Trump is a born campaigning demagogue. But will he be too lazy to rule?by Sam Tanenhaus / November 10, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the early hours of 9th November, at the tag-end of perhaps the most improbable election night in history, tens of millions of Americans who had spent a long night absorbed in a heart-stopping drama of Donald Trump’s astounding victory, staggered off to bed knowing one big thing: a revolution had happened. But what would come next? It was too much even for seasoned heads to fathom.
A 70-year-old washed-up television celebrity, with a dubious fortune made in real-estate and “branding,” had ridden a gift for rousing large crowds (which sometimes assumed the ugly character of mobs) into the presidency. Some candidates grow over time. Trump did too, but only in the sense that he got bigger—not wiser, not deeper, not better. At the end of the campaign, which began in June 2015, he continued to exhibit an almost brazen indifference to policy and governance—even to the ground rules of politics. He had exasperated handlers and advisers, declined even to do rudimentary homework for his debates with Hillary Clinton. More ominously still, he had dismally failed every attempt at governing himself—his appetites, his grievances, his thirst for vengeance, his childish need to have the last tweeted word.
But in 11 weeks, he will have to learn the rudiments of governing a country of some 320m citizens and at the same time become the leader in a world he has declared to be fraught with enemies or with allies undeserving of trust or even financial aid.
“If Donald were to somehow win,” Colin Powell, one of the few recognised living American statesmen had waspishly predicted in June, “by the end of the first week in office he’d be saying ‘What the hell did I get myself into?’” Two months and 120m votes later, many Americans, especially Beltway professionals—policy experts, diplomats, but above all the Republican legislators, some of whom had refused to endorse Trump—were wondering the same thing: what the hell had Trump, and they, gotten themselves into?