As a TV star and narcissist par excellence, Trump is no newcomer to the world of self-promotion. The man understands branding better than a steer on the Chisholm Trail headed for Abilene did.
What he doesn’t seem to understand is appearances—how things look to someone who isn’t name Donald Trump? On a side note, he’d approve that I mentioned his name in this piece again.
To my point, though, no one has been able to convince him that his tweets do him more harm than good. His desire is to look like a man on top of things, a man engaged, a man fighting back. Instead he comes across as an insecure, bitter old man–child who has never taken no for an answer and isn’t about to let anyone tell him what to do as long as he has blood pumping through his thumb and a charged up iPhone.
He is too much, “What you see is what you get” to understand the finer points of symbolism. That’s too bad because symbolism isn’t voodoo. It’s not mystique. Symbolism is very real. It’s just not always obvious. It’s usually not a good prognosticator, but it is damn good when it comes to evaluating something in hindsight.
Take for instance, Trump’s announcement that he was going to run for president. We’ve all observed the scene a hundred times.
Trump and Melania, riding the escalator down from their penthouse in Trump Tower to the lobby where fond admirers and reporters are waiting. The obvious message was simple. The country had sunk into such dire straits that he could wait no longer. The country needed the unique brand of leadership that only he could provide.
He didn’t need the job of president. He was already, in his opinion, one of the most powerful men in the world, but he was willing to put all that aside to serve his country; to, in his words, help “Make America great again.” He would trademark that phrase and sell a million hats with that motto, but he wasn’t in this for the money. It was all about service.
It was a grand sight to behold—the splendor, the enthusiasm, the anticipation.
Who could have imagined that escalator ride was the beginning of the end?
This is not to say people didn’t already know who Trump was. What he represented. His story was well-known. Adulterer, blowhard, consummate consumer, discriminator, egomaniac, philanderer.... The discrimination suits, bankruptcies, labor disputes, and ugly divorces were nothing new. For sure, something about his hair didn’t make sense.
His supporters were willing to forgive all of this. Maybe not forgive, but they certainly didn’t give much thought to any of it. No one seemed to care. He was the boss of, “The Apprentice,” and for many people that was enough.
Nevertheless, after that ride on the escalator, something changed. We didn’t necessarily get any new information—and for sure, many people continued to admire him, as they always have, in spite of his faults, but something did change that day.
He was still rich but we don’t know if he is as rich as he says. Of course, no one will ever know exactly where his money comes from. Always considered a smart businessman, people now question if taking away the qualifier, businessman necessitates also throwing away, smart. No one has ever heard a complete sentence leave his lips.
He appears to be lacking in the basic knowledge of how anything works outside the construction industry. Government is throwing him for a loop. Treaties—forgetaboutit. Loyalty—don’t ask.
Still, the question haunts us, should we be surprised? Shouldn’t we have seen this coming? Many supporters, don’t understand the question. They ask, “See what coming?”
Anyone who remember when department stores had bargain basements, does understand the question and knows the answer is yes, we should have seen this coming.
That escalator ride down from his penthouse to announce his run for the presidency, the highest office in the land was a symbol, a sign of what was to come.
No one takes the down escalator to go up.