The National Interest: Good Genes
New York magazine|October 12-25, 2020
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The National Interest: Good Genes
The president’s lifelong obsession with his superior DNA is put to the test.
By Jonathan Chait

LAST MONTH, appearing at a rally in Minnesota, President Trump praised the superior genetic stock of his supporters in the state. “You have good genes, you know that, right?” Trump observed. “You have good genes. A lot of it’s about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

The comment received some attention as fresh evidence of a decadeslong streak of racism, which it certainly is. (There is obviously a reason the lineage of the heavily Nordic state drew his attention.) But Trump’s observations on genetics are not only an expression of racism. It is also one of his deepest obsessions and the explanation for the bizarre passivity that has characterized his response to the coronavirus pandemic from the outset and that has led him to his likely political, if not corporeal, demise.

The classic American millionaire myth, from Carnegie to Warren Buffett, has an origin story, employing at least elements of truth, built on hard work. The hero rose at dawn and sweated and strove on his rise to greatness. And yet, despite having spent decades carefully polishing his place in the lineage of aspirational wealth, Trump has few well-known stories of pounding the pavement or poring over real-estate listings. “It’s instincts, not marketing studies,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal, the original manifesto of his personality cult.


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October 12-25, 2020