Trump and the Id

May 12, 2016

I read Dear Liberals, Stop Panicking over Trump, written by Michael A. Cohen for the Boston Globe, this morning. Then I read Congress to America: Drop Dead, Nicholas Kristof’s piece for the New York Times. Still panicked,a nd it’s all about the Id for me.

I think it’s unlikely that Donald Trump will ever be the President of the United States of America. Truly, and Mr. Cohen provides a decent amount of assurance! But what we have here—I’m going back almost 30 years to experiences in the world of risk management—is a low frequency / high severity event.

Again, I don’t think President Trump happens, but if it does, it’s President Trump for almost 1500 days. (A second term? Inconceivable.) Low frequency / high severity.

Mr. Kristof’s piece focuses on Ebola and the Zika virus. But it’s really about public policy v. the Id. The Id? It’s “the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest.” And the other parts, per Sigmund Freud. The Ego—the part that runs the rational—and the Superego, where morality resides. (Recall that Freud was prolific and scary smart. This is the simple version.)

On Ebola, recall the fear. “Shut down flights to and from Africa,” screamed many. Quarantine a nurse who tested negative for Ebola because … well, because you’re Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), almost as odious a man as there is in public life. Until the nurse got released, returned to Maine, and ran into Republican Governor Paul LePage, the man who makes Governor Christie look like a fine public servant. And the Donald? “Obama should apologize to the American people & resign” were his words, and the words are ringing in my ears!

And what happened, in fact? Deaths in Africa did not exceed 12,000, the virus is mostly extinct for now—it will return because: science—and there were no significant consequences for the U.S. population.

Why did the situation play out as it did? Because President Obama listened to smart people who know how to deal with epidemics. Might things have played out differently? Sure. But Merriam-Webster defines expertise as “special skill or knowledge,” and we don’t need experts to know that if we rely on special skill or knowledge we improve the likelihood that we will have better outcomes.

About Zika. Congress has done nothing, and will likely do nothing. Why? The Id.

Zika is quietly approaching. Quiet and the Id are antithetical. So are the Id and planning for and solving a problem, so that it never happens.

Governing is about solving problems. Step one involves getting the facts. (In this regard, read The Persistence of the Reality Gap Matters by Steve Benen for The Rachel Maddow Show blog. Mr. Benen notes the fact that most Republicans believe the stock market has gone down since President Obama took office when, in fact, the DJIA has more than doubled, with other indexes showing similar increases.)

With facts, experts step in. People who know stuff, really well. Not people who, like the Donald, who follow their instincts and their guts.

Then there is getting out ahead of situations. The Id craves problems, which provide opportunities to be instinctual and impulsive. “Should Max and I dash off down the street for an ice cream cone?” “Yes,” says the Id. “No,” says the Ego. “Finish this post. Have your cocktail and dinner. And you don’t need any ice cream.”

Alas, we’re heading into the world of the Id. Bash an extraordinarily capable man, who walked into a sh*tstorm on January 20, 2009 and will almost surely leave us far, far better off than we were eight years earlier, and the stupid, Id-driven man will believe an 8000 DJIA is greater than an almost 18,000 DJIA. He’ll think that with a gun by his side he can be the hero. And he’ll love the man who blows smoke up his ass.

Postscript: I know plenty of people are angry and anxious. This post has addressed them not at all. Stay tuned.

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