Grazing social media I’m repeatedly implored to reserve judgement on the Trump administration and Trump himself until some point in the future where presumably he’s accomplished enough to establish some sort of track record. Today it seems the Pope has lent his voice to this strategy as well. I cannot sufficiently express how goofy this is.
Just imagine applying this Wait And See technique to any other part of your life.
“This lasagna visibly has zip ties in it” Maybe it will be delicious!
“That bear looks hungry and is awfully close” Maybe it’s a man in bear suit her to deliver your lottery winnings!
With our limited mammalian gifts we move through the world essentially trying to predict the future through any means at our disposal. We choose our lunch, plan investments, and pick a route to work all doing our best to insure that we’ve made the wisest and most fruitful decision possible. This behavior is hardwired into us and our brains become repositories of example, instinct, and heuristic to serve us moment to moment as life unfolds.
Even if we weren’t talking about Donald Trump and his attendant human failings (and they could exhaust the Star Wars dawn scroll) we can fairly easily predict what kind of actions a person is going to take. People either express or obscure their motives, but they’re seldom so murky that we can’t, with modest research, assess intent. After all – people are generally rational actors and we need only gauge their rationality and identify their interests before we can draw a reasonable map to their future.
With Trump, however, we’re not talking about a subtle poker tell, after all, we’re talking about skin flaps in a suit shouting themselves hoarse on a podium with as precise a vocabulary as they can muster that they will dismantle a good portion of civilization and look so amazing doing it.
What does it take to really convince yourself that you have insufficient information at your disposal to prejudge Trump and what he might do? In the few years that he’s moved into the political domain, he’s been consistent in at least one way – that attention MUST be paid to him. In congratulating others, for example, it is only to highlight what a superb congratulator he is (did you know people say no one congratulates like him?). He’s made a cottage industry of expressing his identity in the crudest and least subtle methods available.
The fact is that we may well know his mind more completely than any political figure in the history of our country. We know this because he’s utterly incapable of the self control needed to erect any artifice beyond his bare id. We may have a wealth of Jefferson’s personal writings, but Jefferson was a towering intellect and could shroud his thoughts as they developed with a glamour of circumspection that may fall well short of total divulgence. In contrast, Trump writes and speaks (and may well think) at a 6th to 8th grade level and with each moment of exposure continues the same tawdry narrative that we’ve seen since his emergence in the 80s. We needn’t scratch our heads as to his core convictions. They have a lobby on 5th Avenue.
So while we can more than adequately claim to know who he is, we can’t really claim to know what he’ll do and this drives home the most chilling point as it relates to the Wait And See argument: we either know sufficiently (if not precisely) what the newly elected president will do or we have no idea what the newly elected president will do. Now just let the latter alternative sink in.
Previously we dealt with questions of how much a political actor could accomplish. This was the framework in which we operated. From the party platform, to the stump speeches to the hours of newsreel surrogacy, we were drawn a map and the only question was how far they’d be able to travel along the road before being thwarted or waylaid. With Trump we’re witnessing a journey through the interior of a likely syphilitic mind where thousands of flimsy anchors will be tossed out and retracted with little purchase in an attempt connect to a material reality that continues to move apace. We’re basically hiding under a blanket in the back seat of a car and the driver is playing chicken with nothing to lose. Ties to Russia, debt, failure, blackmail, and the variety of other facets of this man are all separate topics to the real kernel of selfish desperation at the core of his character and we need to stop thinking that, in the specious words of a noted creationist, a wind will sweep through a junk yard and assemble a 747.