For Donald Trump, the presidency will be a vast stage for accommodating his megalomania and insatiable appetite for money. Those who mock, defy or anger him will feel the wrath of the state. Those who are not obsequious will be cast aside. He will invest most of his energy in his brand. Self-promotion is the only real talent he possesses. Corruption, already rife within the political system, will explode into a full-blown kleptocracy. Manufactured stories about Trump’s prowess, brilliance, sexual allure and goodness, as well as how America is becoming “great again,” will be pumped out by the White House smoke machine. He will demand encomiums that will become ever more outrageous. All love, devotion and allegiance will be to Trump.
Trump is the sick expression of a dysfunctional political system and mass culture that celebrate the most depraved aspects of human nature—greed, a lust for power, a thirst for adulation and celebrity, a penchant for the manipulation of others, dishonesty, a lack of remorse and a frightening pathology in which reality is ignored. He is the product of our escapist world of constant entertainment. He embodies the mutation of values in American society that has culminated in an enormous cult of the self and the abandonment of the common good.
“When a population becomes distracted by trivia,” wrote Neil Postman, “when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people becomes an audience and their public business a vaudeville, then a nation finds itself at risk: cultural-death is a clear possibility.”
Demagogues—insecure and crippled by an unbridled narcissism and seldom of high intelligence—play to the inverted values of a decayed society. They attack all who do not kneel before the idol of “the great leader.” “Saturday Night Live” can continue to go after Trump, but Trump, as president, will use every tool in his arsenal, no matter how devious, to banish such public ridicule. He will seek to domesticate the press and critics first through the awarding of special privileges, flattery, gifts and access. Those who cannot be bought off will be destroyed. His petulant, childish taunts, given authority by the machinery of the security and surveillance state, will be dangerous.