... last night Trump didn’t even do obnoxious well. The reason, I suspect, is that to debate effectively, even if you’re a goon, you must talk about something other than yourself.Really, Peter? You think it's a problem for Trump that he spent an inordinate amount of time talking about himself? Have you ever watched pro wrestling? Or listened to early rap music? Or watched an "I got rich and you can too" infomercial? Or heard a preacher of the prosperity gospel tell you about his material wealth?
Again and again, the Fox News anchors asked Trump about appalling things he’s said and done. The obvious response would have been to pivot away from those subjects, perhaps by attacking the media for focusing on trivial things, and then slam Mexicans, President Obama and the other candidates -- all the things Republicans love to hear Trump do. But Trump couldn’t do it because he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about himself.
In every case, boastfulness isn't some impediment to the audience's appreciation of the boaster. It's a central aspect of the performance.
Beinart goes on to write:
A certain portion of the Republican base loves Trump’s “authenticity.” They like the fact that he says “politically incorrect” (i.e., borderline racist and sexist) things and when challenged by the “liberal” media (which evidently includes Fox News), doesn’t back down. They don’t mind that Trump’s a narcissist so long as his narcissism fuels his outrage at the people they resent.No, no, no, Peter. It's wrong to say that Trump fans "don’t mind that Trump’s a narcissist" -- they savor his narcissism. They don't think it gets in the way of his political outrage -- to them, it's all part of the same package.
But too often last night, Trump’s narcissism got in the way of that outrage. If you live by the ego, you can die by it too.
When Trump brags about himself, he's telling his fan base that he has clout. When he gets into personal beefs with people -- as he did with Megyn Kelly last night, to Beinart's dismay -- he's telling his fans that he has enough fuck-you money not to have to worry about what someone like Kelly thinks of him. Even when he boasts about using political contributions and the bankruptcy laws to get his way, he's saying that he's a macher who knows how to work a corrupt system to his advantage.
Remember, the subtext of everything he says is: I'm stinking rich. That means I'm smart and I know how to get things done. And I didn't get this way by being shy and retiring, or by running every word I say past a focus group.
Now, you and I know that Trump's career hasn't been as successful as he (incessantly) claims it's been. But the fans think he's had an unbroken string of successes. The reason they think he can fix everything is that he constantly reminds them how rich and successful he is. And it's thrilling to think that a rich, successful guy hates what they hate. It's as if they're joining with him in hate and experiencing the Trump wealth every time he thumps his chest.