Trump’s game plan, and how The Resistance is wrecking it
We now can see, after eight weeks, the rough outlines of Trump’s “game plan,” although that might be too grandiose a term to use for the behavior of this impetuous, angry and easily bored man.
The plan comprises two parts: first, to let this super-conservative Congress, led by the tea party, have its way with legislation. In this, Trump, who has few fixed beliefs as far as we know, will not interfere, leaving Ryan-McConnell free passage to selectively enact the “small government” they have advocated for years.
The second part of the plan—and this is more to Trump’s liking—is to have fun playing the game. What game? you ask. The game he’s played for decades—the game he’s good at—the game that informs his life and gives it meaning. We might call the game, for want of a better term, “the reality show.”
Trump has long been a very famous person. His fame rested, not merely upon his real estate success in New York City and flamboyant personality, but, in more recent decades, upon his fabulous career in show business. And there is every indication that Trump loved and loves the action, the notoriety, the fact of his name being on so many people’s lips. His love of money obviously is first and foremost among his drives, but this craving for fame follows close behind. And, as famous people know, managing fame is practically a fulltime job in itself. For all the advantages, there are pitfalls. Behind every achievement lurks the possibility of scandal, even downfall. Wending his way through these perilous shoals appeals to someone of Trump’s risk-taking, adventurous spirit. And to be President of the United States of America!! There is nothing on earth riskier, more exciting than that.
So those are the two notions upon which to understand this President. But there is a further, third leg to this complicated stool, and one, moreover, Trump did not count on, and cannot control: The Resistance. It came out of nowhere. It has gathered steam, with increasing articulateness, since his inauguration. And, by all accounts, it baffles, frustrates and infuriates him.
We know this from his tweets, and from remarks made by his associates to the media. When he barrages Twitter in the early morning hours, as he did with his libelous accusation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, he is expressing his rage in 140 characters. But beyond the words themselves, we can discern his emotional state: “Why doesn’t everyone love me? Why don’t they see what I’m trying to do?” Anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, battling impersonal forces that one cannot control, can empathize.
Yet these impersonal forces will not go away; for all the power Trump possesses, he reminds one of Lear, “all powerful to be impotent,” creator and victim of his own madness, bringing his associates down with him. And this is where we now find ourselves and our country: mid-episode in Trump’s latest reality show.
There is great disequilibrium within this unwieldy structure: “The center cannot hold.” I suspect all of us know that this will not have a happy ending. The centrifugal forces of politics cannot long stand all these opposing pushes and pulls. If the first two components of Trump’s plan—leaving the Congress alone, and playing his reality games—were all there were, he could continue for quite some time. There would be bumps, and explosions, but Trump has shown the Teflon-like quality of enduring bumps and explosions. But this Resistance—that’s different. As long as it continues—and it will—and as long as Trump continues to give it ammunition to use against him—and he will, because, like a serial arsonist, he can’t stop himself—The Resistance will infuriate him, chipping away at his plausibility and eroding his base. He will become increasingly irrational, and eventually his fellow Republicans in the Congress will start to wonder—if they don’t already–if this Faustian bargain they made with him is worth it. And the people who voted for him are bound, sooner or later, to understand how much these tea party policies are hurting them and their loved ones. Then we will have reached Gladwell’s “tipping point.” Perhaps by summer.