The Moral Corruption of Donald Trump

When writing on the nature of virtue, Cicero said the following:

Wisdom embraces greatness of soul, justice, and an attitude that any misfortune befalling a man cannot adversely affect him; this is not found with the other arts. Indeed, no one will be able to attain any of the virtues I have just mentioned unless he has grasped that the only things separating or distinguishing one thing from another are moral goodness and moral corruption. – On Moral Ends III.VII.25.

I think of Cicero a lot when Donald Trump, regretfully, still finds ways to enter my conversations. I have mostly moved this blog away from politics. It has certainly cost me traffic, but it was the right decision. Everything there is to say about Donald Trump, then and now, I had already said.

Except for the most important thing. His latest antics reminded me of it – the true source of Donald Trump’s moral corruption, which you will know by the end of this article.

(Note: Before reading further – would you like to see some podcasts from me on things like this? Please read to the end for more.)

Donald Trump’s enemies have caricatured him to the point of making him seem far more evil and formidable than he is. I understand why. Politics is mostly about promoting fights, so it’s natural they’d want to make him seem as terrible as possible. It hasn’t been good for the republic’s health, though.

The “real” Donald Trump is an insecure, needy man who is desperate for approval and love. When you combine this with his lack of discipline, you get someone who will inevitably make bad choices. Almost every unnecessary fight and moment of weakness came from these traits. It is a decidedly effeminate set of traits, but because of his high risk tolerance and his utter shamelessness, he fooled me and many others into believing he was a charismatic leader. When times were good, he could maintain that facade, but the events of 2020 revealed his true nature.

Character makes fate.

The true moral corruption of Donald Trump comes from these bad character traits and how they affect everyone around him. His unending quest for approval and love, heedless of cost or considerations, causes him to make terrible decisions that he justifies to himself as being right. These decisions damage him and everyone involved with him.

The case in point would be the leadup to January 6th. Had Donald Trump quietly and grudgingly retreated from his “stolen election” position, that incident would not have happened. He would have saved himself from becoming an irredeemable pariah. A red wave would have occurred in the midterms and Ron DeSantis would not be on the verge of eclipsing him. Most importantly, his supporters would not have been rotting in jail.

But Donald Trump could not bear the feeling of rejection by the electorate for poor performance in 2020. His cognitive dissonance made him latch on to conspiracy theories and he gleefully dragged his supporters into his delusions to assuage his ego, resulting in tragedy for everyone involved.

He has since quintupled down on his bizarre behavior. Donald Trump was never one to shy away from breaking with the truth, but in 2016, his message was grounded in a beneficial offer that voters were keen on. See Stumped for that. Now there is no beneficial offer. Donald Trump instead brings his supporters into his problems and expects them to act as his meat shields.

Case in point, this tweet I came across yesterday.

Now look at this phrase from a song about Kim Il-Sung:

Who is the patriot whose fame shall ever last?
So dear to all our hearts is our General’s glorious name,
Our own beloved Kim Il Sung of undying fame.

He severed the chains of the masses, brought them liberty,
The sun of Korea today, democratic and free.
For the Twenty Points united we stand fast,
Over our fair homeland spring has come at last!
So dear to all our hearts is our General’s glorious name,
Our own beloved Kim Il Sung of undying fame.

The idea of this song is that of a “dear leader” who has struggled so much for the people. Without that leader’s struggles, the people would not survive. This is the foundation of North Korea’s personality cult and the heart of its ruling “Juche” ideology

The slogan “Make America Great Again” was, in 2016, about an agenda. The “MAGA” of today is a personality cult devoted to a dear leader who alone can save the downtrodden American masses from the “establishment.” Donald Trump indulges in this role because it makes him feel loved and he gets his supporters to indulge in it too without a second thought.

This is why he raised a ruckus yesterday about possibly being arrested. This is why he called on his supporters to protest (increasing the risk of another January 6th incident), only to walk back those comments, which appear to have been for fundraising purposes.

If he does get arrested (and haven’t we learned to treat such claims with skepticism by now?), his calling on his supporters to fall on their swords for him reveals the depths of his moral corruption.

Donald Trump’s true moral corruption is that he will embrace, and get supporters and opponents alike to embrace, the worst parts of human nature: stupidity, anger, intellectual indolence, brazen lies that damage others, mob behavior, and more. Both MAGA and the woke mob behave in the same way. For him, it is a mutually beneficial exchange, keeping him at the center of attention and rewarding him with at least some love.

Cicero warned:

If a good man had the hypothetical power to insert his name into the wills of wealthy people with the snap of his fingers, he would not use this power even if no one would ever be able to find out about it. But if you were to give such power to Marcus Crassus – that with a snap of his fingers he could be designated as heir to a will when he had no legal right to be one – I believe he would have danced for joy in the forum. A just man, one whom we may truly call a good man, is one who would not take something for himself that he improperly acquired from someone else. Whoever is unnerved by this definition is someone who admits to not knowing what a good man really is.

Maybe someone will here say, “So shouldn’t he do what is expedient and advantageous?” Our answer must be no. Anyone asking such a question must be made to understand that nothing that is unjust can be either expedient or advantageous. He who is unable to learn this is incapable of becoming a good man. – On Duties III.XIX.75-6.

Think of this and then think of Donald Trump. Would he be able to learn this? No.

Would he be able to embrace the virtues like wisdom and greatness of soul? No. He is incapable of it.

Does he drag both supporters and opponents alike into the opposite qualities? Yes.

This is his true moral corruption. And it will not change.

Donald Trump moral corruption

Was I wrong to support Donald Trump in 2016? In certain ways, I was. I had not read Cicero’s philosophy at the time, so I did not understand these things as thoroughly. Trump was not the man he appeared to be, although the hysteria of his opponents was a wrong assessment of his character as well.

This is not to say that the alternative of Hillary Clinton was any better. I do not regret my vote or even my writings, but I realize I made a deal with the devil to make the changes I wanted, and those changes largely didn’t come. The country became worse, not better.

That was the price I paid for embracing moral corruption. Never again.

For more on these themes through history, read Lives of the Luminaries.

Also please read some important notes.

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