I do not believe that Donald Trump really wants to be president.
In fact, behind all that arrogance and bravado, Trump is incredibly insecure and knows he’s not prepared for the job. Nobody who talks so excessively about how rich, smart and lovable he is really believes it. I doubt Trump is very self-reflective, but even he knows he’s way over his head, and he’s more surprised than anyone that he’s doing so well among Republican voters in the polls.
Trump jumped into the race as a lark, to feed his ego, and his campaign took off far beyond his own expectations. He’s milking it now, because he loves the attention, but he’s also scared shitless that he might actually win the GOP nomination. At that point, his ignorance will be even more exposed than it is now. He won’t be able to improvise his policy ideas on a day-by-day basis. And if it gets to the point where he has to debate Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, he will collapse. Even more than now, he’ll become a laughing stock.
Trump doesn’t have the patience, temperament, self-discipline or interest in policy issues that it takes to be president, and, deep inside, he knows it.
Some might say that George W. Bush had many of the same qualities, except that he grew up as the son of a politician, diplomat, and president, and had been a governor before running for president.
Trump goes to sleep at night both excited about the next day’s media attention and worried that he might actually win, but unsure how to get out of the bind he now finds himself in.
Fortunately for America, he can’t win the presidency, because his appeal is much too narrow. He’s doing OK among conservative Republican primary voters, but he can’t beat Clinton, Sanders or Biden in a general election, where his ignorance and arrogance will alienate moderate voters.
Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books).