If he doesn’t ultimately win the election and shred our Constitution, the most annoying thing about Donald Trump may end up being this: He forced us to devote so much of our lives to a man who is, fundamentally, a bore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m as addicted to coverage of his train-wreck, oh-no-he-didn’t campaign as everyone else. Even if we wanted to avert our eyes, as citizens we would have a duty not to, to learn as much about the man and his potential presidency as we can. As Trump pinballed last week from “rigged election” to “Second Amendment people” to “founder of ISIS,” I crashed from one bumper to the next along with the rest of America.
But one reason this feels like such an imposition is that Trump is, in the end, so uninteresting.
Trump has upended our politics. But he turns out to be the guy you would pray not to sit next to at dinner. He’s the one who never asks you a question, talks endlessly about himself — and has nothing to say. He doesn’t read, has no original ideas and thinks he knows more than you do because he once heard something on the news. If you were at a bar and saw him walking in, you’d look the other way, hoping not to catch his eye.
Does he really believe that President Obama founded the Islamic State? Who cares?
Being dull doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t dangerous. Some villains in history have been complex characters — thoughtful, deeply read, strategic. Others have managed to do plenty of damage without ever having had an original thought.
Being dull doesn’t mean his supporters are dull, or that their concerns are illegitimate. A lot of them voted for Trump in the primaries because they felt, often with reason, that traditional politicians had done nothing to improve their lives.
And Trump is not without talents. We know he has the bully’s uncanny knack for identifying and homing in on an adversary’s weak spot, a pitchman’s flair for coining a catchy slogan and a televangelist’s instinct for moving on to the next provocation just before his audience begins to tire of the previous one.
But we’ve known about these talents for months now — way back to the days of his dismantling Jeb! Bush and insulting, without consequence, John McCain. Since then, there’s really been nothing new to learn.
“Make America Great Again” is still nothing more than words on a hat. Trump hasn’t bothered to learn anything more about the Constitution, or the government, or government policy than he knew a year ago. His campaign still consists of test-marketing insults one rally at a time. Occasionally he tries to impersonate a devoted churchgoer, or an antiabortion activist, or an NRA believer, but he usually botches the role because he hasn’t prepared. And he hasn’t prepared because he’s not really interested in what anyone else believes — not Christians, not anti abortion activists, not gun enthusiasts. He has only one interest.
His extreme self-regard is one of the qualities that make him unfit to be president, as has been frequently pointed out. But it also explains why, even as we follow his campaign minute by minute, we feel almost demeaned. All this time, all this attention, and what will we have learned?
The true trademark of the insufferable bore is the conviction that he is doing you a great favor by spending time with you. Trump brings this to his campaign every day — his conviction that he is doing the entire country a great favor, that serving as president would represent an enormous sacrifice. “I could be having a very nice life right now,” he says.
And if he loses, that’s okay, too: “I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation,” he said last week.
Which is fine. Just don’t tell us about it when you get back.