Cov­et­ing Trump’s life

Don­ald Trump’s mo­rals are from the mar­ket­place and frat house, and they’re catch­ing

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Bob Gal­lagher Bob Gal­lagher lives in An­napo­lis; his email is bob­gal­

The po­lit­i­cal pun­dits tell us that most of Don­ald Trump’s sup­port comes are less-well-ed­u­cated white males. Many of th­ese an­gry white men have good rea­son to be an­gry: For more than three decades, main­stream politi­cians have largely ig­nored their plight. But there aren’t enough an­gry white male vot­ers in the coun­try to pro­duce the num­bers of likely Trump vot­ers re­flected in re­cent poll re­sults. So, who are th­ese other Trump vot­ers?

The ex­perts mainly tell us who they are not: women, mi­nori­ties or bet­ter-ed­u­cated white men. Some com­men­ta­tors have sug­gested that th­ese other Trump vot­ers are vot­ers in search of au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers or that they are racists or re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists. They may be any or all of th­ese things. But I sug­gest that the thing that a good num­ber of th­ese other Trump vot­ers have in com­mon is much more sim­ple: Many have an ad­mi­ra­tion of Mr. Trump’s claimed busi­ness suc­cess and his ev­ery­thing-to-ex­cess life­style. They are en­vi­ous. They want to be like Mr. Trump.

Prob­a­bly most vot­ers would like a more lux­u­ri­ous life­style, but, are they will­ing to be­have like Mr. Trump to have it? Does the ad­mi­ra­tion and envy of th­ese other Trump vot­ers im­ply ap­proval of the per­sonal val­ues that have helped bring Mr. Trump to his cur­rent cir­cum­stances?

By per­sonal val­ues, I’m not talk­ing about Mr. Trump’s views on im­mi­gra­tion, re­li­gious tol­er­ance, abor­tion, gen­der equal­ity or free trade. I sus­pect that many of the other Trump vot­ers don’t feel any more com­mit­ment to th­ese is­sues than Mr. Trump does. Mr. Trump’s po­si­tions on th­ese is­sues are not based on moral prin­ci­ples or even eco­nomics. Rather, his po­si­tions, vague as they may be, were de­vel­oped dur­ing the cam­paign to pan­der to the prej­u­dices of the an­gry white men. Of course, his firmly held be­liefs on th­ese mat­ters are sub­ject to change as may be nec­es­sary to win.

The per­sonal val­ues that have en­abled Mr. Trumpto claim to be a multi-bil­lion­aire, and that have the im­plicit ap­proval of the other Trump vot­ers, are ap­par­ent from even a cur­sory re­view of the record of his life, in busi­ness and per­sonal realms, since he was a young man. They in­clude:

Laws and reg­u­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly the duty to pay taxes, should ap­ply to oth­ers but not to him.

Ethics and hon­esty in busi­ness deal­ings are for losers.

Fi­nan­cial suc­cess and amorous con­quests en­ti­tle one to re­spect, and the less suc­cess­ful, which in­cludes most women, merit no re­spect. Truth is a rel­a­tive con­cept. To be sure, our so­ci­ety has al­ways had its un­scrupu­lous plu­to­crats. The rob­ber barons of the late 19th cen­tury may be the best-known ex­am­ples. But, at least within my mem­ory, we have never elected such a per­son to our high­est of­fice. One can see that Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin have much to ad­mire in each other.

Mr. Trump’s per­sonal val­ues are an­ti­thet­i­cal to those taught to most of us by our par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors and re­li­gious lead­ers. They are an­ti­thet­i­cal to the val­ues that drove the cre­ation of the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the mod­ern world from what was largely wilder­ness a cou­ple of hun­dred years ago.

Some ob­servers have ex­pressed con­cern that our meth­ods of pass­ing on pos­i­tive char­ac­ter val­ues have be­come in­creas­ingly less ef­fec­tive. The fault might lie with less em­pha­sis on fam­ily and re­li­gious life, the pres­sures of sur­viv­ing in a fast-chang­ing world and the per­ni­cious in­flu­ence of new me­dia and, par­tic­u­larly, so­cial me­dia.

The Trump phe­nom­e­non fu­els a mount­ing con­cern that his the-end-jus­ti­fies-the­means val­ues may be in the as­cen­dancy, pre­sag­ing a cul­tural shift that could per­sist for decades, where the mo­rals of the mar­ket­place and the fra­ter­nity house be­come the dom­i­nant par­a­digm in Amer­i­can cul­ture.

What­ever the out­come, the elec­tion re­sults will pro­vide an im­por­tant data point in that dis­cus­sion.


In 2007, Don­ald Trump in­tro­duced a fur­ni­ture line so peo­ple could “ex­pe­ri­ence the lux­u­ri­ous Trump life­style for them­selves.” To­day, more peo­ple than ever con­sider that a goal.

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