Donald Trump Played Me. Here’s How

Donald Trump played me this election cycle. Photo shows the cover of Donald Trump book, "Think Big and Kick Ass."

Donald Trump played me this election cycle. He’s thinking bigger than ever.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Donald Trump played me. He got exactly what he wanted from me this election season. And what he wanted, deep down, was not my vote. What he wanted was my attention. And he got it in the form of my glued-to-the-TV fascination with this 2016 version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon — Donald being the creature and the lagoon being the current state of the American psyche.

He got it. He got my attention and the attention of everyone else on the planet with access to a smart phone.

A Vote for Trump?

I wouldn’t dream of voting for Donald Trump. Yet he has absconded with something nearly as valuable — my time and mental energy. For months now, Trump has inhabited the front of my brain. His antics have been plastered to the inside of my forehead.

Donald Trump played me this election cycle. To wit: this clip from video of NBC News report on Donald Trump's statement to Chris Matthews that if abortion is made illegal a woman should be punished for having one. NBC News Video

Trump played me when he told NBC’s Chris Matthews a woman should be punished for having an abortion if it’s illegal. NBC News Video

I wake up in the morning wondering, “What the heck is The Donald going to do today?” My thoughts turn to Trump, not fondly, of course, but with a hefty frisson of anticipation. How will the Republican nominee for president raise my hackles today? How will he once again make me feel oh-so-superior to this venal lummox with the fake suntan whose name glitters on edifices from Las Vegas to Pennsylvania Avenue?

In June Trump claimed the U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over Trump University litigation because Curiel was “of Mexican heritage.” In July Trump insulted the family of Humayun Khan, an American Muslim soldier who died in combat in Iraq. In September he was overheard boasting on an “Access Hollywood” videotape of grabbing women’s crotches and popping lifesavers before imposing pouty-mouthed kisses on unsuspecting subordinates.

He’s Upped His Game

This past week, however, my fascination has turned to horror. Why? Because Trump has upped the ante. He’s playing an even more dangerous game. It’s one that seeks to undercut Americans’ (and the world’s?) faith in American representative government by suggesting that American elections are rigged.

So, right now I’m doing a little double take. What’s happening? What is it about Trump — but also about me — that causes me to lavish so much of my attention, my chi, on a flimflam man? A showman who has turned an American presidential election season into a bawdy, reckless, long-running, grade-B narrative about — himself?

Trump played me. How did he pull that off? Clearly, something in me has gotten hooked in by Donald Trump. A button has been pushed.

What’s the button?

I don’t think Donald Trump is very smart. His vocabulary is minimal, his attention span even more so. As the first presidential debate with Hilary Clinton approached, Trump’s team couldn’t get him to focus long enough to prep for the debate, with ludicrous results for the candidate.

How Trump Played Me

But I do think he’s shrewd. He knows how to get and hold people’s attention. He holds the attention of his supporters by playing on their outrage at being left out of the national conversation. He holds the attention of knee-jerk moderates like me by locating and tweaking my — usually quiescent — capacity for outrage.

What outrages me?

People who don’t play fair, that’s who. People who violate other people’s trust. And this election cycle, I thinking of one person in particular. It’s a man whose monumental disregard for fair play — for respectful give-and-take between competing interests and points of view — runs the risk of dismantling a fragile institution. And that would be the United States of America, which has survived for 240 years thanks largely to simple, human trust.

On a Lincoln penny you can read the words, “In God We Trust.”

But, imo, trust in God is not what makes American successful. What makes America great is our 240-year-old ability to trust our fellow citizens, fallible as we and they clearly are.

Cover of the book "Trump's America: The Complete Loser's Guide," by Scott Dikkers.

Scott Dikkers had some fun taking jabs at Trump’s obsession with losers and losing in his satirical book “Trump’s America.”

Over the years, Trump has refused to pay countless suppliers and business associates. He has reneged on deals, violating his colleagues’ trust. He admits to sexually assaulting numerous women and getting away with it — betraying women’s trust.

In other words, Donald Trump does not believe in that most basic premise of civilization — trust. And, somewhere in that not-very-bright brain of his, he has glommed onto something essential: He has figured out how to mess with the fragile web of mutual trust that holds societies together. What’s more, he’s figured out that messing with that trust gets him the one thing he wants more than anything (including the presidency?) and that is — attention. Lots of it.

Are We a Nation of Losers?

Trump’s assaults on trust scare the heck out of people like me, people whose world view is predicated on mutual respect. We are people, I’ve noticed, whom Trump often writes off as losers.

So — is that the button that Trump has been pushing all these months? Has he been pushing my “Am I a Loser?” button? Am I a loser?

And if Trump is the Creature from the Black Lagoon, what and where is that lagoon?

I think it’s a place where people have decided not to trust each other.

Here’s a post I wrote when I still thought Trump was laughable: “Jesus Was a Loser. Does That Make Trump a Winner?” Here’s one from when I thought everybody could see how inept Trump was: “Donald Trump Outs the Elephant in the Pro-Life Room.” And, finally, here’s my Donald-Trump-Meets-Pope-Francis post — which gives me hope that humanity has not totally lost its mind.

Donald Trump played me. Is he the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Image courtesy of Gred Willis.

Is Donald Trump the Creature from the Black Lagoon? If so, where’s the lagoon? Image courtesy of Greg Willis.



  1. John Luce says:

    A wonderful analysis. Fortunately, you’re not a loser, but Trump will be shown to be one today.


  2. Mary Ellen Butler says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. For too long, the media we have all been proud to be a part of during earlier years simply repeated the insults and lies that Trump spewed forth day after day and continued to do so right up until today. Only recently have the media begun to correct the falsehoods he spits out at every turn. Make no mistake, this man is a dangerous sociopath. Just like dictators whose names I need not list, who were voted into office by Western societies during the 20th Century, Trump has a talent for talking down to the lowest common denominator. Let us all pray that he is stopped cold tomorrow and sent back to private life never to be heard from again.

  3. Very insightful.

  4. Ann (Millington) Palmer says:

    Very well said. I, too, have spent way too many hours watching the show. I’m exhausted by the whole thing. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

  5. Well done. You’ve captured what many have been [thinking.].

  6. Gayle Montgomery says:

    Well said, Barbara. You touched the chord of reality.

  7. Ann Teixeira says:

    Yes — his mode has been disruptive and fascinating and terrifying — and thus captivated us. Scary that could happen.

  8. Philip Cohen says:

    Hopefully, Drumpf, will now have been well and truly exposed as the crass huckster that anyone of any intelligence has always recognised him to be; would it now be too much to hope that, having this time flown too close to the sun, his wings will melt and he and his “Trump” brand will crash and burn, and he and his creepy family will finally slink off to the Cayman Islands, never to be seen or heard of again?—Surely, we are entitled to hope.

  9. An excellent series, Barbara.

  10. Rich Wells says:

    Wonderfully put! It rings true to me…. , remember “The Music Man” and Professor Howard Hill . 1962 ?

  11. linda Foust says:

    You nailed it, Barbara


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