Trump's promise

He knows how it feels to be scorned and laughed at. Now it's time for vengeance.

Donald Trump has only consistently believed in a few things.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Throughout his life, Donald Trump has been disrespected. The son of a real estate developer who built cheap rental housing in Brooklyn and Queens, Trump was sneered at when he crossed the East River to make his name in Manhattan by building glitzy hotels and condominiums. Even after he had success, sophisticates dismissed him as a "short-fingered vulgarian" and headline-hungry tabloid whore, and the derisive laughter rang in his ears when Trump Airlines and his garish Atlantic City casinos went bust. Nobody took him seriously when he repeatedly mused out loud over the past 30 years that the country was poorly led by weak men, and that his toughness and negotiating skills were just what America needed in a president.

In a compelling profile in BuzzFeed this week, political writer McKay Coppins argues that it was the disdain of the elites, intellectuals, and insiders that drove Trump to make this improbable run. President Obama may have delivered the pivotal insult at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2011, when he got revenge for Trump's "birther" campaign by ridiculing him as a conspiracy theorist and reality TV buffoon, as 2,500 insiders roared with laughter. "Trump just sat there," Coppins says, "stone-faced, stunned, simmering — Carrie at the prom covered in pig's blood." It's sometimes said that Trump has no core political views, no grasp of policy, no position that he won't reverse 15 minutes later; he's changed party registration at least seven times. But as both Coppins and Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio have concluded, there is a central driving force in Trump's life and his presidential campaign: shame. He intuitively grasps and channels the rage and resentment that millions of Americans feel about being shut out and left behind, and offers them his hunger for revenge. That is the platform on which he is running: You think you're better than us? We'll show you.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.