by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[T]he excessive hope and the excessive fear of Trump might have an error in common, one that has to do precisely with a way of thinking about what he wants. Both begin from the assumption that Trump ran for president in order to use the presidency to achieve a set of relatively conventional political or policy objectives, and each approach formed its expectations around some sense of what those might have been. Ten months into his presidency, it does not look as if this was the nature of Trump’s ambition.
Instead, his ambition seems to have been something like a desire to put himself at the center of our national consciousness and attention. This looks to be what Trump wants most, and what some of his most peculiar choices and actions are directed toward achieving. Everything else — from policy priorities to political alliances — is always subject to change in pursuit of that goal. This could also be a key to understanding the effects Trump might ultimately have on our constitutional system.
To say that Trump thinks of his role in terms of elevating himself in our consciousness (or maybe just being on our minds) is of course in part to suggest he has an oversized ego. No one could deny that he does. But although his self-regard might be gargantuan, this is actually the element of Trump’s ambition that most resembles the ambitions of many other politicians. Trump may well be no more arrogant than Barack Obama or many other past presidents. And surely everyone who runs for president runs at least in part to be something — indeed, to be the most famous man or woman in the world.
But they also, of course, run to do something. Trump wants to do something too, but how he understands and pursues that desire might be what makes his particular ambition most distinctive.