I would like to present a case that former President Trump should not be the candidate for the Republican Party in 2024.
The president of the United States represents the collective unconscious wish for a powerful and good father. We simply cannot have a president who behaves like Donald Trump does in public. I am well aware of the argument that his policies and economic effect on the country outweigh his arrogance and uncouthness, yet I do not believe this is so. In order to even remotely move toward a better state of the union, we are in no position to elect someone who unnecessarily provokes fracture points in our culture. Donald Trump gets into Twitter arguments with basketball players, he calls people idiots, losers, and mocks them as if in a grade-school cafeteria. While this may appeal to virtually everyone (even those who despise him) it is so strange a departure from the statesmanship that has more or less characterized the oval office.
This way of analysis also condemns President Biden of course, but for different reasons. It does not take a neurologist to tell the average American that this man appears noncompos mentis. A visibly ailing president does not signal strength in the collective father figure to the citizens. It signals that we are in trouble and that there is nobody at the helm.
Everyone projects their wishes for a parent onto the president. When your dad wins the election, you believe you are in good hands; when the other side wins he’s the step-father you hate or the incompetent father you reject. For people who never had a father, or who had an absent or failing father, the need for a proper statesman in the office of the presidency is paramount. This is especially important for our poorer communities and for the black community, many of whom struggle with paternal relations in a single-parent home that has no fatherly steadiness. The effect of Donald Trump on these people is a sense of demoralization and undue agitation. Their need to project unmet wishes for a good father onto the president is high and is a sensitive affair. When someone like Donald Trump steps into the spotlight, he tramples on these grounds and disregards the paternal mandate of the presidency: to lead us with decency and nobility.
Conservatives and Republicans should care about this problem. To the extent that figures like Donald Trump brand the GOP they simultaneously deteriorate the likelihood that people in the undecided/purple middle will tilt right, and if a party isn’t growing…it is dying. It is also quite an exquisite irony that a “very stable genius” like Fmr. President Trump would engage with the media in a way that allows him to be portrayed in the very bombastic manner that they are hunting for. All politicians will be attacked and misrepresented, but one must admit that Donald Trump creates unnecessary openings with his alienating and demeaning personal attacks at a time when the profit margin for even benign rhetorical errors is zero.
Ron DeSantis possesses characteristics and capacities that Donald Trump does not: poise, tact, and eloquence amidst assertiveness. These qualities are utterly vital when it comes to behaving in a manner that is effective and paternally respectful.
We now stand at a time in American history that is so culturally dire that we have very little leeway to play with. There is no room for error in a world where congresswomen are literally calling for a separation of red and blue states. This is civil war era rhetoric but has not been uttered in the halls of Congress because historically the steps of the house called upon representatives to subdue childlike stupidity and selfishness in deference to the union and its people. A character like Marjorie Taylor Greene, possibly the most visibly ignoble member of Congress and a right-wing counterpart to the leftist bloviator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is made possible by the presence of Donald Trump in the presidential spotlight. And yes, this cannot all be hoisted on his shoulders, as he is a certain outcome of the reality TV and increasingly vapid American culture that has allowed for his ascendency. But consider this: would we have a Taylor-Greene or an AOC if we all decided in 2024 that we are not going to vote for shrill sophists with cruel and tactless tongues?
For those of you in the Trump base, I really do get why you are loyal to him. We seem to have gone insane as a society: woke psychosis has become a cultural rot, we are now importing oil where under Trump we were exporting it, and so on. You like seeing someone sticking it in the eyes of those who render these disastrous issues to our doorsteps. However, what was once considered “no nonsense” or “telling it like it is” as was said of Trump in 2016 is now just a license to be needlessly crude and frankly ineffective. How else do you explain a man who makes an Asian quip about the wife of the Senate Majority Leader, and who holds bizarre meetings with the MyPillow guy? You have to admit, your candidate may have served a purpose in your view, but he’s now a major liability for the ultimate aim of restoring American sanity.
If we restore honor to the central nervous system of the country might the motor neurons of our republic improve? The Trump base and Republicans overall would do well to consider that while Donald Trump was their guy in 2016 and 2020, this is no time for foolish mistakes. There is a worthy candidate in the field, and his nomination has the best chance of curtailing a number of problems, some of which are detailed above. The other options are a man who will be 77 in 2024 and whose own aging will only erode his already marginal composure, or an 81-year-old who sounds and appears like he may keel over and die at any moment.
Let’s demand a more respectable collective father in 2024.
The Real Clear Politics Podcast with Dr Lucas Klein is the in-depth analysis and commentary on current political events through a psychological lens. The Real Clear podcast covers a wide range of topics, from the latest election results to policy debates, to exploring the impact of current events on the political landscape.