Now that we have woken up to the fact that we indeed needed to wake up, we should ask what on earth we have woken up to.
Perhaps we will be watching the equivalent of a game of bridge or poker over the next few years, and we will have to try to figure it out. In bridge, a hand with five trump cards is necessary for an opening bid. In poker, five cards of the same suit are called a flush. Both hands are sure openers in their respective game. Neither is quite a full house or a slam, but each is enough to win a contract or a hand. More will be needed to win a game, but for now the only thing I see for sure are five different Trumps.
A first Trump is a thin-skinned egoist who desperately needs constant attention, adoration, and validation. He responds only to attention and flattery, a trait that makes him malleable, inclined to agree with the last person to whisper in his ear. Politicians normally need thick skins and the ability to sort through a lot of conflicting viewpoints. If any aspect of Trump is truest, it is surely this one, which makes him and the country very vulnerable.
A second Trump is a blowhard, pompous pitch artist with no regard for the difference between fact and fiction. This may be the most dangerous Trump because he, himself, so often seems to believe whatever he says as he, knowingly or unknowingly, misleads all who come within earshot, whether they are friend or foe.
A third Trump is a man with an exceptional schnozzle, a remarkable ability to sniff out what is going on in the heads of others. His wonderful nose may have made him a good negotiator in business, but it remains to be seen how well this Trump will perform on the world stage. Different cultures and languages often confuse even the best noses.
A fourth Trump is cruel, a bully willing to hit on anyone or anything. This Trump mocked a disabled reporter, the parents of a Muslim American soldier, and a war-hero Senator, among others. He is not only hateful, disagreeable, and destructive, he has no redeeming qualities.
A fifth Trump can be practical, personable, and capable. Look at his transcript from his day at the New York Times, which is very much worth reading in its entirety. The fact that he reversed many of his early worst positions in front of that audience should not be dismissed out of hand simply because he was so wrong earlier. So far, there is some good news. But it remains to be seen if this Trump can remain in control.
Remember the movie, a few years back, called All About Eve. Eve had three quite distinct personalities and moved between them seamlessly, without even being aware of the changes. The more we have seen of Trump over the past two years, the more Trumps we see. Whenever he appears, we can never be sure which one will show up, and it is obvious that he hardly is aware of his multiple personalities.
A case can be made that this unpredictability keeps the public alert and interested while leaving competitors and adversaries uncertain. Trump said many times during the campaign that he favored preserving the element of surprise. If that is what he is up to, perhaps he can make it work with some people, issues, and places. We can only hope.
But the global and domestic economies are built on a structure with three legs—dependability, reliability, and predictability. The free-market system, that Trump loves, needs all three of those legs all the time, if it is to function properly. People need to count on a manageable future, if they are going to make the investments necessary and essential to create and sustain economic growth.
In terms of the president-elect’s bridge game, his no-trump bids are likely to be most effective. Spades should help with infrastructure; diamonds will surely be for his daughter, and hearts for the rest of his family. And he will certainly be willing to use Clubs on his enemies!
In terms of his poker game, the question is where his Full House will be –DC or Fifth Ave—and whether or not he can manage the House not to mention the Senate. He will struggle with Straights in dealing with his business conflicts. And it is likely that he will only grow more Flush with the increased value of his global brand.
It would surely be easier, if this all was really just a game.