Good news (sort of)!  There will be something for everyone to like in the Trump presidency, decisions that comport with your own particular political disposition or interests.  Bad news: there will also be many things to dislike, and many more things—perhaps greatest in number—that will be just plain mystifying.  President Trump promises to be a one man wrecking ball who will dramatically expand the effects contemplated in Edward Lorenz’ chaos theory. (Butterflies beware!)  How can this be?  Why?  The answer resides in Trump’s cognetic profile[1] that is, by my assessment, completely devoid of a value system that assures coherent decision-making.

From weird, to weirder, to weirdest, off we go!  As columnist Gerald Seib suggested in his recent Wall Street Journal column,

It’s nearly impossible to identify a clear ideological bent in the incoming president’s early moves … the definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative, are being scrambled right before our eyes.[2]

Similarly, Christopher Buckley was asked to explain whether or not his father, the late William F. Buckley, would have considered Trump a conservative.  The son demurred, observing that

it’s difficult to discern any identifiable ideology, philosophy, or politics behind his curtain; instead, only an insistent, clamant narcissism that one hopes will come to an inflection point and re-purpose itself in the service of those who have installed him at the center of our democracy.[3]

Yes, “one hopes,” but my expectations follow a different maxim: take him at his word and plan accordingly.

So what are values and why are they important?  Values are the principles we embrace that are essentially our interpretations of concepts, norms, and ideas that allow us to simplify the world and make decisions.  In my development of cognetics, they act like a box of filters and impellers that sort out the myriad of variables we must consider to make decisions; some information is blocked while other information is sent forward for further consideration.  I further argue that without this set of values that allow us to reconcile dissonance in our world—too simplify it and make decisions—we would go insane.  It is unlikely Trump is insane (at least not in the clinical sense), but his many inconsistent incoherent statements and behaviors are precursors of insanity.  He is definitely on the spectrum, somewhere right of delusion and left of insanity.  The inherent pressure of the presidency—the volume and velocity of decision-making—will most certainly exacerbate this condition, pushing him further toward insanity and potentially even physical, emotional, and psychological collapse.

To be fair, many, including Trump himself, have suggested that he has clear values.  Suggestions include values like winning, money, his children, and especially himself.  However, these are not values.  Winning is an outcome, money is a means, and the others are, well, people.  They are not values; they are not durable interpretations that provide fundamental beliefs and convictions that predict future behaviors and decisions, which is why Trump can be confounding and appear reckless.  None of which is particularly concerning in his role as real estate developer and reality TV star, but when combined with the power of the presidency disaster is a near certainty.

Presently, Trump is best described as a conundrum.  Many have already recognized his recent decisions are a product of whom he spoke with last.  This presents problems in domestic affairs, but the most dangerous effects are in foreign affairs since other world leaders must (nearly always) consider what the United States, the world’s lone superpower, will do on an array of issues.  Trump’s value-free presidency increases risk in foreign affairs exponentially.  He has already declared his foreign policy will be “unpredictable starting now.”[4]  Misinterpreting what one state or another may do in an anarchic international system is profoundly dangerous, as we saw in the outbreak of violence that escalated into World War I.

Recently, Trump decided it was best to blow up our forty year-old “One China” policy by engaging directly with Taiwan.  Although as an isolated issue this may not appear to be dangerous (his supporters view it as enlightened and powerful), policies like One China comprise the foundation of stability in a unipolar, one-superpower, world.  Trump may never launch a weapon first, and his bluster may be confined by other realities, but other world leaders may act first, and violently, in anticipation of what he promises to be “unpredictable” behavior.

Sugar-free and gluten-free may be good for you, but buckle up, value-free is going to be one hell of a ride.

[1] See my explanation of cognetics in William Steding, Presidential Faith and Foreign Policy:  Jimmy Carter the Disciple and Ronald Reagan the Alchemist (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p.3.
[2] Gerald F. Seib, “Trump Shuffles the Ideological Deck” in “Capital Journal” section,, 5 December 2016.
[3] Christopher Buckley, “What Would William F. Buckley Have Made of Donald Trump?,” Vanity Fair, 5 December 2016.
[4] See, Nick Wadhams, “Trump’s ‘Unpredictable Starting Now’ Foreign Policy,” Bloomberg, 5 December 2016.