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Abnormal Psychology and the Trump VP Pick

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May 7, 2024 3:06 p.m.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 27: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 27, 2022 in Houston, Texas. The annual Natio... HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 27: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 27, 2022 in Houston, Texas. The annual National Rifle Association comes days after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas which left 19 students and 2 adults dead, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement officers. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images) MORE LESS

For whatever reason people are now back to discussing who Donald Trump will pick as his running mate. I guess it’s likely because of the ongoing Kristi Noem implosion. This is a perennial parlor game for all presidential nominees. But it is worth noting how different it is for Trump, or, more specifically, how the list of qualifications Trump requires are based on the mix of predation and insecurity that make up his personality. As with Trump himself these are so extreme as to be qualitatively different from that of any other presidential candidate ever. Indeed, he requires characteristics that are so impossible to squeeze together that they leave only the tiniest of openings for a contender to be viable.

Let’s illustrate this. To be Trump’s running mate you can’t have any dignity. It’s the most basic requirement. Whatever Trump wants, you give. Nothing is too much. But if you look closely he also doesn’t want his nominee to be pathetic. So just for instance this is one of a few reasons why no matter how much she wants it I doubt Trump picks Elise Stefanik. Too pitiful. Nails it on no dignity. But too pitiful.

As you can see that leaves a pretty narrow opening for someone to qualify. This for instance is why I don’t think Marco Rubio has any chance of being Trump’s nominee. Too pathetic. “Little Marco.” Indeed, since Rubio stopped being the future of the GOP about eight years ago he’s sort of settled into a kind of pitiful half-engaged political after-life, a sort of wraithdom-become-flesh. You’ll see him show up on social media, coming back from a workout, mouthing a bit of culture war on his iPhone, often with middling reception. The guy routinely calls it in. He’s what Trump once called “low energy.”

The fact that Rubio would need to, at least on paper, move to another state and has signaled his willingness to do so, just drives home the patheticness. My own personal hope is that Trump picks Rubio but with his fingers crossed, gets Rubio to change his residence to a new state, and then changes his mind.

JD Vance seems like someone who fits the bill better for Trump, though I’m less sure he’d help him electorally. I think normal people find JD ominous, weird. But he does better on the no dignity/pitifulness venn diagram.

The conventional wisdom is that what Trump really wants and needs is a woman to take the edge off both the abortion issue and his own long history of rapes and sexual assaults. But there’s a hitch for Trump. For Trump, you need to be out of “central casting.” And not just in the sense of being attractive in the way most successful rising politicians of both genders generally are — presentable, generally normal looking. You need to be Mar-a-Lago hot. It’s just how Trump’s mind operates. I’m not even sure you can say it’s 100% sexist since Trump seems to apply at least some level of that standard to men too. There are lots of stories about how he’s picked male appointees because in his eyes they have movie star good looks, good jawline. Stuff like that.

In any case, this is why Kristi Noem seemed like such a good bet. She’s a woman. She’s Mar-a-Lago hot. She’s got all the culture war credentials you need. She’s politically aggressive. But she’s from a small state and she didn’t have any scandal or particularly toxic law tied to her name. Barely anyone knew much about her. But now she’s basically a punchline. I doubt he picks her. Maybe the dog thing alone wouldn’t do her in. But making up a story about meeting with Kim Jong Un? Just too weird. Total punchline.

Tim Scott? Whatever the reality behind it I think the bachelor/insta-fiancé thing will feel like too big a distraction. And he’s not an attack dog. He does seem to be at the top of the betting markets now. And he does lack dignity or is at least willing to abandon his dignity. So in the absence of any other obvious picks, maybe? But the one I’d put my money on right now would be Doug Burgum. He’s the incumbent governor of North Dakota. He’s a legit business success. He seems to want it. Remember from term one, Trump is a soft touch for anyone who has actually succeeded in business. I assume Burgum’s willing to shed whatever dignity might be required to get the job. But he hasn’t been out there as a Trump acolyte long enough to seem irredeemably pitiful. So he seems most likely out of those who appear to be in the running.

Trump still clearly wants a woman. But who would it be in these criteria?

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