When your average Spaniard suffers one of their usual attacks of indignation the first phrase that tends to come out of their mouth is: “¡No es normal!” (“This is not normal!”), followed with repetitive emphasis by a: “¡Esto no es normal, joder!” (“This is not bloody normal!”). The expression, odd given that it is based on a notion of unanimity around what constitutes normality, is not heard so much in other Spanish-speaking countries, nor, as far as I know, in other languages.
But perhaps the time has come for it to be incorporated into English, especially in the United States. The rise of Donald Trump to the White House is the least normal thing that has happened in the history of that country. Perhaps it is the least normal thing that has happened in a democracy, or in a supposedly mature democracy, in the history of humanity.
Caligula attained the summit power in Ancient Rome, sure enough; as did Idi Amin in Uganda, General Galtieri in Argentina, or Stroessner in Paraguay. The difference is that Trump was elected commander-in-chief by the free will of the people.
Perhaps this is the least normal thing that has happened in a democracy in the history of humanity
What is abnormal here is not so much the opinions or policies that Trump proposes. The most abnormal thing about his arrival at the White House is not his admiration for Vladimir “The Russians have the best prostitutes in the world” Putin, or his contempt for NATO or the European Union, or his hostility toward China, or that he will be surrounding himself in the Oval Office with advisors who have emerged from the rankest depths of the American right, or his stated wish to build a wall along the border with Mexico, or to rip up the nuclear deal with Iran, or to destroy the public healthcare system in his country.
The most abnormal thing is his character; that the richest, most powerful and most influential nation on the planet is going to have as its president a “man baby,” as he was defined with terrifying lucidity by the US political humorist Jon Stewart. Trump is a 70-year-old man with the emotional development of, well, perhaps not a newborn baby, but certainly a spoiled elementary school brat.
For many years I have followed presidential politics in the United States with interest. I recall my disappointment when Richard Nixon came to power; my sense of the absurd when he was replaced by Gerald Ford, a man who, they used to say, “can’t walk and chew gum at the same time”; my anger when the mediocre actor Ronald Reagan won two elections; my disappointment when George Bush Senior took over from him, and my horror when Bush Junior was reelected in 2004, after the invasion of Iraq.
Trump is a crybaby with an ego that is at once huge and fragile, like a giant porcelain egg
But the election of Donald Trump is of a different order of things. Ford, Reagan and the Bushes – and even Nixon, until his downfall – were characters who, at least in public, behaved with the seriousness and dignity that the presidential office demands. I disagreed with them on nearly everything, and I would get in a bad mood when I saw them on television, but I didn’t feel that they were fundamentally frivolous or immature people; I wasn’t frightened by the knowledge that they had their fingers on the nuclear button.
Now, as the most conservative columnist at The New York Times, David Brooks, wrote this week, Americans “have crowned a fool king.” I would go further than that. Trump is a sick man. Looking at his messages on Twitter and hearing the statements he has made not just in the cynical frenzy of the campaign trail, but also since he defeated Hillary Clinton in November, the only possible conclusion is that he presents a classic case of narcissistic personality disorder.
He is a crybaby with an ego that is at once huge and fragile, like a giant porcelain egg. The adult virtue of empathy is unknown to him. As his chronic twiterrhea suggests, he has a need – one that is as desperate as it is infantile – to always be the center of attention. The criteria of Trump, the troll-in-chief, to judge people boils down to whether they speak well or badly of him; thus, Meryl Streep is an “overrated actress,” Hillary Clinton deserves to go to jail and Putin is a great leader, a far better one than Barack Obama.
The Trump presidency will be Donald in Wonderland. Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, we have gone through the looking glass and entered a twilight dimension. But Trump will not be playing the role of the sensible Alice so much as that of the Mad Hatter. It’s still hard to believe, but in just a few hours, Donald Trump will be the president of the United States in the real, normal world.