It’s the book that confirms what we already knew. “Donald Trump Didn’t Want To Be President”, New York Magazine blasted yesterday – a damning headline that prefaces an equally damning profile of America’s 45th president, adapted from Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House.
Read through the 7,000-word feature and I’ll wager you’ll reach the same conclusion I arrived at within the first few paragraphs – that “volatility” and a “common touch” weren’t the only factors that helped Donald J. Trump, America’s accidental president, saunter into the White House. White male privilege gave the apathetic 71 year old the keys – and, despite his lack of qualifications and concerning biography, showed him the door.
When feminist scholar, Peggy McIntosh, examined white and male privilege in the late 80s she likened it to an invisible rucksack holding tools, maps, blank cheques and an advantageous set of social entitlements with which to further oneself up the proverbial ladder. In 2017, Donald Trump saw McIntosh’s rucksack and raised her a camper van of privilege. Despite leaving a trail of sexual-assault allegations, billion-dollar debts, questionable conflicts of interest and (alleged) dodgy Russian dealings; the impromptu underdog won. The worst part? He didn’t even want the job.
Donald Trump’s catastrophic win wasn’t just a horrific surprise for the millions of people, globally, watching it on their flat screens and hyperventilating at the outcome. The horror was felt by the bankrupt (morally, spiritually, financially) reality TV star, too; void of ideas, terrified of responsibility – and sweating profusely under his “Just For Men” comb-over.
When news of Trump’s win was tentatively confirmed, just after 8pm on election night, Donald Trump Jr told a friend that his father “looked as if he had seen a ghost.” He didn’t want to be president – and it visibly showed. Anxiety seemed to leach through his pores, draining him of his distinctive faux-orange hue. And then something transformative happened: disbelief and horror switched to opportunity and entitlement. “Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be,” Wolff writes, “and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.”
This is the white male privilege moment Hillary Clinton warned us about. "He's [Donald Trump] not just unprepared,” she once declared during last year’s presidential campaign, “he's temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility." Despite his lack of knowledge, understanding and experience, Trump achieved the unthinkable: he beat a woman with over 40 years of congressional and cabinet experience – and proved a sociological concept to be alive and kicking in 2017. Have a read of New York Magazine’s adapted profile – you’ll feel it, too. Patriarchal privilege permeates every line.
Despite leaving a trail of sexual-assault allegations, billion-dollar debts, questionable conflicts of interest and (alleged) dodgy Russian dealings; the impromptu underdog won. The worst part? He didn’t even want the job
As it happens, Steve Bannon – executive chairman of Breitbart News, chief executive of the Trump campaign and eventual White House chief strategist – came up with his own term for it. He called The Apprentice host’s bid for the White House “the broke-dick campaign.” No one could’ve prepared them for last year’s plot-twist. The Breitbart-Trump “broke-dick campaign” worked: the weener-without-a-clue won. This week we witnessed a wildly insecure president brag about the size of his nuclear button and call it “diplomacy”; and it has much to tell us about how male privilege – the kind of privilege that also rewarded a free school campaigner who likes to tweet about “hardcore dykes” and women’s “knockers” – continues to garland offensive white men at the highest levels.
We don’t need a 7,000-word feature – or, even, a 336-page book – to tell us that the man who now occupies the White House is ill-equipped for the job. And yet, in light of the 16 sexual-assault allegations that resurfaced against Trump last year, this latest exposé stokes a sense of injustice that ignited on Inauguration Day; the day when a self-confessed “pussy grabber” placed his left hand on the Bible and swore to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.
“Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be,” Michael Wolff writes in his New York Magazine serialisation. It’s at this point that I flip the narrative, switch the candidate and ask you, hand on heart, would a woman with half the mental and professional capacity of the current president be rewarded with such a win?
As Wolff later writes, “most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role.” Hillary Clinton did. She made public office her life’s work. It wasn’t enough. Despite her passion, experience and knowledge, she lost. What Donald Trump’s win shows us is what can be achieved by a clueless white man with the right financial backing – and how past abuses and misdemeanours can be smudged, and perhaps more dangerously, even erased.