Donald Trump an A-Hole? Let UC Irvine Professor Aaron James Count the Ways

A. Hole.
A. Hole.
Illustration by Lalo Alcaraz

Bully. Narcissist. Insecure soul. Asshole. Assclown.

Call Donald Trump what you will, just spell his name correctly.

Aaron James crosses all his T's for Trump in his book Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump (Doubleday/Penguin Random House, 2016), which is a brief follow-up to the UC Irvine ethics and political philosophy professor's Assholes: A Theory (Doubleday, 2012).

James explained to Jacob Weisberg on the March 16 Slate Magazine podcast Trumpcast that an asshole is someone who takes special advantages given to get one's way, and then uses those privileges as a shield against criticism.

Sound like anyone we know?

A narcissist can have low self worth and not necessarily be an asshole, "but in this case it's pretty clear his narcissism is related to his being an asshole," James says of Trump.

But the professor also believes the presumptive Republican nominee for president has an insecurity: He must be a winner or, at least, be perceived by others to be a winner, "maybe because of his father."

"Now he is convinced he is a winner," James says. "He is entitled enough to bully others."

When Weisberg raised the age old question—Is Donald Trump an asshole or an assclown?—James answered he is both. The distinction is an asshole is oblivious to important things, while being an assclown is a pretense to entertaining others. Hey, how about an asshat, too?

Actually, Trump recognizes that the comedic element of being an assclown is "a really big part of his appeal," says James, who adds The Donald is especially deft at quickly shifting between character types—even in mid-sentence. "That is what makes him so fascinating," the professor explains. "You are not offended. You can't take your eyes off of him."

When it comes to saying outrageous things, Trump may not be doing so as a schemer—hell, he may not even believe what comes out of his orange pie hole—but he recognizes as "a showman" how his audience will respond, James says.

His faithful recognize Trump is "a massive bullshitter," and that just may knock him down to their level, says James, adding, "They think, 'He's one of us, he's not too good for us.'"

The act has drawn huge appeal from those harboring "white male dissatisfaction," according to James, who—get this—does see one bit of good from Trump's candidacy.

"He has brought illicit racism to the light," something that has not been so obvious in presidential elections since the 1968 Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon.

You know, the asshole president.

It's still best to have no racism, but that does not seem to be possible in this country, notes James, who believes, "Open racism is better than repressed racism. It opens it up for discussion."

The Trumpcast host and guest shared more assholic banter before Weisberg observed to James, "Thank God for podcasting because you're going to have a hard time talking about this on NPR."

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