This is the second and final part on Donald Trump and the 48 Laws of Power, as laid out by author Robert Greene. In this part, we take a look at Trump’s flouting of many of the laws power, and how it could undo his presidency.
Trump’s Flouting of the Laws
Law 4: Always say less than necessary:
Persons who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect. But the human tongue is a beast that few can master. It strains constantly to break out of its cage, and if it is not tamed, it will run wild and cause you grief. Power cannot accrue to those who squander their treasure of words. Power is in many ways a game of appearances, and when you say less than necessary, you inevitably appear greater and more powerful than you are.
This is one of Trump’s major weak points. The president is completely incapable of keeping his mouth shut, despite his inability to formulate coherent sentence or tell the truth. Trump tweets and speaks with absolutely no filter, not only saying far more than necessary, but actively incriminating himself in the process (for example, Trump accidentally admitted obstructing justice on Twitter). Contrary to his followers perception of him, the rest of the world sees Trump as a blabbering fool who is being used by the GOP to enact their agenda. Much of this has to do with his inability to keep his stories straight and his incessant bragging. Those who practice soft power (which most leaders in the industrialized world) view this very dimly and see the writing on the wall. Words have consequences, and Trump will at some point have to face this immutable law.
Law 5: So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life
Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them. Doubt is a powerful weapon: Once you let it out of the bag with insidious rumors, your opponents are in a horrible dilemma.
Trump’s adherence to this law isn’t clear. He is very, very good as opening holes in his enemies reputations, but very, very bad at guarding his own. His track record in business is atrocious, and his venture into government is no less disastrous. No one trusts Trump to be honest in any aspect of his life, and his awful reputation makes his future anything but certain.
Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy or the unlucky
When you suspect you are in the presence of an infector, don’t argue, don’t try to help, don’t pass the person on to your friends, or you will become enmeshed. Flee the infector’s presence or suffer the consequences.
We are seeing the consequences of Trump’s inability to avoid the unhappy and unlucky play out on our television screens and newsfeeds in real time. Trump has surrounded himself with conmen, grifters, hacks, and criminals his entire life, and they are in the process of trying to take him down as they fight to stay out of jail. Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Omarosa Newman — the list of self destructive goons goes on and on and on. This could spell disaster for Trump if something sticks, and given the sheer number of awful people around him, the odds do not work in his favor.
Law 16: Use absence to increase strength and honor
The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.
You only need to look at Trump’s twitter feed to see how badly he flouts this law. Trump is everywhere, all the time. He dominates the headlines on every newspaper, website and TV news show. He does this deliberately, creating endless controversies and spectacles to ensure he is the center of attention. The effect of this is severe Trump-exhaustion, and at some point this has to end. No one knows when, but it is impossible for one human being to suck up as much limelight as Trump in perpetuity.
18: Do not build a fortress to protect yourself, isolation is dangerous
The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.
Trump has buried himself deep within the walls of his own delusion. The Republican Party protects him because he is useful, but outside of his own fan base, he is reviled. He has no allies in the Democratic Party, no allies in the law enforcement agencies, and no true allies outside of his sycophantic followers. He abuses everyone around him, creating enemies within his administration who will turn on him at a moments notice. Trump is more isolated than ever, and without the House to protect him from the Mueller investigation, his presidency could be over in the blink of an eye.
29: Plan all the way to the end
The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.
Trump does not plan anything, ever. His campaign in 2016 was a shambolic mess until Steve Bannon brought some order to it, and his presidency is no less chaotic. Trump apparently watches Fox News for most of the day, tweeting out unfiltered thoughts in response to the hosts suggestions, and does next to no real work (it was recently reported that an average day includes roughly three hours of official presidential business). He has no real political ideology, no plan outside of building a huge wall on the US border, and no discernable ambition other than staying in the limelight at all costs. When someone creates as much chaos as Trump, it is impossible to see what their end game is, most likely because they have no idea themselves. Trump has no exit strategy, and while incredibly scary, it could also be the cause of his downfall. Because if you fail to plan, you ultimately plan to fail.
46: Never appear too perfect
Envy creates silent enemies.It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable.
Trump of course, does not appear too perfect to anyone with a rational mind, but it is Trump’s perception of his own perfection that is so dangerous. He is completely incapable of self reflection or humility. He brags about his accomplishments (real or imaginary) on a daily basis, and views acknowledgment of defects as a sign of weakness. It is unclear how much this flouting of the law will cost him, but it adds to the perception that he is a weak, small man, unable to contend with reality.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.