My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
This tweet is one of the many signs that Donald Trump is a narcissist. It shows he is incapable of seeing himself as part of a presidential history that is larger than himself. Not all presidents have been perfect, and others have certainly shown narcissistic tendencies, but many of them have been humbled in some way by the office. Our best presidents thought about their four or eight years in power with historical continuity in mind. This required them to respect the integrity of the office and the unofficial moral qualifications that come with it.
Trump spits in the face of such historical continuity. This is progressive thinking at its worst. It makes me think of Tocqueville in Democracy of America
Not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.
Michael Gerson put it his way: “Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American story he is about to enter.”
And let’s not forget Sam Wineburg in the context of historical thinking:
For the narcissist sees the world–both the past and the present–in his own image. Mature historical understanding teaches us to do the opposite: to go beyond our own image, to go beyond our brief life, and to go beyond the fleeting moment in human history into which we have been born. History educates (“leads outward” in the Latin) in the deepest sense. Of the subjects in the secular curriculum, it is the best at teaching those virtues once reserved for theology–humility in the face of our limited ability to know, and awe in the face of the expanse of history.–Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.
If Wineburg is correct, the antidote to narcissism is “mature historical understanding.” Let’s keep working.