Donald Trump’s handshake: never has such a strong grip looked so weak

I wrote this for The Guardian on Donald Trump, his handshake, and the production of fear.

Why can’t Donald Trump just shake hands like a regular person? Instead of the simple clutch of palms that humans have used for ages to demonstrate friendship, Trump jerks and pulls hard on people’s arms, almost knocking them off balance.

His handshake with Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s own nominee for the supreme court, went this way. And it’s a good thing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was already seated when they greeted each other for the cameras.

I have no idea how large Trump’s hands really are, but his handshakes are small, hyper-masculine demonstrations of strength, as if he’s afraid even of the decorum of equality that a handshake brings. With this bizarre behavior, Trump turns basic social etiquette into a weird exercise of authority, giving us one lens through which we can see this president’s style of leadership.

Every president has a leadership style. Jimmy Carter’s style was a folksy friendly, prez-in-a-sweater kind of thing. Ronald Reagan may have been a dyed-in-the-wool cold warrior, but he was always so damn cheery about it. Bill Clinton was constantly trying to seduce people to his policies – and maybe other things. George H W Bush brilliantly mastered having no style whatsoever, while his son had all the swagger and intelligence of a cowboy hat. Barack Obama was, of course, Professor Cool.

And Donald Trump? His clumsy leadership style seems oriented around the goal of convincing us that the United States is on the brink of every kind of collapse imaginable – except for climate change, which obviously is a “hoax”.

Trump wants us to think that if the Muslims don’t kill us then the refugees clearly will. In Trump’s world, a wall separating us from Mexico is needed to save civilization. Our cities are burning up from the inside out, and crime has already swallowed up the once great metropolis of Chicago. Immigrants are deportable criminals unless they can prove otherwise. And then there’s Nordstrom. So much American carnage everywhere you look. Be very afraid.

Read the rest here.

Leave a Reply