It's All in the Confidence Game

There are a million and five reasons that Donald Trump managed to squeeze out an Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton and those of us on the Left will be debating them endlessly for years to come.  Was it the economy?  Yes.  Racial animus?  Absolutely.  The perception that Clinton stole the nomination from Sanders?  Yup.  The media's fear of alienating the Republican base?  For certain.  The Left's focus on identity politics and the "whitelash" from being put in a box white straight people can't ever escape from or apologize enough for?  Probably.

I'd add to the pile the idea of demonstrable personal confidence.

Trump is and has been a confidence man for the whole of his adult life.  He was mentored by Roy Cohn, one of the most charismatic and terrifying figures in American history and he learned to play the Music Man game of creating a Fear of Something to then promote his unique solution (himself in most cases.)  In the confidence game, all you really need is to appear confident.  Even if that confidence is false bravado, it is the appearance of confidence that counts.  According to Trump and in contrast with almost any rational presentation of reality, he is a brilliant businessman with amazing steaks and a great big penis.

Contrast that with Clinton.  We saw her flounder when campaigning against Obama.  We saw that lack of confidence trebled when confronted with Sanders.  It wasn't so much she was flip-flopping on issues brought up by candidates more in tune with the Left leaning base, it was HOW she flip-flopped and her reasons for doing so.  To be entirely fair, Clinton had been pounded on for thirty years by the GOP establishment like almost no one in history before.  That kind of constant scrutiny takes it's toll.

Back in 2010, I was caught between two people - one at work and one at home - who both found a great deal of pleasure in making sure I knew I was simply not good enough.  Not good enough of a partner, a lover, a co-worker.  That I was not good enough at my job, at interpersonal relationships, at fucking buying groceries.  

EX: I go to pick up some groceries because, hey, that's a good thing to do, right?  She wants me to grab some kale.  I grab some kale.  When she comes home, she looks at the kale and spends ten minutes dressing me down because this particular bunch of kale is older and wiltier than she wanted.  Oh, and also, these bread crumbs have sugar in them and the grapefruits aren't big enough and...

The only moments during the day that I was allowed to relax and just vent some of that off was in transit between home to work, work to home.  I listened to a lot of 80's punk in the car.

After several months, my friends started noticing.  I walked slower.  I didn't make eye contact as often.  My posture became more slouched.  I smiled less.  I was angrier than normal (which is pretty angry...)  In short, I lost a huge portion of my self confidence.  I eventually had to pull myself out of both situations to start the process of regaining that confidence.

Recently, a good friend has hit a similar situation in that it has been made blatantly obvious that his place of employ has little respect or value for him.  He's been doing his best to step things up, to "prove himself" but after five years, the lack of support and advancement has taken it's toll on his confidence.  "I'm not really looking forward to the future." he told me.  It's also really affecting his dating prospects.

"I'm not the best source of long term relationship advice," I told him. "But I absolutely know how to get laid.  It almost always boils down to confidence.  Not the loud sort of 'in your face' confidence (although that'll do in a pinch) but the solid self confidence that women (or men or transgender folks) read on your face.  In your body language.  And are attracted to."

Trump is easily the least presidential cat I've seen.  He makes George W. look like a fucking Rhodes scholar.  But he has that indelible self confidence that allows him to Tweet bullshit all day long with impunity.  His bizarre historic win of the Highest Office in the Land certainly has jacked that confidence up.  His outward show of confidence is pretty obviously a mask for his crippling insecurity (like Lydia Lucio's "I Give No Fucks" memes, it is a genuine billboard to how untrue the blowhard displays are) but most people don't see much past the mask.  Trump is like the Bizarro world Steve Jobs.

Clinton, on the other hand, seemed beaten before she even started on Trump which is why, in so much of her campaign, she spent millions of dollars on ads about him and his lack of qualifications and his racist, sexist, xenophobic nonsense rather than what she could do to offer the country.  It signaled a subtle lack of confidence beaten in to her from decades of abuse and marginalization.  Hardly her fault and, in so many ways a reflection of the treatment women get handed routinely, but the timidity (except for those debates) was obvious.

Also, it might just have been that she knew she was lying about things (the DNC rigged primary, the public and private persona stuff to Goldman-Sachs) and Trump is so deluded, he didn't think he was lying at all.

Whichever is the case, in the Great Confidence Game of Political Theater, it is the one with enough confidence to get you to look away from the cards that wins your vote.