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According to Greek historian Thucydides, all human political actions can be traced back to three motivating factors: security, honor and self-interest. Once you identify the first two as subgroups of the third, the analysis accurately embodies the motivations of President Donald Trump.
I would imagine Thucydides envisioned future leaders as being more rational than President Trump and thus, less predictably directed by their own self-interest.
This is not to say the president is a predictable man in general. His methods in pursuing his own self-interest have proven to materialize unpredictably. But examining his decisions as president thus far, Trump’s personal glory is a consistent driving factor behind them.
An example is this is his perception of NASA. The agency has been essential in the area of climate research and data collection, but Trump has made clear that he sees climate change as a non-issue and a waste of taxpayer money. He therefore believes NASA should mainly focus mostly on space exploration and discovery, a dangerous prescription for an agency with reliable information in the climate field.
This backward philosophy is also reflected in his recent appointment of Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine to head NASA. Bridenstine is a climate change denier without a background in science, whose main focus is to organize another manned trip to the moon.
Given the vast array of scientists and advisors at his disposal, it is unlikely that President Trump truly believes that climate change is not real. Therefore, unless his primary goal is to delegitimize the Flat-Earth movement, his prioritization of yet another moon landing over addressing the consequences of climate change seems illogical.
But if Trump’s endgame is to feed his own ego, this decision, examined from his perspective, appears more rational.
Being the president who went to great lengths to combat climate change comes with greater praise than planning another moon landing. But, if Trump’s main focus is to garner praise from his supporters, the choice against taking action to combat climate action is clear.
Is it a profitable endeavor to spend billions combating a problem that his supporters think is a hoax; or would it be more beneficial to his image to spend that money on an exciting space exploration project? He risks nothing in terms of losing popularity with his base by refusing to acknowledge a problem that they already don’t believe in. And the ability to say he was the president who rebooted manned space travel does have a nice ring to it.
President Trump’s obsession with building a wall along the southern border is an even clearer indicator of where his motivations truly lie. The wall has virtually no support other than that of Trump and many of his supporters. Even immigration hardliners in Congress oppose the wall because it is financially unrealistic. This is made obvious by his inability, after months of trying, to acquire funding for it in a Republican controlled Congress. SAD!
Based on the lack of support, it would seem the most viable path forward for this administration is to move on to other issues. But this has not been the case.
The Trump Administration tried to use the threat of government shutdown and the future of DACA enrollees, among other things, as tools to persuade Congress to fund his wall. None of these efforts have been successful.
The President has emphasized that implementing stricter immigration policy is a top priority for them. However, if he is committed to this issue, if it is his sincere opinion that illegal immigration is the biggest problem facing our country today, why would he take so long to work with Congress on practical ways to address it? The answer is a symptom of Trump’s own psychopathology.
Our president’s quest for personal glory is a superficial and shallow one, much like the worldview held by many of his supporters. He is not concerned with constructive legislative accomplishments or alleviating tensions between social groups. He is only concerned with self-preservation and the enhancement of his image.
Restricting access to visas and green cards, or giving border patrol more funding would seem to serve the same purpose as constructing a wall. However, these policies would not include a physical reminder of Trump’s legacy. For Trump, that’s a deal breaker.
It is likely that most of his supporters would prefer a physical structure in place of legislation. Most of his supporters aren’t the biggest fans of federal government, and a physical wall would give them a sense of comfort. They might think that immigration can be managed without the support of Washington politicians.
Trump appealed to these people through showmanship and sensationalism. Building the wall perfectly coincides with this strategy.
Trump wants to be known as the President who built “The Great Wall of America”, not as the President who thought of and achieved a pragmatic solution to border security. He wants to do something that he can put his name on in gold letters.
Most people who oppose our current president, and even some that support him, can at least concede that he exhibits more narcissistic tendencies than is appropriate for the job. But many fail to see the central role these tendencies play in determining his actions. Donald Trump is essentially only concerned with one thing – himself.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Grayson Slover at firstname.lastname@example.org