I explored what Trump says a little, hopefully demonstrating how good he is at manipulating his audience, and arranging his situation so in almost any outcome, he benefits. Words are one part of the equation, though. When I judge someone what they say accounts for about 20% of my conclusion. Most of the remaining comes from what they do. So what conclusions can we draw from Trump’s behavior?
It’s honestly hard to say. He’s been technically a private citizen his entire life. He puts parts of his life on display, but we have no idea whether or not those parts are accurate views of who he is, or calculated decisions he made in order to show a certain persona. He’s been recorded saying terrible things about women, but I’m not aware of any sexual harassment suits against him. Is that because he was just pretending to be a misogynist to get a laugh, or were women too scared to come forward against him? It’s an ambiguity he exploits for his own ends. What little information we can actually rely on can only be based on the results of his life.
One of the biggest pieces of information about him that he can’t hide is his family. Specifically his kids. There are no shortage of rich kids running around, and most of them aren’t people you’d want to emulate. From what I gather, they’re ok. No arrests for drugs or drunk driving. No paying off the families of victims they’ve run over in Italian sports cars. No stints in rehab. The ones that are married appeared to be married to stable, healthy people. They have careers, and don’t spend all their time on the French Riviera lounging, or doing extreme sports.
His wealth is another. If you look at any one of his business decisions it could be either good or bad. Some were outright disastrous. But, much like another famous figure, the overall trend of his career was one of staggering success. He reminds me of Steve Jobs in that regard. Any individual decision either man made could be good or bad, but you weren’t likely to go broke betting on either of them.
Once we get passed the big pieces of information, then it gets a lot harder. In the last year I have heard many, many stories about how rotten Trump is. He screwed over small business owners. He doesn’t pay taxes. He lies. But the thing is, I don’t know how much faith we can put in those stories. I know those are only part of the story. And I have no idea what the other part is.
So what conclusions can we draw? Not many. The best I can do is that the overall trend of his life seems positive, but any individual decision could be a disaster. This does not bode well. A single decision from the president can literally kill thousands, even millions in the most extreme case. But, I do have some hope. If the general trend of his life has been towards the positive, then there’s a chance we can get some benefit from his presidency. I’m confident that in the long term, decades or more, Trump will inadvertently push us towards a more rational, egalitarian society. But in the short term, my best hope is that some of his decisions will be actively good. There is some reason to think so. It’s the best we can do for now.