Too Much and Never Enough
by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D.
Simon and Schuster
Tolstoy famously begins Anna Karenina with “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That doesn’t mean an unhappy family’s tale is noteworthy to anyone but themselves, but when the eventual outcome of generations of sadism, indifference, and deliberate cruelty sits in the most powerful office in the world, any glimpse at what went on to cripple and destroy the most famous failure in American history deserves notice.
Mary Trump is Donald Trump’s only niece, the daughter of Freddy, a man driven to alcoholism and an early death for daring to attempt to live his life outside the reach of his sadistic father, real estate “tycoon” Fred Trump. As Mary illustrates, the senior Trump killed his son, but what he did to the offspring he actually admired is perhaps far worse, certainly for us. If Donald Trump had stayed in Manhattan, piling bankruptcy after bankruptcy and playing a successful (but fictitious) business executive on The Apprentice, his cheap, gaudy life would only be of interest to the readers of People magazine. Instead, he literally has millions of people’s existence in his indifferent, bored, corrupt hands. So, his story becomes sadly our story.
An early biographer remarked shortly after Trump won the election that he was perhaps the worst person in the world to be elected to such power. Kim Jong-un may well be insane with his finger on the nuclear button, and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte kills drug dealers in the street, but these madmen are for the most part contained by the world around them. Trump isn’t. He lost the election, but was installed despite. He was impeached but not removed. He’s never topped 50% approval while in office, he is hated by all but a bare minimum of the public—his fanatical “base” who respond to his brutish manner and off-hand racism. He, like his father, has no ethics or morals, substituting greed and an overwhelming drive to triumph in every situation. And again, like his father, not only to win, but to utterly destroy whoever stands in his way.
Mary Trump skillfully shows how Donald, being raised without compassion and empathy, never learned such. As she states, he is much the same as he was at three years old. His emotional development stopped when his mother took ill, leaving his father, who worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week to parent. He failed. Unlike his brother Freddy, Donald quickly learned how to please his father—to become, in Trump lingo, “a killer.” It wasn’t enough to win, you must conquer. If it took cheating, no matter. If someone sued you, sue them back 100 fold. Greed and braggadocio were the life lessons Fred passed along to his son, and we’ve all seen the awful result of that in the last three and a half years. America’s stature among nations is ruined due to Trump’s ham-handed, jealousy-driven objective of destroying anything President Obama achieved. Despite his boasts of his business acumen, he knows nothing at all about economics, and his tariffs and trade wars have crippled major parts of agricultural markets. His fear of failure and low self-esteem (again, due to his father) have led to his near complete abandonment of the ever increasing COVID virus. When the proper response would have been to use and expand on what Obama left in place to combat a pandemic, his absolute hatred of his predecessor left him no options. So he took, in his own words “no responsibility” and left it up to the states to fend for themselves, battling their neighbors in a bidding war for supplies. 200,000 people will be dead in America by election day 2020 due in large part to his failure to act.
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s brilliant and sobering How Democracies Die showed that when one political party refuses to acknowledge their opposing party’s right to exist (which the GOP has done since the days of Reagan and Gingrich), the norms that keep democracy healthy erode to the point of tyranny. In this, Trump is just the latest figurehead of this one party rule, but he’s worse. Norms, such as releasing your taxes, or putting your business in a blind trust, are ignored. Rules are set aside, much like his father did, erecting cheap apartments in the boroughs of New York all on the taxpayers dime (grifting is another thing he passed along to Donald) while the institutions set up to oversee such are unfunded or simply left to wither impotently.
Donald Trump has made all of us the Karenina family. Mary Trump has shown, in awful detail, what forces made him the way he is. If it were anyone else, you might have some sympathy for the horrors Trump’s upbringing entailed. But that is not her purpose in writing this tale. She shows time and time again how Donald turns his lack of compassion, moral failings and cruelty, which in other men would be a sign of a ruined persona, into assets. He is not crippled by empathy. He truly doesn’t care enough for his fellow man to expend any time on them. We, as a nation, only exist to his betterment, either with our taxes, which he directs via his properties into his pocket, or our votes, which he desperately requires to keep his Presidential immunity from prosecution intact (its widely thought that sealed indictments exist for himself and his family, ready to be charged once he leaves office).
America and the world will survive Donald Trump. But our country has been forever altered and tarnished by the destruction that Fred Trump imparted on his family.