It’s hard not to read a lot about Donald Trump, and so as an easily distracted politics nerd, I have repeatedly succumbed. I think that – beyond the startling rhetoric – one of the striking things about the man is his amorality. Few, if any, other politicians are almost openly amoral in the way that Trump is. I’m sure there are amoral politicians, but most feel the need to conjure up a veneer of morality.
Trump does not. He almost wears it like a badge of honour – his businesslike denial of the existence of moral dilemmas serves as part of his general “I’ll do whatever it takes” aura. This feeds into another aspect of Trump – his repeated, almost pathological lying means that his “true beliefs” are somewhat difficult to ascertain. In lieu of working out what he thinks based on what he’s saying at any one time, people have tried to piece this together based on his actions over time.
This might be a bit of a mistake. In fact, I’m not sure Donald Trump has beliefs in the same way most people do. When he talks, he isn’t so much communicating fixed truths about society, or human nature, but treats every conversation as a zero-sum game that he is going to win. Perhaps even win so much he gets tired of it.
He has a long history of making degrading, misogynistic comments to women. He also employed women in senior positions in his company long before that was typical in the real estate business. These two things seem contradictory, but need not be.
The first, from most people, would reflect a belief that women should be subordinate to men. From him, it may reflect more a belief that everyone should be subordinate to Donald. In one situation, sexist rhetoric enabled him to “win” that conversation. In another, motivated, capable women excluded from employment elsewhere in the industry were probably better value than their male counterparts – they made more money for Trump, so he hired them.
Women in senior roles didn’t trouble some deeply held belief about gender relations in his head, because he just doesn’t have beliefs like that. It’s why he can lie so easily – truth is a fluid concept that changes as and when it suits him. His rhetoric is borne out of opportunism and amorality – normally someone would have to believe these things deeply to say them, as otherwise it would offend their sense of morality. Trump sees an advantage in doing so and does so.
It’s why we need to view him not as a uniquely awful individual, but the product of a system. In the businesslike logic that I imagine underpins every decision he makes, the Republican Party created the demand for this sexist, racist rhetoric and the Donald simply stepped in to supply it. This makes him less predictable than a nasty ideologue, but potentially just as awful. It should give even his supporters pause for thought.