Election 2016

Trump's Winaholic Binge Continues

Our election was a big blow to our democracy from which we may not recover.

Photo Credit: Art by Nancy Ohanian

Democracies die when leaders who are so powerful that they don’t have to doubt lead people so anxious that they can’t afford to doubt. Our election was a big blow to our democracy from which we may not recover.

Whatever else the election was, it was a referendum on a lifestyle of the winaholic, a person who, for whatever reason feel entitled to never engage in self-doubt, people who always claim the last word from their high horse. 

Trump is as pure a winaholic as you could get, a man always at ease turning the truth on its head to keep himself feeling right and righteous. We have many names for such people—narcissists, egomaniacs, psychopaths, fundamentalists, absolutists, assholes, jerks, pigs, whiners, victim-players. At core though it’s the winaholic’s relentless self-certainty, a willingness to compromise any and everything to get their fix, that proud declaration that they win or deserve to win.

It was going to be so much fun watching Trump take the fall he deserved for his extreme winaholism. Our first woman president trumping him was going to be a defining moment for our country, right up there with V-day. A few days ago Trump said, “Now it's up to the American people to deliver justice.” 

Yes, that was our hope. And it was dashed last night. 

We could explore its causes of winaholism. There are many, for example:

A chip on the shoulder: Compensating for a lack of self-confidence.

Misplaced self-esteem: Feeling good about yourself only when you win, not when you’re learning or improving.

Naiveté: A sense that, having found the right answers you no longer have to keep questioning, learning and wondering.

Appetite: An uncontrolled impulse to thinking you’ve won whether you have or not.

The material costs of losing: Needing to win to keep your job, status, money or property.

Dimness: Settling for simple solutions because you’re not smart enough to think realistically. 

Overweening sense of entitlement: Some mental quirk that makes your self-importance abnormally convincing.

Peer-pressure: You’re surrounded by winaholics so that’s all you know.

Enablers: Being surrounded by people who let you get away with it.
Success: Having won, you assume you’re now a permanent winner, know-it-all.

Failure: Being so close to the edge that you’re holding on for dear life to every sign that you’re a winner.

Shamelessness: Little or no inner voice telling you to cut it out.

Fear of uncertainty: An abnormally high aversion to self-doubt.

Discovering the no-growth formula and just settling there: As a young brat discovering the 20 or so tricks that enable you to deflect all challenges. 

Many of these causes could be operating within any one person. Also, they operate within a person—inaccessible to objective analysis. Though you could ask winaholics what motivates them, you won’t get a straight answer. You’ll get a self-aggrandizing one.

It’s more fruitful to look for expressed symptoms and there’s really only one. It’s a systematic reliance on that no-growth formula, the collection of cheap shot ways to prevail immediately against all challenges. 

Winaholics are proud champions of whatever cause. The cause is never the point. There are winaholics for every cause, and there are non-winaholic believers in every cause too. You can’t tell who’s a winaholic by what beliefs they hold but how they hold them. Whatever cause they happen to champion, the point is that they’re always proud champions.

The no-growth formula is something we learn to use through experience as kids. It’s what makes brats, brats. It’s an all-purpose toolkit filled with cheap shot tricks for projecting: “I know you are but what am I?” or “I’m like rubber you’re like glue.” We’ve never met anyone who used it with more fluid audacity than Trump, our new president.

Use of the no-growth formula feeds on itself and spreads. Trump supporters weren’t just supporters; they were Trump wannabes. He pretended he had a cause that justified using the no-growth formula. He encouraged his supporters to use it and they did, creating an epidemic of winaholism.

Winaholics hit rock bottom and keep falling. Since their whole MO is that they’re on top, they’re often the last to notice. Intervening with alcoholics sometimes forces them to admit that they have a problem. Winaholics never admit they have a problem. 

In a way, I was grateful for Trump’s presence. He got us thinking and talking about the trouble with winaholism by other names. I had hoped he would turn out to be just the inoculant we needed, an exaggerated but ultimately impotent winaholic who would serve as a negative role model for us all.

I hoped that coming out of the election we would come to use “Trumpish” not for someone with his policies but his attitude and MO, that bottomless self-aggrandizing self-rationalization. 

The silver lining if there is one is that we’ll have more exposure to it over the next four years, more opportunity to learn what’s wrong with winaholism. We sure have more to learn about it. 

A few days ago, while doing GOTV for Clinton in Nevada, I posted, “If we had a spare world we could give it to Trump and the GOP as a toy. Let them run with it. They'd break it quickly and maybe learn that they aren't the grownups they pretend they are. But we don't have one.

Apparently, we’re giving him this one to toy with. Maybe more of us will learn in time to stop toying with it before it’s beyond repair. Or maybe not.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Jeremy Sherman Ph.D. researches how the living interpret, from their cradle at the origin of life to our current grave situation.
 

What advice would you give other teachers considering a strike?