Written with Helen A. Berger, PhD, resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and author of A Community of Witches.
My rich uncle died and left me all his money. Well, not really, but which of us hasn't had that fantasy, particularly when times are rough. Donald Trump is presenting himself as the rich uncle who will help us in these rough times, not by leaving us his money but by magically making our national problems go away. Trump has appealed primarily to white men who have been hurt by global trends and who are feeling a loss of status and marginalization. They want to be rescued.
Women, on the other hand, have not been moved by Uncle Trump. In part, his calling women names, objectifying them, and attempting to diminish them has not surprisingly not sat well with them. But, we think there may be another reason. Women have becoming skeptical of the Prince Charming myth. They have had too much experience with how this fantasy can turn sour; once they are married, too many Prince Charmings have turned into frogs, or worse yet, snakes or dogs. Women know that this is not a harmless fantasy as it has stopped women from developing their own lives, their own careers, and a real loving partnership with another imperfect person. They know that they must rescue themselves. Words and promises don't do the trick.
Trump tells us over and over to trust him he will make it all better. But, should we trust him? Psychologists tell us that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. So what has Trump's past behavior been? He went bankrupt several times, in each case he managed to salvage much of his own money while leaving others, particularly workers with the costs of his recklessness. His clothing line is made by poorly paid workers abroad and he has used every loophole possible to pay as little tax as possible--leaving the costs of running the military, social security, Medicare and other government agencies and programs that help all Americans to us, the hard working Americans who pay our taxes, who he refers to as the losers. And yes he does mean you and me.
He promises one thing and then does a bait and switch. He said he would raise taxes on people like himself, the rich. But, he now has a budget proposal that lowers those taxes. Just the other day he said that banning Muslims was only a suggestion. While it is good to hear that he is backing down on what was one among many of his very dangerous ideas, we are left wondering to whom he is suggesting them. President Kennedy, like President Truman before him had a sign on his desk that read "the buck stops here." Or, as President George W. Bush said it, as president you are the "decider."
Each of Trump's pronouncements that he claims will make us safer would really make us less safe. He clearly has come to learn that banning Muslims will result in our alienating allies that we need to fight terrorism and might result in more terrorists being created. Hopefully, he will soon realize that an international trade war would have a negative impact on our economy and that rounding up every immigrant would bankrupt the country.
Since Trump is asking us to trust him, we must ask ourselves how trustworthy is he? Right now he says he won't release his taxes. His excuse is false, President Nixon's taxes were being audited when he released his, and if you have cheated once you are already being audited you have nothing more to lose--it's not like releasing them will precipitate an audit. So what he is hiding? Is he a cheat? Does he have much less money than he has been saying? Is he about to go bankrupt yet again? We don't know but it should make everyone skeptical of what we would see and whether he is trustworthy or not.
Trump is an excellent salesman. He has honed the skill. We are told it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything and he has certainly gotten those hours in sales. He hasn't racked up that experience at governing or at foreign affairs, but sales are his thing. He is short on process--what he will do or how he will do it. What a psychologically good technique. We get to fill in the blank any way we want. Donald Trump is hearing the pain of white men. Who we know are dying at an earlier age than they did two decades ago, who are suffering from loss of status, and in some cases loss of their jobs, and who are looking forward to becoming a minority in the country as other ethnic groups increase at a faster rate. Donald Trump is giving their pain voice. He says it out loud and clearly.
Right now he is trying to sell himself as president of the United States, the most powerful position in the world by using the prince charming myth--he is rich, he is powerful, he will fix everything somehow. Trump promises to take care of us, but what he suggests is putting a band aid over a festering wound and making believe it isn't there. That is not taking care of us, that is permitting an infection to grow until it is deadly. Trump is not a stupid man, although this Ivy Leaguer has trained himself to speak at a fourth grade level. Right now what he is selling is a fantasy--comforting for some--that he will make everything right for you. The Prince Charming myth can be seductive, but it is dangerous, particularly in these very dangerous times.