Analysis

Can Trump dance?

Why Americans should want a president who isn't afraid to cut a rug

When it comes to choosing a president, dancing ability typically isn't very high on a voter's list of criteria (presumably falling somewhere below "compassion and empathy" and "not going bankrupt in the casino business"). But perhaps it should be.

Dancing, after all, isn't just about dancing. It's not even about dancing well, necessarily; there are plenty of politicians who are extremely dorky dancers. But dancing requires a certain level of abandon, the ability to get out of your own head and risk making a fool of yourself. It requires a healthy sense of humor, and the ability to tap into your emotions. It requires a genuine desire to connect with others. It requires vulnerability. Those are leadership skills.

So: Can Donald Trump dance?

What is truly remarkable about this video — shot on Monday, at Trump's first campaign rally since contracting COVID-19 — is that there is a dance for this song and Trump is not doing it. Everybody knows how to dance to the YMCA. Infants can do it. Trump didn't need to reinvent the wheel here: he simply needed to make the universal gesture of spelling out Y-M-C-A with his arms. Instead, he resorts to some knee marches and fist punches, lest grooving to a song by a six-piece disco group known for their costumes does not come across as sufficiently macho.

This is not even the first time Trump has gone off-script with his YMCA dance either (I'll spare you the click: in this one, he does air drums and more of those dance fists).

Trump's inauguration dance in 2017 was likewise described as "awkward," with some wondering if it was "literally ... Trump's first dance." During what was supposed to be a romantic moment with his wife, the new president flashed a thumbs up at the crowd and clutched at Melania's pointer finger, rather than take her hand in his. It's not fair to expect every presidential couple to be as smouldering and at ease on the dance floor as the Obamas, but Trump's reluctance has bigger implications.

For one thing, it shows he is rigidly self-serious. His aversion to dancing underscores his thin skin, his inability to laugh at himself, even potentially a lack of humility (you know, that underrated quality that makes us realize scientists might know more about epidemiology than we do). Trump's default emotion is "angry," which, unless you're Kevin Bacon in Footloose, doesn't usually compel you to dance; this is not a man who is having a good time. His reluctance to look goofy also suggests an aloofness, a superiority to the people in his crowds, and a refusal to connect or relate with them physically. At its most concerning, it might even indicate Trump is totally devoid of joy, other than spite.

Young man, didn't anyone tell you the whole point is that it's fun to stay at the YMCA?

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