“You know, after 10 years on that stuff, you live in this other world, where everybody you know’s one,” Richards once said. “So the cats would come around and try to sell you stuff, so I started to get off — my high for a while was watching their faces when I said ‘no.’ ‘Hey man, just a taste, man.’ And just when they couldn’t make a sale just to watch their face, that would be my high.”
There is a chance to borrow Richards’ technique during the Trump-Biden transition. It starts with a recognition that Trump’s power is not political in the traditional sense but psychological. It relies on an insight he probably first gleaned as a toddler but sharpened through decades in New York’s celebrity culture that once you provoke someone into an emotional response they are in a contest on your terms. So he learned how to surprise, to entertain, to confuse and distort, to offend. As he moved to the political arena, Trump exploited one more psychological reality: His supporters are attracted to him precisely because he so easily outrages his opponents.
This means that Trump’s power — just like Keith Richards’ drug transactions — requires two sides to work. His hold on supporters will wane at the same time his hold on political foes and the news media does. Just say no and watch their faces.