Donald Trump’s Narcissism
In the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” narcissism is defined as a personality disorder. The Mayo Clinic provides a list of symptoms indicating that those with this disorder may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, that they often monopolize conversations, that they belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior, that they feel a sense of entitlement, that when they don’t receive special treatment, they become impatient or angry, and that they insist on having “the best” of everything — the best buildings, the best golf courses, the best universities, the best wine, etc.
Narcissists also have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. They may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle another person to make themselves appear superior. They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. They exaggerate their talents and require constant admiration. They expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations. They take advantage of others to get what they want and have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
Seems to me that since the wannabe president Donald Trump presents with all of these symptoms, a synonym for this disorder could be “Trumpism” — meaning a high-end narcissist and borderline egomaniac.
So I ask the question of the Republican Party of why they would pick someone with Trumpism to run for the highest office in the nation. Why would you have such a person represent your party? Is that really someone you want to be the face of the nation, not to mention the rest of the world? Have you thought through the consequences, unintended and otherwise, that a high-end narcissist could bring down on all of us?
Do you actually believe that Trump will build a fifty foot wall along the Mexican border, or that he will export eleven million “illegal immigrants,” or that he will raise import tariffs to 35%, or that he will force store clerks to say, “Merry Christmas?” These and many more dubious rants are from someone with a severe personality disorder, not someone who should be a serious contender for the White House.
The Trumpism syndrome also impairs one’s grasp of reality, of knowing what’s true and what’s not. Of the 159 statements made by Trump and checked by Politifact.com, only 39 were true or mostly true, or half true. The rest, 120, were mostly false, false, or “pants on fire.” That means Trump is a liar-mouth 75% of the time! And being a habitual liar does not engender trust or confidence.
The nonpartisan Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, in it’s June 27, 2016, report, “Promises and Price Tags: A Fiscal Guide to the 2016 Election,” indicates that Trump’s proposals would add $11.5 trillion to the federal debt over a ten year period, as opposed to the cost of Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which would add a relatively modest $250 billion.
Unless severely modified, Trump’s programs would mean that the U.S. federal debt would be 127% of GDP by 2026. In contrast, Clinton’s proposals would only up the debt to 87% of GDP, or just above the current 86% level.
Clearly, the economics of Trump’s plans to “Make the Nation Great Again” are fiscally irresponsible and impossible to carry out.
I understand your dilemma, GOP. Your presumptive nominee got more votes in the primaries than anyone before. But look at the demographics for those voters. A March 1, 2016, story on Atlantic.com, “Who Are Donald Trump’s Supporters, Really?” showed that most were male, white, and poor. Almost a majority of Trump voters are “working class” with little education beyond high school and with wages that haven’t keep up with other sectors of the economy.
Trump’s voter base feels disenfranchised and abandoned by the “establishment.” They are therefore more enthusiastic about Trump’s promises to keep jobs in the U.S. by stopping immigration and making trade agreements more favorable.
But they lack the education to question the consequences of his proposed policies. And those consequences, as presented here and elsewhere, would be catastrophic for this country and, ironically, for the Trump supporters themselves.
A more recent poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos and reported by AOL.com, on June 29th, showed that Trump supporters “are more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’ than voters who backed other Republican candidates in the primaries, or who support Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.” Consistent with that finding, the poll concluded, “Trump’s supporters were more likely to be critical of affirmative action policies that favor minorities in school admissions or in hiring.”
The foregoing raises the question for the Republican Party as to whether Trump voters, even though they are in the minority, reflect the Party’s conservative principles.
Perhaps most damning of all, Republicans, is that your pick for president has one of the highest disapproval ratings of any candidate – ever! An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Trump with an amazing 70% disapproval rating as of mid-June. As a result, funding for his campaign has dwindled to well below what it should be at this point. And future contributions remain uncertain.
Then there are the political leaders of our allies. How will we conduct international affairs when our foreign partners have no confidence in Trump? Many, including the U.K., have said they’d rather not have Trump in their country.
Trump pretends to be the outsider, the anti-establishment champion, the restorer of jobs, the rich untouchable. But some, like your humble scrivener, see him as a buffoon, a latter-day Don Quixote out to slay the windmills of his own mind. And his bloviating and demagoguery are not enough to cover his lack of maturity and his naiveté.
Donald Trump’s Authoritarianism
Ninety-six years ago, the acerbic journalist H. L. Mencken wrote,
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright fool and narcissistic moron.”
Setting the “moron” label aside, it seems to me that Donald Trump could easily fit Mencken’s possibly portentous telling of a future president elected by the desire of the people.
But now, to the exasperation of the Republican Party, Trump has put his name on right wing politics and so far has been exceedingly successful at it. Meanwhile, the Party is trying to figure out his formula and then develop an antidote.
From what I’ve been able to observe from the debates and appearances on the news shows, there seems to be two major components of Trump’s success.
Firstly, Trump’s personality exudes authoritarianism, some in the press even comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini. And Trumps’ body language almost screams Alpha male, in charge, fearless. CNN, in fact, compared Trump’s body language to that of Mussolini.
His animated gestures toward his opponents during the debates — the insults, the put-downs, the finger-pointing, the condescension, the mockery – have given him control over the proceedings; he gets all the attention. And with control comes power. While the other candidates are trying to act presidential, Trump looks dictatorial.
And Trump’s view of governance is laced with an authoritarian ideas. He keeps saying Mexico will pay for his “wall” even though the president of Mexico has said, “No fucking way!” He says he will deport all eleven million illegal immigrants and their families, even though that is a clear impossibility. He will stop Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. to protect us from terrorism. Some have called these immigration policies “Hitleresque.” (Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana, has said The Donald used to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches in his bedroom.)
In other examples of his authoritarian worldview, Trump believes the military will follow his orders even if they include violations of international law such as water-boarding. He told radio-show host Hugh Hewitt that he would be willing to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood. He calls Mexico and China the new “axis of evil.”
I believe the second and most important contributor to Trump’s emergence as the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party, is the audience who like his message. And that audience, quite simply, consists of what we call the working class — Mencken’s “plain folks of the land.”
As described in the first section of this essay, Trump supporters are Republicans and Independents and even some Democrats who respond to fears – terrorism, illegal immigration, the economy, job security, health care, taxes – and believe the establishment, mostly Washington insiders, is incapable of handling these existential threats.
When Trump talks about rejiggering the nation’s trade policies that effectively punish companies from relocating to other countries, and that punish foreign manufacturers from brining in goods that could be make here in the USA, even the labor unions are starting to rethink their allegiance to the Democratic Party if Trump can protect American jobs.
Trump has awakened millions of the silent majority who don’t trust government and who feel they are denied access to that shining city on a hill. They believe Trump is rich and thereby incorruptible, that he is a fighter and a proven deal-maker. And he wears just as much Teflon as president Reagan did — criticism just rolls off his back.
So, the Republican Party, already fractured by right wing extremists, has a problem. I don’t know how it should proceed with a Donald Trump at the helm. But they should at least consider the implications of the authoritarian philosophy that seems to pervade their party platform
In 2006, John Dean, late of the Watergate scandal and famous for saying, “There is a cancer on the presidency,” wrote a book called “Conservatives Without Conscience,” in which he addressed the consequences of authoritarianism, writing, in part,
“Regrettably, empirical studies reveal that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, anti-democratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian and amoral. They are also often conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the like of which we have never known.”
Donald Trump has given voice to the masses, saying out loud what they’ve been saying privately. To them I would only say, be careful what you wish for.
This essay is written before the GOP convention in Cleveland. That should be an interesting show. Among other things, the party is having trouble getting anyone to speak. A June 27th Story on Politica.com declares, “POLITICO reached out to more than 50 prominent Republicans. Few said they plan to attend the convention in Cleveland, let alone speak.
The bottom line here is that Trump is single-handedly destroying a political party that’s been around for over 150 years. The GOP’s intellectual-in-chief, George Will, is leaving the party. Henry Paulson, Colin Powell, the entire Bush family, a few conservative radio hosts, former members of McCain’s and Romney’s campaign staffs, including Romney himself, and many other prominent Republicans are also either leaving the party or voting Democrat . . . or both! It’s gotten so bad that some Republicans are even encouraging the party’s members to vote from Hillary Clinton!
Come on Republicans, you’re better than this. For the sake of the country and your own party, dump Trump before it’s too late. And you can. You made the Convention rules, so you can damn well change them. Surely you can find a respectable candidate and if you do you will be respected by your party and those who lean to the right for doing so. You can save your party and enhance your chance of avoiding a horrible thrashing in November. (And don’t forget, it took three ballots to get Abraham Lincoln nominated in 1860.)
On the other hand, maybe you should fail. Maybe you can learn from this election cycle and rebuild as a stronger, more responsible, more inclusive political party. Or, not.
This commentary is the consolidation and expansion of two Op-Ed pieces published in the Joplin Globe. The first, “Authoritarian Trump a concern for nation” appeared on March 13, 2016. The second, “Beware of narcissistic presidential candidates” came out on June 26, 2016.