May 5, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Genetic Superiority Means No Apologies

Trump will believe he's good even after 3,000 Americans die every day.

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The president was asked last week for his thoughts on recently released documents showing how the FBI investigated Michael Flynn, his former advisor. In 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the Mueller inquiry into Russia’s 2016 cyber-attack. Flynn now wants to change his plea. His sentencing is currently and indefinitely postponed.

Donald Trump’s answer signaled a willingness to pardon Flynn, but it suggested more than that. In just a few words, his answer captured his ideology as well as the way in which he has led a country now facing the likelihood, per an internal administration report, of 3,000 daily deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“You don’t get to be where he is by being bad, I can tell you that,” Trump said.

Donald Trump’s worldview is in keeping with despots in world history who wrongly believed they were infallible.

Allow me to translate.

Success in life isn’t a matter of talent, education, labor and pluck. It’s a matter of character. More specifically, genetics. If you’re successful, as Trump believes Flynn is, your genes put you beyond the strictures of accepted morality. Right and wrong are for ordinary people, who are ordinary because they were born with ordinary genes. No amount of preparation and effort is going to improve their lot. It’s comical to even try.

You, however, were born with good genes. You are, therefore, good. The evidence of your goodness is your success. This is true even if your conduct is bad, because bad conduct is good when a good person does it. Because bad conduct is good when good person does it, attempts to hold a good person accountable for bad conduct violate his rights and liberties—a grave injustice that’s deserving of a presidential pardon.

This worldview is why Trump didn’t think he was doing anything wrong when he betrayed the United States by seeking foreign sabotage of the next election. The president is a good person in his mind. (His history of praising his DNA, and others’, is long and well-documented.) Treason, which is what the impeachment trial was about, would have been bad for a bad person born with bad genes. For a good person born with good genes, however, treason is good. So efforts to hold Trump constitutionally accountable were, by turns, “a hoax,” “a witch hunt” or “presidential harassment.”

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This worldview is in keeping with despots in world history who wrongly believed they were infallible by dint of being who they are. Truth and morality were not afforded deference, because affording them deference meant submitting to their authority, which would violate the tyrant’s rights and liberties. Trump’s worldview is in keeping with eugenics, social Darwinism, fascism, white supremacy, Christian nationalism—any political thought privileging the in-group for reasons made out of whole cloth, any rightwing movement rationalizing the out-group’s pain, suffering and even murder.

The pandemic has now killed nearly 70,000 people in this country. An internal Trump administration report, revealed by the Times Monday, anticipates as many as 3,000 deaths per day by early June. Some 30 million people are officially jobless. Half the states are easing restrictions, but even as they do so, a huge majority of Americans believes governors are “reopening” too quickly. That suggests a depth of doubt, or outright distrust, that no amount of Republican propaganda is going to improve.

The US economy is not going to “snap back,” as the White House has claimed. Some Republican governors are going to try forcing employees back to work in an effort to save their own skins, but that gambit can’t succeed nationally. Too many people have died. Too many people are going to die. Trust in the president now flows in a trickle.

Everyone but GOP confederates knows the president did not do enough early enough when action mattered most.

All things being equal, the economy may not return for a long time. Medical experts warn against hoping for a miracle. We probably won’t see a viable vaccine for two years. You may as well write off 2020 and 2021. Society was not designed for “social distancing” and economic collapse is likely to arrive before it’s redesigned for it. (The LA Times reported this morning the coronavirus has already mutated for the worse.)

Everyone but GOP confederates knows the president did not do enough earlier enough when national executive action would have mattered most. Trump did not do enough earlier enough, because he did not want the pandemic to be a problem, and because Trump did not want the pandemic to be a problem, it wasn’t—until it was, undeniably.

Trump’s unshakable faith in his genetic superiority means never making a mistake, never apologizing and never being accountable for anything to anyone. The death toll will continue to mount. Unemployment will continue to rise. Meanwhile, Trump will continue to believe he’s good, and because he’d good, he did nothing wrong, and because he did nothing wrong, the majority is being so unfair when it blames him.

It’s enough to make a president pardon himself.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Bennett on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Actually, John, what you described is Nietzche’s system of morality for nobility in The Genealogy of Morals. Note, it’s not as simple as supermen (or ubermensch vs. untermensch). It’s a bit more sophisticated than that. But it follows the lines you outlined. And, oh, yes, it too had that naive eugenized Darwinism underwriting the whole, largely farcical and large pseudo-historical, premise.

  2. Wil_E_Quixote on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    What your describing, John, isn’t “genetic superiority.” Sure, Trump’s a racist, but he’s mostly a Trumpist. What you’re really describing is Malignant Narcissism. If he really thought he had the best genes ever, he’d put ALL his idiot family in charge of stuff, not just the ones who are best at kissing his ass.

  3. Steven Odinot on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Unfortunately Donald’s stellar belief in self, even now, will stand in the way of assembling a team of renown economists to plot a way forward and avoid economic armageddon. More likely the world will see policy developed on the hoof at the Mar-a-lago buffet bar assisted by Jared Kushners classmates. The immediate focus is of course on managing the virus but there is not enough scrutiny being applied to what happens next. Donald’s monumental overconfidence in his abilities guarantees a disastrous economic response to follow. Imagine if FDR, a true “wartime president” had instead been Donald Trump. The current situation calls for an FDR, Donald is no FDR, he is temperamentally and intellectually unfit to handle a crisis. So the question to be posed in November is whether America believes Donald is a safe pair of hands to minimise to economic crisis to follow. To your point John, Donald’s self perceived supriority means he could not even privately acknowledge his failings and stand down. America must make the choice for him.

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