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Trump is Certainly a Transformative Figure

February 14th, 2020 by dk

When the insurrections invade, they don’t send their brightest and best to scale the walls erected to protect the status quo. The barbarians leading the invasion are brash and brutish. The walls of our status quo are crumbling around us.

René Descartes died 370 years ago this week. The intellectual movement he helped to start is dying now. I’ve written before that the Enlightenment Era gave us most of what we know, but that system is now losing touch with world around us.

I’ve written less (for reasons that will soon be apparent) about what epoch will replace the Enlightenment and who is leading us into it.

How will humans organize their behaviors and aspirations in this new era? When epochs shift, those who excelled at the old system recognize the new system slowly. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” noted another epoch-shifter from two millennia ago.

I don’t know where we’re headed, but I know who does. President Donald J. Trump has demonstrated a savant-like ability to tear down the structures that have kept Western civilization safe and contained for centuries. We can debate whether he has the makings of a leader. There’s no disputing that he leads.

He leads by emoting. Whether it’s a 75-minute stemwinder speech or a brief pre-dawn tweet, he engages his followers. Emancipated from all things conventional or wise, he reels off whatever riles him (and them) — at a feverish pitch and a ferocious pace.

His detractors can’t keep up and his supporters love it. They say a lie can be halfway around the world before truth has laced its shoes. Who has ever demonstrated this better than Donald Trump?

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker counts 16,241 false or misleading claims so far in Trump’s presidency. Does Trump care? Not at all. Do his followers? Nope. Most importantly, do most voting Americans care? Not as much as you might think.

Trump dismisses these judgements as “fake news.” He dares the system to attack him, knowing it will only somehow make him stronger. He debunks facts that can be verified, and then claims to know what cannot be known. (How exactly does he know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not, in fact, pray for him?)

He knows what he feels and he feels what he knows. Truth barely enters the picture. Truth no longer matters. Descartes’ epoch is ending. Trump’s epoch has begun.

Liberal firebrand Bill Maher this week asked Steve Bannon why he continues to support Trump. Bannon’s answer was quick and profound: “He’s a transformative figure.” Maher, caught up short, replied: “Well, I agree with that.” Transformative, indeed.

Trump is a bully and a buffoon, but he’s gotten our attention. He marks not a desirable destination, but a deserving direction.

A new system to organize human behaviors and aspirations will emerge. It will incorporate the measurable forms of knowledge we’ve been honing since 1650, but it will add intuition, emotional intelligence and empathy.

Humans are not machines. Facts alone cannot tell the truth. We know more than we think — sometimes even the unknowable.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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