Making Sense of Trump/Bannon: The View From New York City

Revised March 15, 2017. (2)

This is about as random as it gets. But I have things on my mind. So.


I am keen observer of the place known as New York City. I spent a year there in the mid-1970s, and have visited regularly, at least once a year, since then. 

I love the city. It’s glovelike. I’m comfortable there. When I’m in NYC, I walk (even) faster, I talk faster, I talk to strangers with ease, I shout at dumbasses trying to drive through an intersection when I’m walking. 

(“Hey! I’m walkin’ here!” Name the movie and I’ll send you an air kiss.)

Anyway. I love the place. Geographically, socially, culturally, etc., it's a complex mechanism. Without going into a full-blown take on "New York City," I'll add this for context: "New York City" is a geographic and legal construction that consists of five main parts: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island. Those are five governing/municipal/legal entities within NYC.

Several of the five consists of smaller governing/municipal/legal entities, also known as cities. Queens, for example, is sub-divided into Jamaica, Astoria, Flushing. 

Geographically, it sprawls: 302 square miles. I believe it. No surprise, there's a good deal of diversity within. Folks living in, say, the far eastern edge of Queens likely see the world a bit differently than people living in, say, Manhattan in Harlem. Densities vary, prices vary, etc.

So do people. There are the natives. There are people who arrived young, and after thirty, forty years, aren't exactly natives, but . . . close to it. Some of those long-timers are there to leave where they came from behind. They'd prefer you see them as natives. Others are smarter (in my opinion) and intentionally keep a strong link from Where They Came From as a caution against becoming a New  Yorker cartoon. 

What every New Yorker shares is the fact that, well, they share. The air, the sidewalks, the whatever. There are lots of people there. In your face. All the time. Deal with it.

Finally (as introduction), NYC is a microcosm of life on earth. A thick, dense, rich, complicated distilled essence of the human experience.

If I were in charge, I'd require every American to live there for at least six months; preferably a year. We'd be better for it.

What follows is about group of New Yorkers: The natives. Of which Donald Trump is one. 


The thing to know about the natives is that they are, for all their variety, charm, wonder, native New Yorkers are extraordinarily provincial. 

As in: They honestly believe New York City is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the universe. They have no fucking idea where Nevada is. Maybe California. But not Oregon. And they don’t care. Because those are far away and have nothing to do with the center of the universe known at New York City. 

(True story: My brother-in-law, also a native, life-long New Yorker, once expressed amazement that the NBC Nightly News was available via television in Iowa. This was in the early 1990s. And no, I’m not kidding.) (Yes, if you did the math, I am married to a native New Yorker. Who escaped when he was in his twenties.)

Trump is such a New Yorker. He’s wholly, proudly ignorant of the world beyond the city. Trump began life in Queens (I love Queens). Queens is a place where hustlers learn to hustle. His family had real estate interests and to a certain kind of hustling New Yorker, there is no game for real estate. 

random photo series 2017

random photo series 2017

But Queens isn't the apex and in early adulthood, our Mr. Trump had hustled enough to relocate himself to the apex: Manhattan's Upper East Side. (To be precise, Trump Tower sits at the geographic point where midtown Manhattan ends and the island splits in to the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side). 

That's where New Yorkers like him go: UES. Denizens of the UES believe that being wealthy and living on the Upper East Side is the only life worth living. Theirs is the apex of creation.

The point of being an UES person is that you have moved up and need no longer dwell like the rabble. No more elbowing your way along a crowded sidewalk so you can elbow your way down a flight of stairs into a train station, so you can elbow onto the train, and then elbow your way out and through the station and back to the street so you can elbow your way up. To the Upper East Side. 

Where your driver, on duty 24/7, will take you wherever you need to be. Or your cluster of assistants will bring you what you need.

It's the apex and nothing else exists. The UES is the center of the all universes, known and otherwise. There is no more "up." (Except, apparently, the White House!)

Upper East Siders in general, but the native New Yorkers in particular, are the most insular of the insular. They don't even have to take the train.


That's a long-winded way of saying that Trump's worldview is provincial. Narrow. Painfully so.  

For example, his view of urban America was shaped in the 1970s and hasn’t changed since then. During that decade, and for various reasons, the city of New York experienced what I’ll call pains and, like every other city in the US, a surge in crime because of demographics. (In the 1970s, the bulk of the baby boomers hit their teens and twenties. In the US, those are the high-crime-rate years.)

That vision of “the city” and “the urban problem” got into Trump’s brain, and it’s never been shaken loose. He looks out Trump Tower in 2017 and his mind’s eye sees crime! Rape! Riots! Looters!


But Trump is profoundly ignorant of damn near everything that lies beyond the city’s borders. But he’s also profoundly ignorant. Especially about some stuff that now matters: How DOES the American republic work? What are the checks and balances? What role, if any, does history play in our lives? For that matter: What role art? Music? 

He doesn’t care. He cares only about the deal. The nation’s judicial system, for example, is relevant only insofar as it stymies or advances his deals. Ditto Congress. 

The problem is that, in his mind, as near as I can tell, being president of the U. S. is more or less like being president of Trump Inc. (or whatever it’s called. I can’t be bothered to look it up).   

random photo series 2017

random photo series 2017

There is another point about Trump that’s so obvious it’s easy to overlook: He’s lived his entire life, every day of it, in a hyper-insular, hyper-controlled environment. He lives in a high tower, with servants and assistants and various other flunkies to do his bidding. He gets what he wants, when he wants it. He’s not used to being questioned, challenged, or told “no.” 

(That, by the way, is the point of being super-rich in New York City: You don’t gotta travel by train, you don’t gotta mingle with regular folks. You don’t gotta try to find a cab in the rain, or elbow your way through Grand Central at 6 pm any weeknight.)

And now . . . he’s out of his controlled comfort zone. Way out. At our expense.



Upper East Side Trumper Types invest a great deal, emotionally, psychologically, monetarily, in their “public presentation.” (I learned that phrase in grad school. I’ve always wanted to use it.) 

Yeah, we all present a public face to the world. But in the case of the Trump Types, there is a sense in which the only face that matters is that public face. 

Look at the Trumps. The women are thin and (mostly) blonde. They wear very high heels, manicured hands, lots of makeup. (The writer Tom Wolfe dubbed them the “X-rays” because of their thin, boney appearance.) 

random photo lifted from some random website

random photo lifted from some random website

The men are clean-cut. Shaven. Carefully oiled and arranged hair. Suits and ties always, at least in the city. When not? Polo shirts (collars upturned). 

The Upper East Side of NYC teems with Trump Types. They’re everywhere you look. Every block is awash with Ivana Trumps teetering their way in and out of cabs. Clones of Eric and Don Jr. abound. (They enjoy walking three abreast on the sidewalk and yes, you get out of their way, not vice versa.)

TTs hone their glossy, sleek persona with philanthropy, important committees, and “galas,” as they’re known. Deal-making, of course, because that keeps the money rolling in. Big, often ostentatious apartments and country houses. The kids attend certain schools, hang with certain people, do certain things. 

a snopes-verfied, honest-to-god family portrait. i'm not kidding.

a snopes-verfied, honest-to-god family portrait. i'm not kidding.

Trump comes from a mold. There’s nothing unusual about him.


As for Trump himself:

His entire life, 24/7, revolves around business. Or, as he prefers, deals. 

random photo series 2017

random photo series 2017

He doesn’t do public service (unless/because the wife/daughter/son has taken on some charity or other. Because: Public presentation). Doesn’t do parenting, husbanding. Doesn’t do intellectual work. 

Nothing but the deal. Business. Because that’s the key to affirmation of one’s “self.” 

No surprise, in DT’s world, human beings are nothing more than potential players in a deal. 

Women, however, serve two crucial additional functions: They are public trophies (you will never see Melania out in scruffy shoes with no makeup). And they are breeders of potential trophies. Also known as children.

Donodrama’s been lucky. He’s got three trophies: Ivana, DJ Jr., Eric. Don’t need to say much about them. What you see is what you get: Three people who’ve bought into their father’s view of the world. Who are themselves provincial, glossy New Yorkers. 

The other two would-be trophies, Tiffany and Barron?

Tiffany — well, who knows? I gather at some point, she said no thanks and moved to the other side of the country. Good for her.

Ten-year-old Barron, however, offers a crucial insight into the psyche of Donald Trump. 

Remember the inauguration? Once all the pols and previous presidents and guests were out on the balcony where DT would take the oath, the three Trump tropies swanned in. Ivana, of course, led, followed by Eric and DJJr. and Tiffnay (in that order) and their spouses and kids, sort of, but not exactly, walking alongside them. 

Waaaay at the back of the line came ten-year-old Barron. 

Alone. As in: By himself. Left entirely to his own devices. Not a single adult nearby. 

No one to help him stairs, several long hallways, the next flight of stairs, etc. Not once did any of his siblings or in-laws speak to him, look at him, check on him.

That told me something important about Donald Trump: Until you prove yourself, you’re nothing. A nonentity. Barron, at age ten, has not proved himself. So: He’s nothing. Until he is. 

If you’re a Trump kid, prove your worth. Until then, don’t bother me. 

not quite as random photo series 2017

not quite as random photo series 2017

So. Pussy grabber. Lousy parent. Lousy husband. Liar. Con artist. 

A slick, gaudy Upper East Side dealmaker. Who lives in a tower. Or in a gaudy castle (Mar-A- Lago) (1) 

And now in a big ol’ third house, paid for by the taxpayers, no less.

In his mind, in his world, he’s made it. Alas, we’re paying the price.


1. I was a bit hazy on what the hell Mar A Lago was/is. Then I listened to a podcast: In the 1990s, Trump bought the property for a song from the U. S. government. In 2017, it is his private residence. Pony up $200,000 a year, however, and you can eat in his private residence, spend the night, play some golf. Maybe swim? 
Put another way, Mar A Lago is a mini-Versailles: There strides the king! There mingle and gossip and pray-he-speaks-to-them are the many courtiers, each hoping to be noticed. To perhaps score a deal.

For $200,000 a year, you, too, can be a Trump courtier.

2. The revision consists of me adding what I'd deleted from an early draft: More detail about what is that thing known as the "city of New York." My step-daughter/editor inspired me to do so.