“Character counts.” It’s a statement you encounter every so often. Sometimes you see it on bumper stickers or grade school billboards. It’s a statement that has become a bit cliché; its meaning weakened from overuse. That is to be expected, I suppose, but it is also a shame, for the truth is that character does count—or, at least, it should.
The presidency of Donald Trump is a case in point. There is not, and was not, a lot of mystery about who and what Donald Trump was when he first ran for President in 2016. He was arrogant, belligerent and dismissive. And, perhaps most importantly, he was perfectly okay with these things. Anyone who cared to know, knew him to be a bullying, ruthless real estate magnate and an uninhibited liar. With well over 2,400 lawsuits against him, he could get away with most anything by outspending and outlasting anyone who took him to court. He was a man who mastered the Roy Cohn art of reconstructing “reality” by out-repeating, out-advertising and out-disseminating the truth with his preferred falsehoods. He was a man who lived by the ideology that money makes might, and might makes right (or, at least, it lets you get away with wrong). He treated women as objects and his wives as trophies with a shelf life. He was an uncontrite groper.
But these things, these blatant indications of his character, were over-looked by many people for a variety of reasons. Some liked his bravado and brashness. Perhaps they interpreted them as strength, competence and conviction. Some were attracted to his promises to “drain the swamp,” shake up the establishment, limit the immigration of “undesirables,” build a wall and “Make America Great Again.” Many just shared his values and worldview, although perhaps not publicly admitting it.
People ignored his obvious character traits with thoughts such as these: “As long as he can deliver on his promises, I don’t care what he does in his private life.” “Those are just the usual trappings of power; they have nothing to do with his ability to run a government.” “He’s one of the richest men in the world, he must be doing something right.” “Sure he’s brash, arrogant and often offensive, but we need a strong outsider to get us back on track.” “So what if he’s racist and misogynistic. So what if he lies, cheats at golf and on his taxes? Those things can be over-looked and need not impair his ability to lead.”
The problem is that his character did make a difference, a huge and decisive difference. His character was reflective of a man who was extremely egocentric and oriented first and foremost to the aggregation of power—his power. Donald Trump is a man who throughout his adult life has always been about Donald Trump. He serves no one before himself and this character trait influenced and ultimately directed all that he did.
This was his character from start to finish and it has been dangerously destructive to our democracy. How could it be otherwise, for a man on a power trip seeks only to build upon his power and multiply his control. Democracy involves listening to others, but this is the very thing that a pathologically egocentric person cannot, or will not, do. Rather, they gather about themselves only the people who support them. They crave an echo chamber, not dissenting perspectives. The more power they attain the more they want.
Such an individual becomes a ravenous wolf addicted to his own viewpoints and self-aggrandizing goals. He will pursue domination at all costs. He cannot tolerate or admit defeat for that would feel like annihilation. If he must sow division to win at something he will. If he must lie, cheat, manipulate or coerce, he will. He will readily sacrifice others, even supposed “friends,” to maintain or enhance his position. He will cling to his mantle with all his might, and if that mantle should be wrested away, he will scream foul play, so attached is he to his persona to ever acknowledge the truth.
A telling dimension of character is whether you are oriented to serve others, or to simply serve yourself. It was known from the very first—for anyone being truly honest with themselves—that Donald Trump was a man who only served himself, his image, and his bank accounts.
It has been said that, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It was only logical that a man of Donald Trump’s character would divide the country as he did, be the sore loser, compulsive liar, and dictator wannabe he always was. Many people assumed, or wanted to believe, that someone’s way of governing could somehow be divorced from who they are as human beings. However, given enough time, every form of governance comes to reflect the character of the governor.
There should really have been no mystery that if Donald Trump could not bend our democracy to his own will, he would—with a vengeance—attempt to undermine or destroy it. And he very nearly did.
And, sadly, he, or various of his genuflecting followers, still may.
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D. Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.