As someone who was victimized in a love fraud by a psychopath, I am struck by the parallels between that relationship and the relationship Donald Trump has with his admirers. Since he is the President of the United States, he has a posture towards all of America, and the world at large.
It is the posture of a predator. Trump identified our vulnerabilities and has exposed our weaknesses. One of them: the press. This institution has proved, so far, to be not up to the task of checking a wayward Executive branch. The press allows the President to frame issues as he pleases, as George Lakoff argues in the Guardian. Another problem area: the Republican Party. Any Republican who opposes Trump is either outside of government or is leaving government service. No Republican in Congress or standing for office this year will take him on for what is going on at the border, or for anything else, for that matter.
Our biggest weakness is the political division that springs from the delusions of White supremacy. About forty percent of Americans are locked–for better, or worse–in a metaphorical deadly embrace with a man who purveys a toxic mixture of ignorance, brainwashing, and delusional thinking that plays on latent notions of White superiority within his almost* all-White fandom. To them, he seeks to restore the natural order. Some of them maintain that he has been sent by God to enact his agenda. His agenda is to wipe out any trace of the contamination brought to the country by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
I’m not here to say there needs to be some kind of hearts and minds kumbaya moment, some revelation within that has to happen first before we arrive at the promised land of comity and better policies. Political science teaches us that people adapt around policy changes. We can change policies first. Our dilemma is that not enough of us recognized the danger Donald Trump presented, and he is endeavoring to engineer a situation in which we cannot change policies. It is that serious.
The relationship between a psychopath and his target has been called “the cult of two”. There have been several references lately to the Republican Party becoming a Trump cult. I am convinced that the portion of America that supports Trump is willing to go over the cliff with him; that they are prepared to endure anything under his direction.
The Los Angeles uprising in 1992 didn’t shock us into remedial action. Bush’s war on Iraq didn’t do it. The financial meltdown a decade ago didn’t do it. #Ferguson didn’t do it, nor did Baltimore. Trump isn’t doing it. What will it take?
Perhaps a cataclysmic catastrophe, such as nuclear war, but even at that I am not sure.
Most of us did not–do not–want or need what the president is selling. We were inured to his charms; they had no effect on us, other than to revolt us. Imagine we are the worldly girlfriend of the smitten woman who has found the “perfect man who is crazy about me”. We warn her, and worry about her. That is the position we are in with our country.
Trump caught us taking things for granted. Through history we have assumed that traditions, norms, and laws were guardrails on the conduct of the occupant of the Oval Office. We thought that whoever ascended to the presidency would be awed by their responsibilities and the import of their actions. Generally, and with a lot of caveats, we have been lucky.
Reagan wasn’t nuts. W had a conscience. This one does not.
It is fashionable these days to call Donald Trump a sociopath. A sociopath basically is someone who has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder. Think of a hardened criminal who is callous but may harbor a vestige of conscience–or a sense of obligation–toward a few persons.
If we could learn, and stipulate, that Trump had a reasonably OK upbringing; that he has been bad all his life; and that we have no evidence of any remorse, ever, for what he has done, then I believe we could safely say he is a psychopath. A psychopath’s brain is different from most brains. Think of psychopathy as a more pervasive, malignant form of a constellation of affective traits and behaviors associated with a sociopath.
He’s got it all, even criminal versatility, which is one of the checkpoints on the Psychopathy Checklist. From accusations of sexual assault, to the Trump Foundation, to #Trump-Russia, to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump is an active criminal.
He is effusive about the murderous dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. Reports are that Trump “likes” Kim, and he praises him. If my construct is right, Trump doesn’t like anyone. He has three emotions: anger, hate, and envy. When he praises Kim he evinces his envy: he wants the unalloyed idolatry that Kim’s people are forced to show to him. He said it on Fox News today, and then said it was a joke.
What’s that line by Maya Angelou? “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” This guy is not kidding.
Here are the two reasons that seal it for me: 1) anyone not a psychopath with Donald Trump’s record would have stepped down years ago and be under the supervision of a team of psychological experts. He would have atoned for some of his misdeeds. He would have made amends. A person with that profile would not run for president. 2) His penchant for risk-taking and outright sadism are so apparent. Despite what he says, he enjoys this travesty at the southern border. He appears to idealize what some of us call “evil”. He promised some form of populism while he delivers the most right-wing policies in my lifetime.
This guy walked into office like John Gotti into court. You think he’s scared?
1953: “Where did you get the dog, Donald?” “Somebody gave it to me.”
1990: “Where are our paychecks, Mr. Trump?” “You’ll have to ask New Jersey. I’m outta here.”
2018, reporter: “Did you know why Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels?” “No. You’d have to ask him.”
This is THE PRESIDENT. Think of how you feel these days. Are you worn out? Does he exhaust you?
The bitter irony is that while Trump externalizes all of his (read, our) problems, most of them spring from within. We understand that Trump is a symptom of our maladies, not the cause. But, he caught us with our pants down, and we let one slip into the White House. He took advantage of the opening.
The nation will need therapy. What will that mean? What will it look like? The need for therapy implies trauma. There will be trauma. It is unavoidable with a personality such as Trump in his position.
I’m sorry to say it. My friend Sarah Kendzior was the first to raise the alarums. Make no mistake: the threat is here. The crisis is now.