Jul 20

Mary Trump: 45’s Failures As Well As His Enablers’

The only niece of Donald J. Trump and a clinical psychologist, Mary Trump has titled her new book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. States Ted Johnson, Deadline, her wording “is perhaps apt for this moment, as the president dominates each news cycle yet is seemingly unable to sit one out. It’s a bit of a personality paradox that she ascribes to the president: the insecurity of feeling less than and greater than at the same time.”

Among the diagnoses the author believes 45 has are narcissistic personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, a learning disability, and a sleep disorder. But, “The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neurophysical tests that he’ll never sit for.”

Kurt Andersen, Los Angeles Times: “Her basic theory of the case is that Fred, the patriarch of ‘my malignantly dysfunctional family,’ a crude, cruel, selfish, boastful, money-grubbing liar, raised his second son to become a crude, cruel, selfish, boastful, money-grubbing liar.” Paternal approval was contingent on such traits as being a “killer,” for example. “And so Donald’s transgressions ‘became an audition for his father’s favor, as if he were saying ‘See, dad, I’m the tough one. I’m the killer.’”

Supporting this premise, per Lloyd Green, The Guardian, “Mary Trump writes that if the president ‘can in any way profit from your death, he’ll facilitate it, and then ignore the fact that you died’.”

Even if no one is particularly surprised by Mary Trump’s revelations, perhaps we can at least reflect on the parallels between his “malignantly dysfunctional family” and what he’s been creating in the government and in our society. On such current crises as COVID-19, for instance, she states:

His ability to control unfavorable situations by lying, spinning, and obfuscating has diminished to the point of impotence….His egregious and arguably intentional mishandling of the current catastrophe has led to a level of pushback and scrutiny that he’s never experienced before, increasing his belligerence and need for petty revenge as he withholds vital funding, personal protective equipment, and ventilators that your tax dollars have paid for from states whose governors don’t kiss his ass sufficiently.

But the pandemic, of course, is not all. Carlos Lozada, Washington Post: “All the chaos playing out on the national and world stage is a form of family dysfunction writ largest, she explains, with the president’s incessant bragging and bluster directed at ‘his audience of one: his long-dead father’.”

What matters most now, though, is that Trump continues to occupy the White House despite his vast shortcomings and has major enablers. As Megan Garber, The Atlantic, reports, in addition to both her grandparents Mary Trump also blames “the banks that, having vested interests in Trump’s self-mythology, financed him through bad investments and bankruptcies. She blames the media—the tabloids of the 1980s, the television shows of the early 2000s, the political press of 2016—that treated his lies as harmless entertainment. She blames all those who know what he is and still do nothing.”

Of those who know and do nothing, many are appointed, many are elected. With different leadership, the newly elected will replace the appointed in question. To put an end to Trumpism, we need to vote as though our lives depend on it—because, of course, they do.

Nov 02

How Trump Supporters Might Be Understood

…Trump’s own pathologies are nothing next to the pathologies of a society that allowed him to reach the doorstep of the highest office in the land, to live on this earth for 70 years and never once be held accountable for his failings with other people. A society that lets a man like this live and prosper is sick. Susan Matthews, Slate

Many of us in the world are struggling to understand Trump supporters. Susan Matthews, Slate, recently got to the real matter at hand:

We can theorize all we want about the disorders that allow him to act in ways both divorced from reality and indifferent to the lives and rights of other human beings. But Trump is not encumbered by his pathological behavior. In fact he is often celebrated for it. You could argue that his pathologies helped him win one of our two major parties’ nominations for president.

This says more about us than it does about Trump and any mental disorder he might have.

By the way, Gabriel Roth of Slate recently compiled the “complete accountings of the candidates’ offenses and misdemeanors“. Under the Trump column, 239 of them; under Clinton, one.

One thing Trump does particularly well is lie—and with more impunity than has probably ever been seen. A reminder: “According to Politico’s fact-checkers Trump tells a lie an average of once every three minutes. Clinton, in contrast, was rated by Politifact as the most honest candidate in either party in this year’s primary season” (Amanda Marcotte, Salon).

Yet who seems to get more heat? As Marcotte notes in this regard, both deeply rooted sexism and Trump’s resentment of “political correctness” that some Trump supporters confuse with honesty are likely a couple factors to blame.

And why do many politicians (especially Trump) lie so much anyway? Jim Taylor, PhD, wrote a Psychology Today post back in 2012 about the reasons:

  1. “Narcissism…”
  2. A candidate’s followers “…live in an echo chamber in which everyone watches the same news channel, listens to the same talk radio, reads the same newspapers and web sites, and hangs out with the same like-minded people. There exists an impermeable membrane that prevents conflicting information from entering…”
  3. “People don’t want to hear the truth…”
  4. “…One of the unintended consequences of the Internet is that information, true or not, lives on forever and it is likely to continue to be believed even in the face of contradictory evidence…”
  5. Cognitive biases. Daniel Kahneman and others have demonstrated that the human mind engages in many cognitive tricks to help people be more efficient, reduce confusion and anxiety, and keep life simple and coherent….”
  6. “If a lie is told enough times, people will assume it is true…”

When you read the above, which of the two candidates came to mind more often?

Cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian (Raw Story) is another who agrees that “(t)he only thing that might be more perplexing than the psychology of Donald Trump is the psychology of his supporters” and offers several possible explanations:

  1. The Dunning-Kruger Effect (see this post). “…The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed…”
  2. Hypersensitivity to Threat. “…Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening…”
  3. Terror Management Theory. A solidly researched theory that “…predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not…”
  4. High Attentional Engagement. “…According to a recent study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged…”

So, now that we get it—maybe? kinda?— what do we do with it? As Azarian points out, we can MAKE OUR OWN VOTES MATTER.