A(n) honorific act is in the last analysis little if anything else than a recognized successful act of aggression; and where aggression means conflict with men and beasts, the activity which comes to be especially and primarily honorable is the assertion of the strong hand.
Donald Trump might well be a character who swaggers out of the pages of Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class or Absentee Ownership. But here's the rub. For Veblen, the swagger explains Trump at least as much as Trump explains the swagger. The man, Donald J. Trump, is unquestionably unique, his persona very much his own. Though the scion of a wealthy family, Trump ascended far beyond his ancestral rank. Some of that success surely reflects a privileged start. But to be fair, it also reflects Trump's own extraordinarily determined and calculated personal assault on the highest towers of American eminence, an assault whose consistently brazen indifference to institutional expectations was meant to assure him the notice, respect and fear of rivals and underlings as well as the attention of alluring women. In short, inheritance is important. But it explains only part of Trump's ascension. Features of his distinctive personality and behavior, some of which he inherited too, also matter a lot. They not only express his intrusively bombastic character. They also help explain his aggressively subversive and transgressive streak, his habit of sneering at and often thrashing the expectations and inhibitions of the institutions and audiences whose approval he seeks: rival developers, local politicians, the media and its swirl of celebrities, professional sports owners, investment bankers, a massive audience for his television show and of course, finally, the American voter.
Trump has always understood the art of making himself known. The essence of his craft has been an unrefined penchant for showmanship and display. But Trump's talent for exhibitionism has a distinctive political edge. He harbors an unusually sharp, almost instinctive sense of the vulnerabilities in whatever institutional terrain he aims to conquer and exploit. Trump sees himself, and often describes himself, in fact, as a warrior bent on conquest, a swordsman thrusting toward ascendancy, interminably engaged in one ruthless competition after another, always with the wiliest, most treacherous adversaries. In such battles to the death, rigid adherence to rules is suicidal. It can be a lifethreatening disability. Only fools and suckers accept rules when the stakes run high.