Donald Trump: The Sorcerer Not ‘The Apprentice’ Revisited

Frank Islam & Ed Crego
11 min readJul 9, 2024


Image Credits: Tom de Boor, Adobe, Dreamstime, et al

In his performance as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, to this point, Trump has demonstrated little of the knowledge or skills required of an apprentice. He appears to still be very much in the early stages of development and a learning mode when it comes to things governmental.

Trump has, however, demonstrated a consummate ability as a sorcerer. He is a master of the craft of wizardry who, according to polling, has a relatively large percentage of the American public under his spell.

We wrote that in a blog titled “Donald Trump: The Sorcerer not the Apprentice,” posted in September 2015. Near the end of that piece, we stated:

In an average of national polls, Trump’s favorable ratings have gone up and his unfavorable ratings have gone down since June. His overall ratings are still not good, however, with his unfavorable rating at 54.1% and favorable rating at 38.7 percent. That’s a negative difference of 15.4 percent.

Time will tell whether this difference will make Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination disappear. If it does, we are certain of one thing.

And that is: Trump, the sorcerer, in his final feat of legerdemain as a candidate, will make himself disappear. He will do so — not by going quietly into that good night.

We don’t know exactly what he will say, but are confident that he will spin and tweet his version of the truth in verbiage heard around the world.

Trump did not disappear. In 2016, he won the nomination to be the Republican candidate for president, and beat Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.

In 2020, however, he lost the contest for president to Joe Biden. When that happened, as we predicted in 2015, Donald J. Trump did not go “quietly into that good night.” Instead, he “spun and tweeted his version of the truth”

Trump’s version was a perversion. It was The Big Lie that he had actually won the election and it had been stolen from him.

That is why in 2024, we believe it is important to revisit the concept of Trump the sorcerer, not the apprentice to see what he has done and what we have learned about him over the past nine years.

Trump’s Failed Apprenticeship

Let’s begin with Trump not being an apprentice. An apprentice is someone who works under the direction of an expert mentor to develop the necessary skills to be proficient in a job.

As we noted, as a candidate for president, Trump had little knowledge or skills of things governmental. He also had no expert providing direction and guidance to help him become competent in the governmental arena.

After he was elected president, Trump did initially surround himself with governmental experts such as John F. Kelley as his Chief of Staff, Jim Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, and Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. He could have learned from those experts, but he did not.

He chose instead to be always the person in charge, assuming he could make the trains run on time even when he had no idea what track they were on or where they were heading. The result was that in the 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey, a study ranking the U.S. presidents from the best to worst, conducted with members of the American Political Science Association, Trump was ranked dead last.

Johnathan Bernstein was one of the political scientists who participated in that “Greatness” survey. Jamelle Bouie, in his New York Times article, observes that as Bernstein:

… notes in a post for his Substack newsletter, Trump “utterly failed” at the “most important thing for presidents to do in order to succeed: collecting information. Trump didn’t read. He didn’t pay attention during briefings. He didn’t care about policy. He didn’t even bother, as far as anyone can tell, to learn the basic rules of the constitutional system.”

He also cites Matthew Yglesias Slow Boring blog, in which Yglesias states “As best I can tell, what Trump learned from his term is that he needs to double-down on surrounding himself with craven loyalists who won’t contradict him.”

Bouie goes on to conclude:

Trump’s authoritarian instincts — his refusal to accept, or even learn, the rules of the constitutional system — are a huge part of the reason he struggled in the job of president. They helped produce the chaos of his administration. That, in turn, has led him to want to corrode and strip away those rules and strictures that stand in the way of his desire to impose his will directly, both on the government and the country at large.

There we have it. Donald Trump is an authoritarian, not an apprentice. He never was and never will be an apprentice — even though he hosted a TV show titled The Apprentice, which had absolutely nothing to do with authentic apprenticeships.

Ramin Setoodeh provides insights into what The Apprentice was and wasn’t in his recently released book, Apprentice in Wonderland, for which Donald Trump volunteered to be interviewed several times. In the first chapter, Setoodeh observes,

Unlike most reality shows, which cast for good looks or for shamelessness, the early seasons of The Apprentice were packed with professionals who’d gone to top colleges and established themselves in fast-paced careers such as real estate, marketing, consulting, and law. The show positioned Trump as the ultimate taskmaster, a symbol of success who judged the performance of his wannabe minions in tasks that required both business school smarts and street savvy.

In the Prologue, describing and reflecting on his initial interview with Trump, Setoodeh writes:

Trump makes a face like a toddler being forced to eat his vegetables. If this were a scene from a reality show, and not real life, the producers might cut to a confessional booth where Trump would look into the camera and admit that he regretted running for president and that starring in The Apprentice was the best job he’d ever had. Of course, on The Apprentice, Trump, unlike the contestants, never gave confessional interviews. By issuing commands and beheading the unworthy, he was simply the voice of God.

We are certain that Trump never thought of himself or his voice as that of God — although this Easter, he compared himself to Jesus Christ.

We do think, however, that as an absolute autocrat, Trump sees himself as the master of the universe. Because of his mystical mastery, he does not have to play by the rules. He either makes the rules or he breaks them.

Trump’s Sorcery Soars

During his presidency and since, Trump has taken his sorcery to an unprecedented level. He has captured the minds of tens of millions of Americans; incited thousands to storm the U.S. Capitol; labeled those who engaged in the storming patriots and hostages; transformed and remade a political party in his own image and likeness; and pushed the American electoral system and democracy to the brink.

The debate between Trump and Biden on June 27, and the Supreme Court’s decision delivered on July 1, magnified Trump’s magical powers in this presidential election year.

The Trump-Biden “Debate” Debacle

The Trump-Biden event hosted by CNN was supposed to be a debate. Unfortunately, it was a debate in name only. It ended up being 90 minutes devoted to a baffling performance from Joe Biden and a bamboozling performance from Donald Trump.

Trump in his usual bombastic, braggadocious, and bullying style let loose a torrent of lies, personal attacks, and evasive non-responses to questions. In stark contrast, Biden was present but not accounted for — speaking haltingly, sometimes mistakenly, and looking physically disabled.

Trump’s performance on this stage definitely prevailed. The New York Times Opinion Section had twelve of its columnists and contributors watch and rate the debate to determine who won. Ten of those writers said that Trump won and two said there was no winner. Nobody said that Biden won.

It wasn’t just writers who proclaimed Trump victorious. As Patrick Healey of the Times reports, it was undecided voters as well:

Frank Luntz, a veteran focus-group moderator who was holding a live focus group with undecided voters during the debate, wrote of their reactions after the first half-hour of the debate: “The group is so bothered by Biden’s voice and appearance. But they’re getting madder and madder with Trump’s personal attacks.”

“If Trump talks less,” Luntz said, “he wins. If Biden doesn’t stop talking, he loses.”

After the debate was over, Luntz wrote: “Twelve out of 14 say they are now leaning Trump. One chose Biden and one didn’t move. This is an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats.”

Some commentators after the debate observed that Trump’s victory represented the triumph of style over substance. It was not. Biden delivered very little substance in his remarks.

It could be conjectured that Trump as the sorcerer cast a spell on President Biden and that is what caused him to perform so badly. We don’t believe this to be the case. What we do believe is that the debate added more material to Trump’s sorcerer’s sauce to be used to inflame his MAGA supporters and to entice the undecided voter to move to his side of the electoral ledger.

The Supreme Court’s Immunity Impunity

Donald Trump didn’t need any more sauce in order to work his magic on the Supreme Court. He had already done that with his three conservative appointments to the Court, who aligned with the other conservatives on the Court to wreak havoc on equal justice for all in this country with the majority’s decisions on cases dealing with issues such as abortion rights, affirmative action, and federal regulations.

As expected, the conservative majority of the Court did so again with impunity on July 1 when they issued their long-delayed ruling on Trump’s claim of complete immunity for anything he did or said while he was President. By ruling that the President had complete immunity for official acts consistent with constitutionally prescribed roles and responsibilities, but not for personal unofficial acts, the court seemed to make a modicum of sense.

The manner in which they expanded the concept of immunity for a President by indicating that engaging in a privately-focused act while performing an official act might make it eligible for immunity was extraordinary and went beyond the pale. That threw the Court’s modicum of sense out the window.

When the majority waffled even further by sending the January 6 case against Trump being brought by Jack Smith to the District Court for decisions on what was official and unofficial, they demonstrated that they were the minions of Donald Trump and committed to doing his bidding.

Returning that case ensures that even if there is a quick ruling at the District Court level finding Trump is guilty, the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court and there will be no decision until after the election on November 5. If Trump wins the election, he will have the Department of Justice dismiss the case against him. Once again, Trump the sorcerer will have waved his magic wand, and this country and its citizens will be worse off for it.

Ruth Marcus, associate editor for the Washington Post and a Harvard law school graduate, provides an excellent analysis of the Supreme Court’s “egregious” ruling in a piece, which she concludes writing, “God knows what a re-elected Trump would do in a second term. God save us from this dishonorable court.”

The Future for Trump’s Sorcery

Marcus is correct that God knows what a re-elected Trump would do. But so do most observers, based upon his own statements and statements of those close to him. Trump’s eliminating himself from prosecution would be just the starting line for the miscarriage of justice in and throughout these United States.

Here is the tragic truth. Trump has plans for more macabre magic if he is re-elected president. He will destroy the federal government and civil service. He will use his penultimate powers for revenge and retribution. He will widen the divide between the American citizenry and make it irreparable.

Here is the more tragic truth that we believe. If Trump is not elected, Trump the sorcerer will not disappear. He will not call for an instant replay of the sad events of January 6, 2020. He will most likely call for and provoke a more catastrophic response, leading to an uncivil war of words and weapons across this nation.

Trump consistently complains that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Is that because Trump understands that he is the witch manipulating and altering reality by turning fact into fiction, evil into good, and the American dream into a nightmare?

We believe he does. We also believe that his ultimate goal is to use his autocratic authority and power of sorcery to convert the United States of America into Trumpland.

In Trumpland, the lyrics for the national anthem will be

My country ’tis of me

Sweet land of felony

Of me I sing

Land where my haters cried

Land of the truth denied

From every mountainside

Let my song ring

In Trumpland, Trump’s acolytes will celebrate his leadership and autonomy by singing daily:

For he’s a jolly good felon, for he’s a jolly good felon

For he’s a jolly good felon, which nobody can decry.

In Trumpland, those citizens who are not part of the Trump anti-democratic culture will not sing or rejoice. They will exist in a bewitched, bothered, and bewildered state.

Breaking the Sorcerer’s Spell

Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered was a great show tune in the 1950’s. It should never be a state or condition for the citizens of this country.

There is only one group that can ensure that state is avoided. That group is the concerned citizens of this country.

We advanced that proposition in our January 11 blog titled “We the People Need to Protect our Democracy in 2024,” which we opened by stating, “The overarching question as we enter this new year is will our democracy be Trumped.” In the blog, we outline a process that concerned citizens can use to develop a personal plan to become politically civically engaged:

to ensure the triumph of democracy over autocracy in the 2024 presidential elections. That triumph is not the finish line, but it is essential in order to continue the evolutionary process in these United States toward becoming the more perfect union envisioned by our nation’s founders.

David Frum makes a similar point in his Atlantic article published the day after the debate, which he ends as follows:

Against the threat of Trump, Americans must save themselves. The job of doing so cannot be delegated to some charismatic savior — and anyway, that charismatic savior has yet to present himself or herself. Television always wants to reduce active human beings to passive viewers. The presidential-debate format has especially served this purpose: “Do I prefer the candidate in the red tie or the blue one?”

This most recent debate has taught the danger of spectatorship. The job of saving democracy from Trump will be done not by an old man on a gaudy stage, but by those who care that their democracy be saved. Biden’s evident frailties have aggravated that job and made it more difficult, but they have also clarified whose job it is. Not his. Yours.

On November 5, 2024, democracy is on the ballot. We American voters will decide whether our democracy will be protected or decimated.

Originally published by the Frank Islam Institute for 21st Century Citizenship. For more information on what 21st century citizenship entails, and to see exemplars from around the world, please visit our website.



Frank Islam & Ed Crego

Frank Islam is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. Ed Crego is a management consultant. Both are leaders of the 21st century citizenship movement.