What happens when you get your moral wisdom from Donald Trump: Politics for the Upstate Student

Posted by Julia Grigel Mid-April is the time of year when Albany's legislative chambers are filled with glorious debates on such things as the state vegetable (corn won) and wiffleball safety precautions. They are now presumably doing things like sipping margaritas and watching Top Chef and scratching their heads about Donald Trump's bid for president in 2012.

Basically, Albany is on a break from politics, so I'm taking a break from Albany. And I really just would like to talk about Donald "The Donald" Trump and his newly resurrected public face.

Donald Trump is best known for owning a lot of stuff and having a bad hairstyle, but he has also had a successful career in Hollywood. He has played himself in several television series, most notably "The Apprentice," in which he fires people.

Recently, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that people like "The Donald" satisfy the public's subconscious yearning to see the crème de la crème of the obnoxious loudmouths rise to success. Trump, says Brooks, is "riding a deep public fantasy: The hunger for the ultimate blowhard who can lead us through dark times."

Brooks also says Donald Trump is successful because he personifies the current American individualist dream, "The Gospel of Success." Brooks' interpretation of the American view of success rings alarmingly true. Afraid of seeming too materialistic or too driven, we have to pretend to have only the most moderate and well-meaning of ambitions. "If you attend a prestigious college or professional school, you are supposed to struggle tirelessly for success while denying that you have much interest in it." Huh.

It is precisely that mechanism — the one for basic humility — that Donald Trump lacks. He lacks that part of the moral sense that causes us to veil our desire for unbridled success and personal glory. And that is why he is so popular with so many conservatives, says David Brooks.

"The Donald" is the latest and the greatest in harebrained political figures mouthing off left and right and denouncing everything possible. But he represents something present in Americans. David Brooks was right — we all secretly love blowhards, if only because they're entertaining. And if we deny that this weird love for people like Trump is innate, we are being too morally hopeful about ourselves and about the rest of the species.

I'm by no means advocating that we throw up our hands and proclaim that we're all in denial of our true moral baseness — we are certainly not all Trumps. I'm just saying that if we take ourselves seriously as individuals — and if Skidmore takes itself seriously as a college — we ought to learn to stomach our flaws. We ought to learn to confront our inherent capacity for disrespectful, vainglorious and utterly egomaniacal impulses. Because if we refuse to admit that uncomfortable tendency, then we can't put it in check. And if we've learned anything this semester, it's that our community has got to put disrespect in its place.

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