Considering that Donald Trump, besides being pathologically thin-skinned (junior high school kids are less insecure than this man), is notorious for sending out impulsive and wildly incendiary messages on Twitter, it is surprising he hasn’t devoted a few moments late at night (when he hunkers down to compose his juvenile Tweets) to lob some insults at America’s labor unions.
Even given that New York has the highest union density of any state in the union, and that Trump, having grown up in New York and made his fortune, at least peripherally, in the heavily organized construction trades, the fact that he has more or less steered clear of unions still seems odd.
After all, isn’t organized labor supposed to be the bane of the Republican Party? Isn’t Big Labor universally recognized as a leading contributor—not only historically but currently—to Democratic candidates nationwide? And isn’t Trump constantly on the warpath?
Consider: America’s unions are reported to have donated a whopping $400 million to the Democrats in 2008. Indeed, it’s been suggested that without organized labor’s open checkbook, Barack Obama would not have beaten out Hillary Clinton in the ’08 primary.
But on closer inspection, when organized labor is placed in a non-political, non-historical, non-ideological context, Trump’s failure to demonize America’s unions not only makes utter sense, it reeks of fear of unfulfilled masculinity. It reeks of schoolyard machismo. It reeks of a man-child’s dream of becoming a “real man.”
According to some ex-union guys I personally know—guys who dealt with union officers in the New York construction trades back when Donald Trump was merely an aggressive, self-promoting NYC real estate tycoon on the make (before he launched his reality TV show)—the reason Trump has gone easy on the unions stems from a deep-seated sense of envy. Granted, this sounds preposterous, but there’s a case to be made.
Donald Trump—he of the silver spoon, the inherited wealth, the prep schools, the prissy nannies—has always had an abiding respect, if not a gushing admiration, for those rough-and-tumble self-made men (“real men”) who rose to become powerful union “bosses.” Not the rank-and-file, mind you, because this has nothing to do with union workers, not even the well-paid ones. What we’re talking about here are the bosses—the men who run the whole show.
And for Trump, this hero-worship is particularly true when the “bosses” in question are so tough, so powerful, so autocratic, and, yes, so “Putinesque,” as to resemble what a common citizen might consider “thugs.” Which, if we are to believe even a fraction of what we have read about the labor history of New York, clearly applies to the construction trades—Trump’s milieu.
At the risk of indulging in a bit of amateur psychology, one could argue that Trump’s admiration for these big-time labor union honchos (as well as his bizarre admiration for strongmen like Kim Jung-Un) derives from a lack of the basic self-esteem and self-worth that, typically, allows men to be comfortable in their own skin. To be comfortable with their own level of masculinity.
In short, because Trump is, basically, a privileged rich boy punk, still striving, yet still “untested” in the only arena that really matters. he is cursed with what he himself recognizes as a “lack of a masculine core.”
As corny as it sounds, to Trump, these union thugs—self-made men who, with a combination of balls and street smarts, managed to claw their way to the top—represent an idealized, and so perversely skewed as to be almost cartoonish, level of manhood. And, with apologies to Sigmund Freud, that is the psychology underlying his unwillingness to attack big-time labor.