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Respectable

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A couple of videos:

Many people have commented on Trump’s pathological narcissism, which is on display here in its most florid form: If he didn’t know something which is in fact common knowledge among minimally educated people, such as for instance that influenza kills a lot of people every year, or that a vaccine for one virus will not create immunity against another virus, then it was an extremely esoteric piece of knowledge, because he didn’t know it, and he knows everything worth knowing.

What’s also notable here is the sheer ignorance on display, and his complete lack of self-consciousness about his ignorance. These things are of course closely related to his narcissism, but they’re not identical with it (some narcissists are extremely intelligent and knowledgeable).

In my view, the single most under-appreciated fact about Trump is that he’s a genuinely stupid person. (He does possess a combination of complete shamelessness and an animal instinct for grifting, which is not at all the same thing as actual intelligence). It’s extremely difficult to grasp the depth and breath of Trump’s stupidity, and its consequences — lack of the most basic knowledge, absence of any intellectual curiosity, failure to grasp anything about his own cognitive limitations, aka Dunning-Kruger syndrome — because Trump is a very high status, putatively very wealthy white person, which means he always gets the benefit of the doubt about everything. If Trump weren’t these things, the extremely obvious fact that he’s a very stupid person — and not in comparison to, say, Elizabeth Warren, but in comparison to the average college graduate — would be far more self-evident.

In the minds of the elites and their hangers-on — that is among all respectable people — it literally cannot be the case that Trump is just an extremely stupid person, because to recognize that would delegitimate too many hierarchical systems and institutions in our culture. So he’s “crazy like a fox,” or playing the role of a heel in a reality TV show, or playing a complex game in which he pretends to be incredibly ignorant just to pwn the libs. He may look dumb but that’s just a disguise!

No, no it isn’t. He’s really an idiot. Like your racist uncle who was never smart to begin with and whose brain has now been turned to mush by time and Fox News, he’s a complete dumbass, which probably isn’t a DSM-V category, but should be.

What’s particularly interesting is the extent to which his supporters recognize this. Many of them are of course idiots as well, and don’t recognize that about themselves, so naturally they don’t recognize the, to put it delicately, cognitive limitations of their leader.

But some of them aren’t stupid by any means. They’ve decided that having a stupid person (again: not hyperbole or a metaphor or oh he’s really not stupid although he’s no rocket surgeon — he’s literally quite stupid) is a price they’re more than willing to pay to get their tax cuts and judges and ethno-nationalism etc. (See for instance this interesting argument that Mitch McConnell is fully aware of how utterly unfit Trump is to hold office, but pretends otherwise because the prime directive is always to advance McConnell’s own career).

But again, there’s an enormous amount of denial about Trump’s basic stupidity, because in many ways it’s more disturbing to the Cult of Savvy than all the racism and sexism and authoritarianism and corruption, because it’s a gob of spit in the face of the sacred Meritocracy they all worship.

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