Donald Trump’s election was the biggest shock to the nation since September 11th. No one — not even Trump if you believe Michael Wolf — thought he would win. The polls said it was likely he would lose, and elite opinion felt he was such an immature person that even the flyover country yahoos they held in contempt would hesitate in the polling booth. Even his supporters seemed to cling to him as the last ardor of a glorious lost cause.
But he won.
The left sees this as either a stampede of ignorance that has thundered out from the hinterlands (despite the fact that his victory rests on the difference of a just few hundred thousand votes across Hillary’s “Blue Wall” states), or, alternatively, the secret machinations of that Oz behind the former iron curtain — the great and powerful Putin. To the left, the very republic is at stake, because to them it’s always 1933 and brown shirts are forever being ironed.
Trump though is the best possible inoculation against dictatorship. I’ve read several biographies of the man, and I find it astonishing that I’ve never heard of an anecdote where Trump was spoken of with warm affection by a friend or business associate. Fareed Zakaria had it about right when he noted that Trump has built an entire career on BS. Trump exhibits no sign of deep thought, careful planning, strategic thinking or even High School level civics knowledge. His personality is a rancid combination of grandiose posturing, transparent bombast and a childish insecurity that makes him vulnerable to flattery.
He has none of the skills needed to form a dictatorship, and that’s a good thing because he also lacks any of the virtues that make normal people recoil from abusive and predatory behavior.
There is, however, a deeper reason why the election of Trump actually lowers the risk of dictatorship. He’s such an infantile personality that he really does tarnish the dignity of his office. Before Trump presidents garnered a default credibility with Americans, because we often felt that gaining the office was evidence of sound character and high ability. Certain presidents, like Kennedy, Reagan and Obama are seen in an almost mystic light. The fact that they did something, or said something, is considered authoritative truth to many people.
Trump will never have such an aura. There’s no chance we’ll see a monument on the Washington Mall with his tweets carved into the granite. That’s a good thing, because monuments celebrate men in times of strife and war.
While there are risks that his impulsive and undisciplined personality will lurch us into a disaster, there is great benefit in reinforcing a skepticism about our leaders, and cynicism regarding their motives. I don’t think societies descend into dictatorship because they are taken in by evil men, but rather because they believed their leaders were such good men that they shouldn’t be subject to the usual restraints on power. In fact they were such good men that restrains that limit the scope of action are harmful. Dictatorships begin in hope.
Dictators are seen as evil men only after their realm has died. It’s only after the embers cool and the blood has been washed from the streets that we say to ourselves: what were we thinking? Why did we believe in this person? It’s like waking from a dream, when we realize all the hopes and trust we offered were cynically used for bad end.
So the less we believe in our leaders, the better. Seen in that light, Trump is a blessing.