Newly leaked audio recordings from shortly after the presidential election show the stark difference between Donald Trump's public persona and his private personality. Surrounded by "special people," members of his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump was a polished Master of Ceremonies at a self-congratulatory dinner party for his long-time patrons. Unlike most of the recent leaks, this audio didn't reveal any huge political bombs, but it is a fascinating insight into Trump's rise to the presidency and who he is when he's amongst his own kind.
Although the recording does contain some questionable comments about his club members gaining access to potential Cabinet members, the most striking thing about the tape is Trump's behavior. The anger and populist rhetoric that served as a hallmark of Trump's campaign was notably absent in the tape, indicating that his demeanor changes significantly from group to group. It's almost shocking how different he sounds, because most of his public comments over the last two years have been loud and incendiary.
Most people engage in this type of code switching, the practice of changing linguistic habits depending on the context of the situation, at some point for some reason. Ironically, it's a very common experience among immigrants or first-generation Americans who have to both protect their family's culture from criticism and try to fit in to American culture. But Trump clearly here uses the psychological technique for the purpose of self-gain — in front of two different types of crowds, he can appear to be two completely different people depending on what they want to hear.
This two-sided persona isn't exactly a new discovery about Trump, but the tape does give insight into his perplexing ability to maintain high-society standing and relationships. The crass language and comportment that Trump utilized on the campaign trail (primary example: defending the size of his penis on national television at a presidential primary debate) doesn't mesh with the socialized idea of how the One Percent acts, but Trump has maintained friendships with and support from his rich friends like Peter Thiel and Carl Ichan.
In the leaked recording, however, Trump is calm and congenial. Given that he can be considered "in his natural habit" during the recording and in a situation where his behavior is minimally affected, it's understandable to see how those who know him best say that he isn't the person who he acts like on television. But ultimately that's an explanation, and not an excuse — a person's character is judged by how they treat people who are less fortunate than themselves, not by how they treat their equals.
The tape is kind of saddening because it really shows how little Trump respects the American people. He doesn't speak to the public with the same tone of respect and kindness, choosing instead to perpetuate divisiveness and exploit fears. If you've got $300,000 dollars laying around to pay for a membership, maybe you can afford to be spoken to with a little dignity too. But at least one tiny bit of the mystery that is Trump has been solved — he knows how to turn on the charm when it suits him.