fine and well, if for no other reason than it brings into focus much of the anger and frustration that liberals have felt since Trump arrived on the political scene beginning with the announcement of his candidacy in 2015.
The problem, however, is that this explanation of ‘asshole’ behavior only fits people who have ‘made it,’ so to speak, as opposed to the much larger population which feels left out or left behind. When Trump gets up at one of his rallies and rants about how the Communists, the Socialists, the liberals, and the Washington elite have screwed things up, he’s not talking to people who feel they have enjoyed all the special advantages that ‘asshole capitalism’ (as James refers to the current system) delivers to the top 5 percent.
The issue of trying to figure out Trump, unfortunately, may not be reduced to just a simple analysis of hie behavior placed within the context of a clever play on what used to be a word like ‘asshole’ that couldn’t be mentioned in a polite, public space.
Trump’s outburst yesterday about how American Jews better ‘get their act together’ represents a degree of callousness and hostile stupidity that even a confirmed Trump-hater like me did not believe were words from Trump that I would ever hear or see.
The day that an American public figure singles out any religious group for a sanctimonious lecture on that group’s behavior is a day which can only be described as the end of that individual’s political career.
Which gives Trump license to behave not just like an asshole, but like something much more toxic, politically-speaking, for which we need another word.
Anyone have a suggestion?