Magazine article The New Yorker

Trump vs. "Trump"

Magazine article The New Yorker

Trump vs. "Trump"

Article excerpt

TRUMP VS. "TRUMP"

The presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party--let's call him Donald Trump, though "Donald Trump" is more like it--has a way with words, after a fashion. The mouth moves and stuff comes out. ("That could be a Mexican plane up there. They're getting ready to attack.") Except when he reads from a teleprompter, the words paradoxically seem both calculated and careless. Trusting a G.P.S. all his own, Trump is most at ease wandering syntactically all over the map until he spots an off-ramp: "Lyin' Ted," "Crooked Hillary," "Goofy Elizabeth Warren," "Build a Wall." The result ain't oratory. Still, the words entertain, wound, outrage, delight, bemuse, stupefy. More than a year into Trump's candidacy, they also signify the speaker's confusion about who he is and what he has got himself into.

Throughout the primaries, Trump rallies routinely featured his boasts about the most recent polling results. In the absence of plausible policy specifics, a coherent philosophy, a regard for nuance, or an acknowledgment of the exigencies of governance, this ritual seemed an end in itself. From there, he would ramble on about China, winning, losing, Islamic terror, Muslims, Mexicans, bigness, something about something that must be true because he read it or heard it somewhere, the disgusting lying press, and, inevitably, his fantastic super-successful incredibly intelligent self. The faithful could never get enough. One can imagine George Orwell trapped in a sea of waving "Make America Great Again!" signs when he found the poetry to define the design of political language: "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

No one disputes that Trump is not a politician; he is a visionary salesman whose ingenious project, hatched while he was still in his twenties, was to brand and plaster himself everywhere. He started with the family business--real estate--and then expanded to casinos. Despite several bankruptcies, he continued to pursue myriad schemes that epitomized A. J. Liebling's "man who mulcts another man of a dollar, or any fraction or multiple thereof." Trump had long since chosen to reduce--or, in his calculation, surely, to inflate--himself to a persona: "Donald Trump." Pivoting to Trump 2.0 likewise meant having no use for the intimacies and the self-examination inherent in personhood. The praise Trump elicits from voters for his "authenticity," for "telling it like it is," elides the fact that he is committed to hiding his human side from the world and, for that matter, from himself. "I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see," he confessed to one of his biographers, Michael D'Antonio.

After running even with Hillary Clinton or slightly ahead of her in polls published in mid-May, Trump has seen his numbers deteriorate with every demographic, a decline that correlates with the exertions of fine journalists who, freed from the distraction of the primary-season horse race, are doing Trump's scrutinizing for him. Almost daily, the exposes accumulate: he doesn't pay his bills, often stiffing small contractors; for a self-proclaimed multibillionaire, he gives amazingly little to charity; he has a long history of treating women like sex toys; he faces allegations concerning the highly dubious Trump University and the no less sleazy Trump Institute (a "wealth-creating secrets and strategies" seminar business). …

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