Donald J. Trump gave the most startling acceptance speech I have ever heard coming from a presidential candidate. The thing that made his speech startling was his belief, or audacity, that he, Donald J. Trump, would solve almost every problem that we have. He brazenly told us, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
He started out by reciting all the bad things that he believes have dragged America down into a pit of misery, hopelessness, poverty, joblessness, fear, terrorism and crime. He said America is in crisis. He blamed Hillary and Obama for most of this. “We don’t win anymore, but we are going to start winning again.”
Trump then launched into a Christmas list of conservative and populist “problems” that he vowed to solve, fast. He said he would:
End crime in America, restore law and order, protect us from terrorism, protect the LGBTQ community, hire the best prosecutors, destroy ISIS and stamp out Islamic terrorism fast, increase the military, increase border patrol agents, lock down the borders, build a wall on the Mexican border (and make them pay for it), stop drugs from entering the country, keep out Muslims and citizens of countries where terrorism is a problem, renegotiate the Iran deal, create jobs and bring jobs back to America, make America rich again, increase spending on infrastructure to create jobs, help the forgotten man, revive steel manufacturing and coal mining, reduce regulations on the energy sector, lower taxes especially for the middle class, simplify taxes, put America first, renegotiate all of our trade agreements, stop China’s currency manipulation, stop China’s theft of intellectual property, prevent American companies from moving away, bring trillions of dollars back into the country, end political correctness, repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that works, take care of our veterans, create jobs and raise wages for African-Americans and Latinos, reduce regulations, reduce federal spending, fix TSA, revive our schools, allow school choice, help students in debt, allow nonprofit organizations to engage in politics, appoint strict constructionist supreme court justices, and bring Bernie’s supporters into the Republican fold.
“Believe me,” he kept saying.
This is the problem with Trump: for him to say that he is the lone person who can save America is not just audacious, but has all the earmarks of megalomania. “Megalomania” is defined as “an unnaturally strong wish for power and control, or the belief that you are very much more important and powerful than you really are.” All dictators and strongmen in history can be described as megalomaniacs.
Trump supporters will no doubt strongly object to this characterization of him. Trump hardly has authoritarian leanings, they would argue. Narcissistic maybe, but megalomaniac, no.
I would point out that most of the problems he recites in his speech are false, misleading, and designed to create fear in the general public, thus presenting himself as the strong, tough leader who alone can save us from our dystopian nightmare. He plays on populist memes that he himself has either created or promoted to gain power.
And it works. A recent Gallup poll asking Americans if they were satisfied with the way things are going dropped to 17 from 29 in July, a 12-point drop that tied the largest one month drop in the 15 years of taking this poll. Trump’s hammering against a backdrop of shootings and racial discord has affected the mood of America.
To solve these “threats” to America he has proposed solutions many of which can only be seen as authoritarian.
At some point his supporters need to stop justifying his accusations and threats as mere campaign rhetoric and actually look at what the man is saying: mass deportation of illegal immigrants, destruction of foreign trade, criminalizing businesses who wish to move abroad, forcing U.S. companies to repatriate foreign profits, massive public spending to “create jobs”, bringing America into another war in the Middle East, locking the borders to “undesirables”, new laws restricting freedoms and expanding the federal government to defeat crime and terrorism.
Despite what Trump says, America is alive and well. I have written before on the many falsehoods he is perpetuating about the economy. Here are just a few:
Foreign trade has been a boon to the economy and, despite his claims that we are “getting screwed”, GDP has only grown since NAFTA and other trade agreements bringing prosperity, not depression. Employment is now at a cyclical high. The trade barriers he proposes would bring about a depression worldwide as other countries would erect counter-tariffs against American goods. NAFTA and other trade agreements didn’t cause the decline in manufacturing jobs (automation did). Median per capita income in America is even, not down. Violent crimes have declined significantly in the past 25 years. Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, have a lower crime rate than native Americans. Massive deportation would cause economic collapse. Income taxes are not unfairly borne by the middle class, rather they are disproportionately paid by the top 20% of taxpayers (84% of taxes). Etcetera.
I am not suggesting that America is utopia, it isn’t, but we are not the dystopian nightmare that Trump would have us believe. There is much to be done, but Trump doesn’t understand the problems much less the solutions. Instead he exploits our fears in his quest for power.
As a billionaire with bragging rights Trump has created a myth surrounding himself as the consummate businessman, endlessly successful, a guy who is clued in on how the world really works. He is now packaging that myth and selling it to America as the man who can “make America great again.”
America seems to be swallowing that myth. Instead of the mythical image, he has instead revealed himself to be cast from the mold of the classic strongman who gains power by lying and pandering to populist notions. But the inconvenient truth is that Trump’s ideas are dangerous for America and our economy and threaten the one thing that does make America great, our freedoms.
Originally published July 10, 2016.