Wednesday, September 28, 2022


The New York Times asked Joe Klein to review Maggie Haberman's book on Donald Trump. Klein writes this:
Haberman’s Trump is very much a child of Queens, although of an exotic sort — a white Protestant. I, too, am a child of Queens, and Trump’s use of phrases like “the Blacks” and “the gays” brings back memories of my grandmother denigrating “the Irish” who lived next door. Outer-borough bigotry was endemic, but it tended to be casual, not profound. Ethnic street fights were followed by interethnic marriages; they still are. And always, for all of us — and even for a rich kid like Trump — there was the allure of Manhattan, a place far more glamorous than our humble turf. If we could make it there...

“I can invite anyone for dinner,” Trump said after his inauguration in 2017. But he remained an outer-borough brat, intimidated by elites. As president, he threw tantrums when he thought people were lecturing or talking down to him. In an infamous meeting with the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon, “Trump knew that he was being told something he did not fully comprehend,” Haberman writes, “and instead of acknowledging that, he shouted down the teachers.”
I don't like the way is framed. It implies that Trump is a bigot -- he's far worse than a casual one -- simply because he was a child of Queens. He couldn't help it! Everyone grew up a bigot there in Trump's era!

But many successful people came from Queens, and not all of them are bigots. Tony Bennett? Martin Scorsese? Both were born in Queens before Trump was, as was Mario Cuomo. I'm not aware of any public displays of racism from any of them. I'm also not aware of any lashing out in the presence of people who might know more than them about something. You don't have to be a malignant narcissist if you're from Queens. You don't have to be a bigot. (Klein himself hasn't always been the most racially enlightened commentator.)

Of the people I've named, Trump grew up the wealthiest and most privileged. Somehow that made him more insecure, for the rest of his life, in the presence of other successful people. Why?

It occurs to me that Fred Trump, Donald's father, would have been the archetypal Trump voter. What did we learn when we examined the demographics of the Trump vote after the 2016 election? We learned that his voters weren't primarily blue-collar -- in fact, they were wealthier than the average voter. But many of them had amassed considerable wealth without a college diploma. And they resent both culturally sophisticated urbanites and members of racial minority groups.

That's Fred Trump. That's the legacy he passed on to his son. (Well, that and the cheating and finagling.) It's why Trump is who he is.

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