Trump. He doesn’t just use an-in-your face, combative style that immediately takes people aback, but he regularly operates under the rule of behavior known officially as Opposite Day.
Only in Trump’s case, most days are Opposite Day.
Opposite Day is a slang term that came into use based on an episode of the TV show “Seinfeld.” In this particular episode, George Costanza had the huge realization that all of his straightforward gambits always ended in failure. So, he decided to act exactly the opposite from the manner in which all his instincts informed him he should operate. And though it defied all his expectations (and that of the audience) since his new behaviors seemed outrageous and insane, on the day when he purposefully did the opposite, all his gambits succeeded. So, the term was born: Opposite Day, meaning acting exactly the opposite way from that in which you commonly operate, acting against your common, instinctual norms and yet meeting with success. Oddly enough, in the show, George never followed up with this success—the next episode he had reverted to form—back to entertain the audience with his comic failures.
With Trump, his behavior that seems outrageous and anti-normative to many in the public, is simply the way he operates in public most days of his life. For one reason or another, whether he always had this kind of opposite wiring, or whether he taught himself to behave this way in business until it became second nature, this has now become his instinctual wiring. And from his perspective, one huge benefit to him is that it knocks his opponents off their game. They freeze up and fail to counterpunch as effectively. Think back, for a moment, to the Republican primary debates. Establishment darling Jeb Bush was simply unable to deliver a return blow once Trump referred to him as low-energy Jeb. This insult alone made Jeb freeze. It knocked him completely off his game. Similarly, on another occasion, when Marco Rubio tried to turn Trump-like aggressive wording and methods against Trump at a primary debate, it became the deathblow of his campaign. Rubio later apologized to his supporters for his behavior.
And yet Trump gets away with it. Perhaps this is because Trump’s supporters understand it is an essential part of his style, which is not aesthetic, but does produce wins. Trump supporters have learned to have patience because these actions often pay off. Unlike George Costanza, he keeps acting this way.
And that is one reason Trump keeps getting upset wins. That is, wins that upset conventional thinking. His wins upset for another reason as well. That is because they upset conventional norms as well. He’s messy; he says what is on his mind, even when not every point has been confirmed. Sometimes he doubles back on what he said previously without admitting the contradiction, in part, because he believes that admitting the contradiction makes him look weak.
Now, look at Russia. A regular politician under suspicion of collusion, however histrionic and absurd, would be careful to make sure that every move he made was under that of a publicly trustworthy watchdog. Trump does the opposite and insists on meeting alone. And the truth is we don’t yet know what the outcome of that meeting is, except that Trump used it as the basis to invite Putin to the White House. Whether new negotiating ground was broken during this meeting or not, only Trump, Putin, their translators and close advisors have any clue at all. It is a waiting game for the public to see if this gambit, like so many of his others, pays off or whether it goes against him. Trump is a risk taker, a necessary behavior in business success. That we know for sure. It is, perhaps, a less comfortable position for the public.
We also know that Trump’s refusal to behave according to accepted norms that the press expects upsets them and daily knocks them off their game—at least the ones who refuse to learn from it. They are not doing a better job for this. In fact, their reporting often looks hysterical and paranoid as they fall into the trap of allowing Trump to position them as his adversary. And they don’t realize that their over-the-top rhetoric positioning Trump and all his supporters as clueless and themselves as right-thinking elite thinkers gives their game away, over and over.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, is a Writer and Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who lives in North Salem. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.