The Trump Brand: What Will We Mean in the Future When We Say Someone Is Acting Like Trump?

Trump is going down. He may take us with him for a while—he could still win—but the inevitably devastating consequences of his management by bluster are as obvious as the consequences of climate change. He will not be remembered as a good leader.


Sure, anything is possible, and there are as many Trump-fail deniers as there are climate change deniers (for example). But really, Trump making America great again is as unlikely as God’s intervention to make climate change safe again.

So I’m ready to join Trump on his big obsession: What does his brand stand for? What will be his legacy? I’ll argue that, like many a famous tyrant, he'll end up a household name for unalloyed douchebaggery. We'll be describing assholes as "Trumpish" for generations to come.

And what will it mean to say someone is being Trumpish? I bring 20 years of research to this question. See, I’m a psycho-proctologist. I attempt to give precision to our understanding of assholes and asshole behavior. In this work, my big research question is, what is a butthead other than someone I butt heads with? In other words, what’s an objective definition of a butthead, asshole or a Trump?

Most people think they know, but as a pro-proctologist, I can tell you; it’s a harder question than it seems. An objective definition of asshole doesn’t come easy. That asshole remains ill-defined is why we’ve got all these factions in the world accusing other factions of being populated by assholes. People rely on subjective definitions, saying in effect, “an asshole is anyone who disagrees with me and is confident that he’s right.” This is also the reason we can’t see the assholes in our midst, the assholes who happen to agree with us.

I’d really like to put a finer point on what will come to be our common definition of Trumpishness. Doing so would address the most fundamental moral question in a free society. While most discourse on morality focuses on what everyone ought to do, in a free society, the goal is to let people do whatever they want so long as they don’t cross the line into buttheadedness. That’s why we need to draw the line carefully.

Google’s slogan is “don’t be evil.” Alas, they never got around to defining evil, which leaves open a lot of loopholes. About Trumpishness, we should close as many loopholes as possible. And it’s hard.

I do not believe it is possible to come up with the definitive definition of buttheads, assholes or Trumps. The problem with moral philosophy is that no matter what you decide is the definitive moral law, it can always be challenged from a higher level of analysis. For example, someone can say “God wants you to do this,” and someone can say, “You don’t know what God wants” to which someone else can say, “You don’t know that they don’t know.”

Though I don’t believe we can ever land on an absolute and final definition of asshole behavior, I think it’s very useful to try. I regard it as a fruitful exercise in futility. The effort to put a finer point on our definition would do us a lot of good.

One thing my research has taught me is that Trumpism should not be defined by the beliefs he holds, but by how he holds them. One can be Trumpish for any cause or any belief. There are spiritual Trumps, Buddhist Trumps, leftist Trumps, atheist Trumps, Trumps for Bernie and pacifist Trumps. One can be a Trump for any cause.

Trumpism is a mercenary skill set ready to do battle for any cause. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a systematic tendency to make personal victory the only thing that matters. The beliefs are irrelevant to that sole objective.

Trump is the ideal specimen for proving that point. We really have no idea what Trump believes, other than that his beliefs are perfect. Even when he declares his beliefs (always with the conviction that he’s absolutely right and consistent), he says something completely inconsistent with those beliefs in the next breath.

Ignore the beliefs. Whether you agree or disagree with them, they aren’t the point. They aren’t the point for Trump, so why should they be for us?

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