How to handle the ‘Oops’ in Mr. Trump’s Triumph

I’ve received a lot of “Oops!” dispatches lately.

For a few weeks after Mr. Trump’s triumph, that’s pretty much all more than a few of my colleagues could manage to say. “Oops.”

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

They were clearly not expecting this outcome in the U.S. presidential election. Once they said “Oops,” they more or less went silent. In reply, I tried humor. Irony, too. Even history. (“Remember what happened when Alexander the Great overran his supply lines!”) Sometimes, I got no reply at all. Or I received empty words when a humorous retort to my humorous effort would have been a friend’s reasonable response to a friend’s reaching out.

So, okay,

Mr. Trump’s election is unbelievable. Mr. Trump is unbelievable! What’s a dolphinthinker to do?

Five thoughts about dealing with all the “Oops!”:

(1) Be eternally Socratic in discussing the president-elect with people who admire him. Remember that the jowly faced Greek’s “elenchus” method of disagreeing with people was a form of “cooperative argumentative dialogue” (as Wikipedia puts it). In the days and weeks ahead, don’t waste an ounce of your brain power goaded on by something Mr. Trump says or does. Or something that someone says he said or has done or plans to do. Always be thinking: “What would Socrates think or say next?” Do this even when you are talking only to yourself.

(2) Assume you know as much as anyone else about what’s happening. “The experts” didn’t see this (whatever it is) coming. So they should be considered equally clueless about where it (whatever it turns out to be) is going.

(3) Use all your abilities to (a) discard what’s spurious and (b) adjudge what’s likely to be real. For my money, these are the truest things I’ve learned so far about Mr. Trump’s personality: First, something he himself said: “I’m smart.” (I think he really does have a solid IQ.) And then this observation from wife Melania: “I have two boys at home.” Yes, the soon-to-be leader of the free world is best understood as a shrewd adolescent. That explains a lot, doesn’t it?

(4) Understand why political explanations of his behavior have often fallen so short. Because he’s not a politician. He’s a businessman. An unmitigated capitalist. It has been suggested that he wants to take us back to the 1980s. That’s wrong. He wants to take us back to the 1920s. We need to remember how that ended.

(5) Don’t expect wisdom from our soon-to-be president that he can’t conjure. He can learn quickly on the job, yes. Do the right thing? It’s going to happen from time to time. Make America work for the better? In some aspects, it likely will. But don’t ever mistake Mr. Trump’s propensity for doing things differently for emerging dolphin thinking and behavior. Before he could begin “doing the next right, smart thing, come hell or high water,” he’d have to develop mastery and understanding of two thoroughly “sacrificial” worldviews that lie beyond the “expressive” ones he’s used throughout his adult life.

At age 70, from the 66th floor, with a bank balance at least in the many millions, with an ego indivisible by only one and with a near-zero capacity for the Socratic “elenchus” method of disagreeing, it ain’t going to happen. So we need to get used to more “Oops!” than usual. We’ve done it before. And we can get through it.

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