The Trouble with Trump

How his narcissism fooled political elites of both parties and made him a Messiah to the angry mob

Photo by Sean Ferigan on Unsplash

The Republican party gave up decency, honesty, and integrity for Donald Trump. It wasn’t in the plan, it was a casualty—a casualty of their decision to tie their fortunes to an unstable, vengeful man whose bravado and inability to accept defeat would overwhelm them all and fool them into believing he was something he is not—a strong man who could do their bidding and keep their people in line.

Trump’s lack of experience and knowledge regarding the role of the president and the inner workings of government led the Republican political class to believe he’d play the role of a figurehead, like George W. Bush. He would help them maintain control of a party, and a country, they were fast losing their grip on.

At first, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham pushed back. They were clear-eyed about Trump’s shortcomings and were vocal about it. But somewhere down the line, it became clear that refusing to support Trump was no longer an option. Why?

Threats work. Republicans are not free-thinking, creative people who can pivot when circumstances change. It’s always been pretty much one-for-all and all-for-one with them. It’s one of their few strengths, politically. Until now.

Now the figurehead is running their show and it’s getting uglier by the minute.

Trump is targeting one of the Republican party’s most influential leaders: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s not what they expected. But it should have been.

Ever since McConnell responded to the events of January 6th by saying “…President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he’s been on Trump’s hit list.

It matters not that McConnell has done more to advance white/male/Christian control over our justice system than anyone—with his refusal to allow even one Supreme Court nominee to be vetted during the Obama administration—he’s now Trump’s enemy.

Why? Because he dissed Trump. It’s that simple. Trump has no other motivator.

Everything Trump does is about protecting his fragile ego.

Mitch has finally learned what Michael Cohen already knows: Trump is loyal to nothing and no one.

Why don’t his followers understand this? I suppose it’s because they think when Trump targets someone, it’s because they deserve it. Not so.

Trump’s behavior isn’t about the victims he targets—they are irrelevant. Equally irrelevant are the political consequences of his actions. He is not a strategist, he’s a reactionary. He lies and cheats because he is a liar and a cheater—it’s in him, it’s got nothing to do with anybody else.

To understand Trump, you need to understand what it means to have a personality disorder. For one thing, it doesn’t work to project your idea of normal human behavior onto someone with a personality disorder. The usual rules don’t apply.

Specifically, a normal person with an abundance of confidence has accomplishments to justify that confidence. When a similar abundance of confidence is demonstrated by a person with narcissistic personality disorder, it is because that person is incapable of surviving emotionally without constantly reminding others of how great they are.

Such people will do anything to keep attention on themselves. That includes, in fact requires, pretending to be better at everything than they are.

The need for approbation is so strong in such a person they can never get enough. They must always project strength, intelligence, competence. This is why Trump spends so much of his time talking about how great he is: it’s how he needs to see himself.

Remember when Trump took the cognitive test and bragged about it? He reminded me of a 10-year-old, telling his mommy how well he did on his math test. His inability to comprehend how ridiculous he appeared shows how lacking in self-awareness he is. He thought he sounded smart.

Nothing matters to Trump as much as his need to be adored, admired, elevated, even worshipped. It is the foundation of his entire sense of self. That’s how we know Trump has a personality disorder and not just narcissistic tendencies.

Today, when I hear people say things like “Trump is a marketing genius” or “Trump sure knows how to use social media” or anything that implies Trump is smart and savvy, I just cringe.

Fran Leibowitz said it best “You don’t know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump.”

When people say they hope he’ll come around, they are denying reality. He won’t, he can’t. What we’ve seen is all there is.

Trump is broken.

It was not leadership qualities or a sound political platform that won Trump the presidency in 2016. It was two things, one random, the other carefully orchestrated by the one superpower who wants our democracy to fail: Russia.

The random part is that so many angry Americans identified with him. This should not surprise us because they share similar characteristics: gullibility, lack of education, poor critical thinking skills, unwillingness to take responsibility for their situation, the need to blame others for their unhappiness.

Like Trump, his followers, see educated people as a threat. They too want to blame someone for their failures. Anyone who can validate them and excuse them from being responsible for their own unhappiness is a prime candidate for elevation to the role of leader, guru or even Messiah.

They were all looking for a way to feel better about themselves. Trump gave them that.

He also told them to distrust the government.

He said he would be different.

He said, “I alone can fix it.”

And they bought it.

Putin knew Trump would do more to create chaos than a military strike ever could, and he took advantage of that knowledge to make his move. The Russia-based Internet Research Agency flooded social media with every kind of lunacy to discredit Democrats and anybody else who questioned Trump’s qualifications or motives.

QAnon, Putin, Twitter and Facebook assured Trump his first election victory.

If you doubt their contribution to Trump’s political success, look at Trump’s inability to keep even a moderate presence on social media since he lost the 2020 election. Even with his own much touted website (a failure by any standard) he’s gone nowhere.

Putin doesn’t care anymore and even Q has stopped encouraging Trump and his followers. He’s still banned from Twitter. Facebook has also banned him until after the 2022 mid-terms. We’ll have to see if they lift that ban or not.

If Trump had the internet chops people have credited him with, he’d have found a way to maintain his presence. But he failed because he’s a victim of his own worst instincts and they sabotage everything he touches.

The only power Trump has now is based on fear. Republicans know he’ll resort to violence if he’s cornered. They know his supporters will follow suit.

They are all held hostage by the dunce who thinks he’s a winner because none of his cronies are willing to tell him otherwise.

Trump and what’s left of the Republican party are not working toward “… a more perfect Union.” They are working toward a system of white/male/Christian minority rule.

Like the Nazi’s in the lead-up to WWII, Trump’s followers needed a scapegoat and they’re not that fussy about who it is. Blacks, Jews, Women, Muslims—they’ll all do just fine.

What brought the Republican base to Trump was their willingness to believe what he told them: That they were special. Unfortunately, when the person telling you that is the President of the United States, that’s a heady thing.

Imagine a Pulitzer Prize winning author commenting on one of your stories “This is fabulous! You’re so talented! Keep it up! You’re special!”

It doesn’t matter that Trump is functionally illiterate, petty, and sounds like a moron whenever he speaks.

They trust him because he allows them to believe in themselves.

What gave Trump the status of Messiah among the Republican base is the very thing causing the party’s current implosion: violence, negativity, hatred and condemnation of Democrats and anyone else who dares question their irrational beliefs.

The world is changing but they are banking on Trump to stop it. The more grandiose Trump’s portrayal of himself, the more his base believes him capable of. They too fail to recognize the nature of Trump’s delusions.

They still believe he is a successful businessman, despite evidence to the contrary. Their follow-the-leader mentality coupled with his ability to raise their own self-esteem is a combination they are helpless to resist.

It’s okay if they are filled with hate. It’s okay if they think killing people is an appropriate solution to their anger. It’s okay if they refuse to learn, grow, adapt.

Donald is just like them, and he is the most successful person on earth.  

The Democrats also failed to comprehend the true nature of their nemesis. For all their book smarts and lofty talk, they too projected normalcy onto Trump. For years into his presidency pundits and politicians alike were waiting for him come around, to be more presidential. So fearful of appearing judgmental or unfair, they gave him exactly what he needed to strengthen his grip on the country. They went along.

When he nominated Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, they chose to forgive and forget how McConnell had blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland to the bench just a few years earlier. They backed a man who believed it was appropriate to punish a truck driver for saving his own life by abandoning his broken-down vehicle in below freezing weather. Never mind that had he stayed inside that truck he would not have survived until morning.

How ironic that a nominee to the highest court in the land was confirmed by members of both parties after demonstrating such a blatant lack of judgement. Is a truck more valuable than a life? Are the rules more important than a human being? Apparently, so.

A single Democrat (Joe Manchin) similarly failed us by confirming Justice Kavanaugh. Whether you believe he attempted to rape Christine Blasi Ford or not, you can’t deny the viciousness or blatant disrespect his behavior conveyed during his confirmation hearings. This is a man whose life of privilege led him to feel entitled to a place on the court, regardless of his behavior, temperament, or suitability.

Watch the hearing without the sound. What you will see is a man so convinced of his superiority and the inevitability of his appointment that he becomes rabid at the slightest suggestion that he might not be the best choice. Where is the reasoned judgment and level-headedness we used to think were necessary for someone tasked with such an awesome responsibility?

Trump’s third nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, was not supported by Democrats, but it didn’t matter. After stacking the court with Republicans prior to her nomination, this was the final nail in the coffin for women’s rights. The current Texas abortion law would not be law at this time if she hadn’t joined the court. We knew she was part of a Christian cult that was pro-birth. We knew what she would do if she was allowed to join the other conservative justices on the court, and we let her do it.

But perhaps the biggest failing of the Democratic party is one both Obama and Clinton are personally responsible for. They failed to recognize the power of their words and the weakness of the Republican base. They insulted, demeaned, and diminished the very people they needed to win over.

Obama didn’t understand the damage he did when he accused Republicans of clinging to guns or religion and blaming immigrants to explain their frustrations

When Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “A basket of deplorables” she sealed her fate as well. She fed them exactly what they needed to make her an enemy for life. While no one could have predicted the lunacy that would follow, her years of political experience should have told her you don’t win hearts and minds by ridiculing people.

When Trump entered the political arena, he was the antithesis of the snide, superior, liberal elites who insulted the Republican base and made it impossible for them to trust the Democratic party. It was Obama and Clinton who opened the door for the flamboyant and comically incompetent man who soothed the hurt feelings of the angry mob and fed their need to feel justified in their hatred of anyone more educated and more successful than they knew themselves to be.

When emotions run high, facts fly out the window.

Fortunately, Biden knows this. That’s why he is always measured, contemplative, empathetic. But because he is also a Democrat, the ire of the Republican base has already been raised against him.

If he can pass legislation that helps the disenfranchised, it may help. If we can find a way to curtail the downward spiral of vitriol encouraged by the amoral business practices of Facebook, it may help. If we can elect more democratically minded politicians to Congress, it may help.

If Biden can undo some of the damage done by his predecessors, we may be able to save our democracy, for now.

Let’s just hope future politicians remember these lessons.