Home Energy and Environment Donald Trump and the Big Ugly

Donald Trump and the Big Ugly


So far, the Trump presidency is unfolding in about as horrendous a fashion as one might have feared. But it is premature to conclude that we know just how disastrously this whole Trump era is going to be.

Here’s what I think we do know, at least with reasonable certainty.

The bad news is that as a human being, Donald Trump is a veritable cesspool of ugliness. His impulses and inclinations are ugly.

I believe that we can assume that the political drama to be enacted during the years of his presidency will be ugly and unpleasant.

If there is any good news, it is that Trump seems to be relatively indifferent to policy. As I read him, he gets his jollies from playing his ugly dramas of conflict and domination and humiliation, not from changing the world to fit any ideologically preconceived notion.

If this is correct, then there is at least the possibility that the ugly dramas can be played out in ways that do not lead to the ugliest of policy outcomes.

That possibility will depend in part on how effectively the non-Trump parts of the American body politic play their roles.

Unfortunately, even if I’m right about the theoretical possibility of getting non-disastrous policy outcomes, realizing that possibility will be an uphill battle. That is because Trump is always Trump, and his ugliness is always operating on whatever terrain he finds himself. The same guy who grabs women by their genitals, because that’s what his ugliness inclines him toward, is also under the sway of ugliness when he is on the policy grounds on which he has no strong lusts one way or the other.

So, being an man with ugliness deep in his soul, whenever he encounters a policy issue he naturally gravitates toward the ugly side of it.

He clearly knows next to nothing about climate change. (Indeed, being in the thrall of ugliness, he knows less than nothing about climate change because he is drawn to the ugliest of sources to get his bits of misinformation.) So he slides downhill into the ugly zone on this issue, feeding the ugliness of his soul with the idea that it’s all a “bunch of bunk.”

Likewise with our relations with the Muslim world, with race relations within the United States, with whether to provide health insurance to our citizens, etc.

Likewise, Trump’s being in thrall to ugliness means that he is drawn to other ugly people. So he surrounds himself with a veritable Rogues’ Gallery of ugly people, like Steve Bannon and Rudy Guiliani. And now we have, day by day, additions to the roster of ugly people who will be sitting around the table with Trump.

(It is my intuitive sense that it is Bannon more than Trump who has determined these ugly appointments. It looks that way to me because I have not seen Trump as having the kind of firm commitment to an ugly hard-right ideology as these appointments represent. Whereas Bannon, seems much more driven by an ideologically-determined set of goals toward which he wants the power of this presidency to take the nation and the world.)

So any effort by Democrats, or liberals, or scientists, or any sane Americans to mitigate the ugliness of the policy positions advanced by the Trump presidency must contend with the force of ugliness –within Trump, and in the circle around him– in order to succeed in bringing about constructive outcomes.

Such an effort much find a way to substitute some other motivation for the gravitational pull of ugliness upon Trump’s soul. It has to penetrate and replace Trump’s ignorance and misinformation. And to achieve any of that, it has to find a way to get around the ugly people around Trump — like Steve Bannon — who will want to isolate Trump as much as they can from any influences that are not ugly.

The best-case scenario is a very ugly time in American history in which those parts of the drama that have a lasting impact on our society and the larger world — in particularly, the policy outcomes — are not as ugly as they might have been.

  • David Dickinson

    And what conservatives are you trying to evangelize with this drivel?
    John Galt has ascended to the White House and we will all be better for it.

    • Robin

      John Galt has ascended and we will be all the worse for it. Expect many additionally people dying, the lowering of the avg age of death in the US, a rapid increase in deficit and a ballooning debt. This is just the highlights. Perhaps more wars and more terrorist attacks.

    • Andy Schmookler

      This piece was not written to evangelize conservatives. I would expect people who have bought as many lies as today’s conservatives have would regard my analysis as drivel.

  • old_redneck

    This nation is entering a very long, very dark tunnel with no light at the end.

    Trump is irrelevant.

    Republicans are now in charge of the House, Senate, SCOTUS, and most state legislatures. There is no one to apply the brakes.

    Kiss goodbye to the 20th Century.

    The only satisfaction I find is that those who supported Trump will drown with the rest of us.

  • old_redneck

    The following was copied word-for-word from the Democratic Underground blogsite.


    Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it

    George Monbiot

    Wednesday 30 November 2016 01.00 EST

    Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power.
    To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I
    know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

    Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals
    and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an
    international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers
    and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of
    billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against
    trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the
    very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the

    I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The
    fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed
    incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been
    paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded
    by oil and coal companies.


    As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating
    ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but
    one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little,
    but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion
    buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in
    their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by
    thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

    You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first
    task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we
    work out what to do.

    • Andy Schmookler

      “You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first
      task in this struggle is to understand what we face.”

      Which is why I called my book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST. And what Monbiot describes is an important part of it. But, as I perceive it, the destructive force we’re up against is bigger and goes deeper than that.