Trump: Bully and/or Protector


Like many I have found the dynamics of the 2016 Presidential Race both interesting and perplexing. Of course, the centerpiece of media attention has focused—for better or worse—on the candidacy of one individual and how he has challenged what is referred to as “conventional wisdom”.  Some detest him and some admire him and no matter where you fall, the emergence of Donald Trump, is worth further examination.

To many, Trump is simply a bully. If it sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck, right? And why the support for a bully in a country where 3.2 million students are the victims of such each year? What kind of example are parents giving their kids when they openly support someone whose tone, actions and attitude are so in line with what society says is bad behavior?  Here is where it gets interesting: Medical experts tell us that in bullying situations there are three players:  The bully, the victim and the protector. Dewey Cornell, a forensic psychologist and bullying expert at the University of Virginia defines bullying as, “the repeated, intentional harm of another person who has less power than you do.” There is, my friends, the rub. Many voters don’t necessarily see Trump’s targets for verbal assaults, as having less power but rather, too much power. While he is undoubtedly blunt, sometimes offensive and full of braggadocio, to his supporters he is not a bully. To them, it is the elected class, the “establishment” who are either unresponsive or too intrusive, depending on the issue. In their minds, they are being bullied by Washington’s inaction and inattention to repealing Obamacare, to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants, to fighting ISIS, to providing unfair tax breaks to those that don’t need it and much more. They feel ignored, taken for granted and abused. And to them, Trump is their protector. He has given voice to their anger.

How—you ask—can anyone, especially someone seeking the presidency, say and do so much that has offended so many and in all likelihood would have ended any other candidacy, be seen as a protector? How can a guy who started with millions in inheritance identify, connect and be a “voice” for Joe Six-Pack? It speaks volumes about society’s frustration and cynicism towards all institutions such as Washington, Wall Street (Sanders over Clinton) and the Church (Pope Francis vs hierarchy). We know that most victims are either afraid or unable to stand up against their bullies. That’s where the protector comes in. The protector is the one who stands up for and side by side with the victim and to help them defeat their bully. And, perhaps so blinded by their anger and frustration, it matters little that Trump has not offered any substantive policy solutions. He has cleverly said a lot and very little at the same time. To those who see Trump positively, the other guys are only offering lip service.

So how does this turn out?  As the field narrows, money gets harder to raise and voters get focused on issues that matter specifically to them, Trump’s lack of substance and specifics will further erode some of his “entertainment value”. He has, in my view, reached his high water mark. Serious voters are now beginning to move past window shopping and for Trump, that might turn into a “bad deal”, with Fiorina, and to a lesser extent Carson benefitting.

Look, I am glad you are engaged. I admit that I “get it” now. It makes sense. And yes, it probably took a guy with deep pockets, no filter, and a “yuge” made for television personality, to start the discussion.

Whether he wins the nomination and becomes president or not, Donald Trump has ripped off the bandages. He has exposed a serious, significant wound when it comes to how the public feels about the state of American politics. He has given voice to an angry mass of people who know that very little of the people’s business is getting done in Washington. And while that angst is understandable, I would respectfully remind you that our system of checks and balances doesn’t allow for a president to just “fix it” by “building a wall” or talking tough and mandating that it is so.  That’s what monarchs and dictators do. Is that what you want?

Second, I would say to those who have been supportive of Trump, be careful. The message is more important than the messenger. Trump’s obsession with poll numbers, petty shots, and constant tweets and skirmishes with the media put far too much focus solely on him. Not on the important solutions we need which is what has you so mad, to begin with.