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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Cookie Question: How Voters See Through Feigned Humility

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Vice President Kamala Harris delivered cookies made humbly in her image to reporters on Air Force 2 over the weekend. On a flight to Guatemala, Harris brought the sweets to the back of the plane on Sunday, according to a report from USA Today White House correspondent Courtney Subramanian.

Subramanian accompanied her dispatch with a picture of the cookies, which style Harris as a sort of cheerful dementor, faceless but elegant. As symbolism, it’s almost poignant.

@vp made an OTR visit to the back of the plane and delivered cookies decorated with the shape of her likeness as well as AF2. pic.twitter.com/TQrUR47Vgc

— Courtney Subramanian (@cmsub) June 7, 2021

This gesture warrants little consideration other than as evidence of what the political establishment never understood about Donald Trump.

Handing out cookies of yourself is a very Trumpian move. The key distinction, however, is that Trump would do it with zero pretense of humility. He would be in on the joke.

When Harris does it, she’s just a humble public servant casually distributing cookies of herself to hungry reporters. But, of course, no humble public servant would go anywhere near these celebrations of self, let alone in a way that could be reported to the public. (How embarrassing would that be?)

Why is this point worth making? Part of Trump’s appeal to voters was his total disregard for the staid Washington tradition of feigning humility. If you think you’re really, really great and want to see your likeness on a cookie, just say it. If you’re a narcissist who walks around pretending your motives are purely altruistic, you become an avatar for the self-interested ruling class, that uses superficial altruism to divert attention from its corruption and feed its own desire for acclaim.

Trump’s narcissism leads him down some dangerous paths, but it’s at least honest. For Harris, the pretense probably does more harm than good at this point, as the country embarks on the work of rebuilding after a pandemic, a recession, and historic racial strife. She’s not even talented enough to read the room.

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