Trump tried to act like a mob boss. Instead he's just a thug.

He's no Don Corleone

President Trump.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

Throughout the final, tortured moments of the 2020 presidential campaign, Donald Trump took to referring to his rival, Joe Biden, as the head of "the Biden crime family." But as psychologist Mary L. Trump, the soon-to-be-erstwhile commander-in-chief's niece, and author of Too Much and Never Enough, has suggested, some of Trump's statements are, in fact, projections of his own behavior. Indeed, Trump's alpha male posturing and affected bravado — which he used to foment a personal brand of being a savvy businessman and a mover-and-shaker blessed with raw cunning — is bound up in the mythos of the mobster as portrayed in pop culture, film, and TV. However, the realities that seep through that mythos, like blood on carpet, demonstrate why Trump is leaving the White House at a record low in approval. Trump may have tried to affect the steely suaveness of the hyper-competent crime boss, but he failed because, in fact, he's a blundering thug.

The grand figure of the gangster mythos is Marlon Brando's tuxedoed Vito Corleone, brows furrowed with the pain of being such an intense strategic and tactical genius, speaking with an eloquent pathos about loyalty. His famous-to-the-point-of-parody offer to get what he wants by making his rival "an offer he can't refuse" has its sleazier echo in Trump's self-described "perfect" phone calls to Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, asking him to "do me a favor, though" by launching a fake investigation into Joe Biden, and in his post-election conversation with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, in which he said, "I only need 11,000 votes … Give me a break … Or we can keep it going, but that's not fair to the voters of Georgia because they're going to see what happened."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Laura Bogart

Laura Bogart is a featured writer for Salon and a regular contributor to DAME magazine. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, CityLab, The Guardian, SPIN, Complex, IndieWire, GOOD, and Refinery29, among other publications. Her first novel, Don't You Know That I Love You?, is forthcoming from Dzanc.