My wife, who knows how to cut to the chase, pointed out a big aspect of Trump’s appeal to me this morning: “Trump is the anti-Obama.”
Think about it. When it comes to their personal qualities, it would be hard to envision two men who are such polar opposites. Consider Obama. He’s cool. Rational. Analytical. A thinker. He’s also polite, cautious, and considerate. He’s a skilled writer and a poised, often inspirational, speaker. He’s at pains to broadcast a message of inclusiveness. He’s all about diversity and tolerance and embracing those who are different. He’s also by all accounts a loyal family man, a loving husband and father, with a strong marriage.
Consider Trump. Everything I just said about Obama is the opposite for Trump. Trump is emotional. Flamboyant. Given to knee-jerk responses. A man of action. He appears to be impolite, impetuous, and inconsiderate. Near as I can tell, Trump’s books are ghost-written, and his speaking style is bombastic and inflammatory rather than poised and inspirational. Promoting divisiveness rather than inclusiveness, his message of “making America great again” is read by some of his supporters as making America white-male-dominated again. Hardly a loyal family man, he’s on his third marriage, the previous two ending acrimoniously, and if you credit his boasts caught on tape he was trying to cheat on his current wife while they were still newlyweds.
Now, which one of these men is more desirable as a role model? The loyal husband and family man, the one who embraces diversity and brings people together? Or the disloyal husband, the one who boasts of sexual encounters, who objectifies women, the one who rejects tolerance for rhetoric that drives intolerance?
It’s sobering to see self-styled conservative or evangelical Christians, who claim they are all about family values and the sanctity of marriage, twisting their professed beliefs to embrace Trump and reject Obama. Certainly, in some cases racism is involved here, a sense that Obama is “not one of us,” whereas Trump, with all his glaring flaws of character and behavior, is accepted as the imperfect guy who’s “just like me” (or perhaps just like a black sheep of the family).
Here’s another way of looking at it if you’re a “Star Trek” fan: Trump is Captain Kirk to Obama’s Mr. Spock. In his coolly logical manner, Obama has often been compared to Mr. Spock. And Trump as Captain Kirk: it seems to work, since Kirk was a man of action, often emotional, a womanizer, sometimes intemperate.
But this is to insult Captain Kirk. More than anything, Kirk was a leader: a man who brought a diverse crew together and made them better. Yes, he could be intemperate, but he had a capacity for personal growth. Smart, tough, and experienced, Kirk was a ladies’ man, but he wasn’t married and never forced himself on women (with the notable exception of “The Enemy Within” episode, in which Kirk is split in two, his hyper-aggressive twin given to attacking women for his own pleasure).
In Trump you’re not getting Captain Kirk, America. You’re getting a one-dimensional “evil” Kirk, or perhaps a Khan Noonien Singh, another “Star Trek” character (played memorably by Ricardo Montalbán), a tyrant and ruthless dictator, a man who believes it’s the right of the strong to take or do whatever they want. (So-called Alpha Male behavior, according to one of Trump’s sons, though I prefer a different A-term: Asshole Male.)
Some of Trump’s success, at least initially, came from the fact he was a powerful contrast to Obama, the anti-Obama, if you will. And the “anti-” was more than symbolic, considering how Trump drove the birther movement and its false narrative of how Obama was illegitimate as president. And I can understand after eight years the desire among many for a “Captain Kirk” after two terms of “Mr. Spock.”
But Trump is much more Khan than Kirk. He’d embrace Khan’s motto that “Such [superior] men [like me] dare take what they want.” But a man who believes in his own inherent superiority — that his might will make right — is not a leader. He’s a tyrant. And tyranny is the very opposite of democracy.