Liberal American Jews and Muslims.. Brown border babies. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Oscar-winning actresses and kneeling athletes. And, of course, the old standbys, the Democrats and the media.
Round and round it goes. And where the Catherine wheel of Trump hatred stops, nobody knows. Much has been made — hammered home, really — about President Donald J. Trump’s racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny. But if we fail to consider these under the umbrella of his narcissism, we miss the dangerous point. It’s not so much that he despises people of a certain religion or race, though there are elements of that. It’s that he apparently loves no one really except himself, not even Ivanka. (He’s been undermining her efforts on Capitol Hill to press for further gun control by telling everyone she’s nothing but a liberal Democrat. You know when Ivanka comes in for criticism that we are all in a dark place.)
This past week has been particularly erratic, stunning even by Trumpian standards. There was the megalomania (king of Israel, Chosen One), the Fascist condemning of liberal American Jews as disloyal to their country, the forced wooing of Greenland, the insulting of Greenland hegemon and staunch U.S. ally Denmark and the up-the-ante pissing contest that is the Chinese tariff wars, which sent stock markets plunging (again). Unwilling and unable to do anything but double down, President Donald J. Trump has “hereby ordered” American companies to stop doing business with China and, in the continuing saga of “How Greenland Was His Valley,” decided to open a consulate on the icy island — the first American embassy there since 1953 — even though we have already have a substantial military base and, until recently at least, lots of good will in Greenland. Stand by. The day is still young.
While all the suddenly increasing desperation? The irony of narcissism is that narcissists are not possessed of strong egos but weak ones. They are so insecure that not only must they win but everyone who isn’t sucking up must suffer crushing, ground-them-into-the-ground defeats. This zero sum game works well with the Trumpettes, who see themselves as mightily aggrieved by immigrants whom they imagine gaming the system even though they themselves have all kinds of advantages since the red states take more from the federal government than they contribute, whereas the blues states get less than they give.
Now, however, Trump really has a windmill to tilt at (which he loves. Narcissists love chaos as it makes them the eye of the storm. Just call him Eris, goddess of discord). For years, he weaseled his way out of court proceedings and bankruptcies. He ran for president on a lark, never expecting to win. Yet he sits atop the loftiest perch from which he can be knocked down in next year’s election. Win, lose or draw, people — Powell, Xi, Planned Parenthood — are beginning to do what some do when they’re tired of a narcissistic bully. They’re calling his bluff.
Trump is reacting like a cornered, bloodied animal. Somewhere he knows that there could be a sooner-than-later expiration date for his presidency, and he needs a big signature achievement. That’s why the wall, the tariffs, Greenland, the moon, Mars. Oh, he could do infrastructure, which would really help. But that’s subtle, complex and would benefit all of America, not just his base, which supplies the adulation fix the narcissist cannot live without. (The need for that fix also explains the mercurial Trumpian nature. If the fix is all that matters, then in the words of wily 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, there really are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests — in this case, me, myself and I. And so, Trump has made up with Frederiksen, until the next time he calls her a “nasty” woman.)
But such uncertainty, along with the tariffs, keeps rattling the stock market, which has heretofore been Trump’s only achievement beyond conservative justices — even though he inherited a healthy economy and soaring market from President Barack Obama, who, coincidentally, is headed at the end of September to Denmark where he will no doubt be feted. Prepare for a Cat. 5 Twitstorm. If there’s one thing a narcissist can’t stand, it is a rival he can’t defeat. Just as Roger Federer has his Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Trump has Obama, the Road Runner to his Wile E. Coyote. Trump can try to crush all his signature achievements, but he can’t defeat Obama, because he cannot be the man he is.
Still, make no mistake about it: Trump can bring all of us down by harping on a recession that hasn’t happened — yet. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the narcissist is his own worst enemy. By trying to hedge his bets against an economic downturn and pin the blame on others (remember that the narcissist may not be right but he is never wrong), Trump — so good at creating false narratives — is creating one to which the market is reacting. It’s all about perception, and right now the perception is Trump’s looking very much like Richard III.
His kingdom for a horse, indeed.