Out with The Old Trump, In with The Old Trump


Trump in Lousiana, pretending to look presidential. Max Becherer / AP photo

Much excitement is being had in the media and whereabouts about the New Trump who has allegedly showed signs of humanity by reading from the teleprompter an inane and nebulous statement of “regret” for who knows what exactly. One thing sure is that he, incapable of empathy and especially guilt, does not know or understand it himself, nor does he want to. He’s also shown up for a photo-op in the flooded Louisiana, pretending to care. A shtick as convincing as a serial killer’s finding God in prison (which, according to expert on manipulative characters, George Simon, is a classic psychopathic move). Not to mention — although one will — that his presence there creates a distraction and headache for the security and rescue personnel.

These brazenly manipulative PR moves are greeted with relief and taken as a sign of the long-awaited “pivoting” (which has to be the word of the year in 2016, mark my prediction) toward a humane and presidential Donny.

But this foolish hope is just that, foolish, and one reason, among many, why people with a conscience cannot understand and spot those without it. Naivete and denial, like hope, their close cousin, spring eternal from the same source: our inability / unwillingness to face the truth.

Kellyanne Conway, the new Trump handler who is most definitely responsible for the “human” Donny, is a seasoned GOP operative, thus she has plenty of experience with both lipstick and pigs. But even she won’t be able to accomplish this impossible feat of a make-up-based makeover. There simply isn’t enough lipstick in the world.

To wit, a fragment from my earlier piece, re-posted in the generous spirit of aiding our Republican friends and foes in understanding all things Trump:

Your candidate, dear GOPers, is not going to change. Not because he does not want to — and he surely does not want to — but because he cannot. In order to change in any meaningful fashion, a person must have a functioning conscience. There is no way around it, no matter how hard we may try to find it. There’s just not enough lipstick in the world.

A functioning conscience, much better than reason itself, tells us when and where we erred and how, and what we must do to correct our errors. A functioning conscience with its empathy, guilt, and humility — the three capacities distinctly missing from a narcissist’s inner milieu — is what makes it possible for us to notice and admit that we are at fault, want to rectify our mistakes and change our behavior. No functioning conscience, no change; not even a possibility of acknowledging a wrongdoing. And, if you are a grandiosely narcissistic “winner” (triple redundancy warning!), the best in all you do and also in things you have never done, you would see no need whatsoever to learn anything. Why, perfection means no need to ever say you’re sorry — it is one of its undeniable benefits, for gods and narcissistic humans alike. 

This also means your candidate is not going to surround himself with reasonable, or — god forbid — wise people, because, again, he does not believe he could be wrong and he does not need anyone’s advice. And, as he’s someone with the best brain, whose advice could even come close to his own? Besides, he has no tolerance for competition.

The impairment of conscience characteristic for narcissism severely limits a person’s cognitive capacities, as it makes him (or her) incapable of, among so many things, understanding points of view other than his own. This itself makes objective — or at least non-egocentric — reasoning impossible. The result is dangerous solipsism where one’s desires become a substitute for reality, and facts (and people), particularly those that are unpleasant for the narcissist to acknowledge, cease to exist. What he wants, must happen, regardless of consequences for the world — the consequences he is unable to envision in the first place, but even if he did so, he would disregard them.

Unable and unwilling to learn — a distinction without a difference in a narcissist’s case — the best your candidate can be expected to do is to stick to a teleprompter and read the scripts written for him by his children and handlers. Those scripts are not going to be free of their own pathology, however, one which they share with your candidate; but they will be more subdued and polished, as such things go. So they may fool more people, maybe even enough to have your candidate elected, if that’s what you’re after. They will not help your candidate grow a conscience, though. He probably does not understand a lot of what he reads in those prepared speeches; and if he does, he likely does not care to notice how it may differ from what he is about and what it could possibly mean. No conscience, no values, no problem.

Once he’s off the teleprompter, he will remain his usual “winning” self, looking for any opportunity to make a “deal” that would personally elevate him and humiliate someone else, because this is his lifelong modus operandi. 

Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” You have been shown time and again, and also explained, one hopes clearly enough; so don’t say you have not been warned. 

And a nice takedown of the “new Trump” by John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

Trump The Con Man

Another day, another con.

Agent Orange issued an “explanatory” tweet yesterday:

Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?

And our journalists proceeded to discuss in earnest the difference between “jokes” and “sarcasm,” continued to wonder why Trump does not seem to be interested in “pivoting,” and engaged in mind-numbingly pointless “debates” with Trump’s thuggish surrogates whose job is to translate Trumpese into English by insisting that black is white and up is down, and anyone who does not believe so is itching for a fight. And they are all too happy to oblige.

This sordid spectacle boggles the mind more and more as our media types refuse to acknowledge the reality of the man’s apparent character defect. They seem to have come to terms, as much as that’s possible, with his “narcissism;” but judging by their reactions, they do not understand well what narcissism means, nor notice Trump’s glaringly missing conscience. They smirk ironically and call him “unconventional,” which says… something.

And as much as one wants to blame them (and one does), a significant portion of the responsibility for this ignorance falls on the mental health professionals who have failed in their role as public educators. And not just now. This failure to teach about character defects / disorders and their dangerous ramifications appears to be a feature rather than a bug of psychiatry and related fields, and not just American. Of course in a society where narcissists and psychopaths are admired and rewarded in multiple ways, these defects will not seem to be so defective, if at all, not even to the professionals. In a future post we’ll take a look at the various ways in which American mental health experts (not all) have misunderstood Trump’s character problem.

He, meanwhile, taunts the media (not undeservedly in this instance, one must say):

I love watching these poor, pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard and so seriously to try and figure me out. They can’t!

One person who can and does is David Cay Johnston, whose new book, The Making of Donald Trump, has just been published. In it, Johnston unmasks Trump’s most unsavory deals and exposes his sadistic and manipulative, conscience-free character without the strained and misguided attempts to “understand the man,” i.e.,  whitewashing his consciencelessness in the name of being “fair and balanced” or something like it. (For comparison, see the soon-to-be-published book by two WaPo journalists, “Trump Revealed,” which promises to show the man as “[p]opulist, frustrating, naive, wise, forever on the make” — with the exception of the last one, these are mostly positive, or at worst neutral, attributes that could be ascribed to, say, any social reformer, from Gandhi to Sanders. The moral aspect — that of values, of differences between right and wrong — is completely absent in such whitewashing “evaluations;” this leads, in a manner typical for moral relativism, to a normalization of conscience-free characters.)

Kathy Kiely interviewed Johnston for Moyers & Company:

“The coverage [of Trump] has been extremely poor in my opinion,” Johnston, who at 67 clearly still enjoys making trouble*, pronounced at no less a lions’ den than the National Press Club on Thursday night in Washington. (…) The main reason he has “been extremely critical of my colleagues,” in the media Johnston said, is they’ve been too buttoned-down and professional. “They’re covering him as though he is a serious person,” Johnston said of the Republican presidential nominee.
Here is an interview Johnston gave France 24. When asked what Donald doesn’t want people to know, he says that, apart from his ties to mobsters and drug traffickers:
[Trump] doesn’t want you to know about his unbelievable cruelty to others, and his utter contempt for Christians, and (…) that Donald doesn’t know anything. (…) his answers are gibberish, because he doesn’t know anything.

David, from your mouth to the pundits’ ears. Let’s hope they are listening and able to hear what’s painfully obvious.

*I’ve just noticed this after publishing the post. Johnston’s truth-telling is labeled as “making trouble” — and that in such a seemingly progressive publication as “Moyers & Company.” Our journalists’ job was to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted; instead, so many of them do the opposite that those who break this mold are seen as troublemakers.

The Con Man Conneth

 

“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. At the end it’s either going to work or I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation.”

Donald Trump, in a phoned-in interview with CNBC today, showing, for the umpteenth time, how much he cares about the country or anybody besides himself.

True to his character, he will continue his depraved downward spiral of inciting hate, violence, and mass disorder, consequences be damned. At least in warning us about it, he is honest. Sort of.

“Look, all I do is tell the truth. I’m a truth teller. All I do is tell the truth.”

And if that “truth telling” doesn’t “work” and he is not elected after all, he will go on a nice long vacation, leaving behind the sea of rage and smoldering ruins of civility, no doubt feeling great as always about a job well done.

He is a killer, that Donny, and a king, as his proud daddy said. But even Trump Sr. would remind his boy not to be so tough; even he, the callous and ruthless manipulator, was concerned about his favorite son’s aggression and unbridled desire for power and adulation. Donny should have listened to his old man. If he could, that is. We’d all be better off now.

There must have been a typo in his campaign slogan, and Donny either didn’t notice it or left it there on purpose, the con man that he is. Because it should have indeed read Make America Grate Again; and he has surely delivered on that promise already, many times over. Mission Accomplished, to borrow another empty slogan, from another conscience-deficient leader blind to his own hubris and folly, whose legacy of death and destruction we have still not grappled with, allergic as we are to any admission of guilt. That guy’s vices pale, however, in comparison with those of our presumptive Killer King who has promised us, repeatedly, a Trumpian Victory. And he is a man of his word. Sort of.

Donny The Gaslighter

You’ve heard of course about Trump’s 2nd Amendment “solution” to the Hillary-as-president problem that he proposed yesterday:

The intense backpedaling, as evidenced briefly in the video above, has commenced immediately and continued unabated today, with Trump’s surrogates minimizing his “gaffe” (that wasn’t) as best as they could. Their trumpsplanations have ranged from ridiculous  but amusing (Trump, despite having the best words, don’t speak so good, what with not having a Ph.D. in grammar) through misguided (it was a “joke gone bad,” said Paul Ryan, unaware apparently that narcissistic psychopaths do not have a sense of humor) to patently absurd (it’s about unification, y’all!).

Trump himself attributed the debacle to a nasty media conspiracy (what else) but let the truth slip out, inadvertently and with a plausible spin, by admitting that this controversy is “a good thing for me.”

As the media and public storm rages on, let’s stop for a moment to remember that we are dealing with a con man who has had a lifetime of manipulation and abuse of others to practice his schtick. We are being had, again, and it may be instructive to examine how and why.

What Trump is doing is called gaslighting. As Christine Louis de Canonville writes on her blog,

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. The techniques used in “Gaslighting” by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operative, law enforcement and other forces for decades.

A form of crazy-making, this abusive tactic used by “natural-born” manipulative abusers everywhere is meant to engender fear-based submission to the abuser. When used repeatedly, as it always is, it makes the victims lose a sense of reality and of their own agency and strength, sometimes even leading to sympathy for and an identification with the abuser (Stockholm Syndrome).

Gaslighting can be done on an individual and mass scale, and Trump has been doing it since the beginning of his campaign (if not before). He also does it with predictability embedded in his character defect, as these expressions of his own aggression and calls for violence from others are eruptions of narcissistic rage which follow his personal humiliations.

He incites aggression, but when called on it, denies doing it and blames “the victims” — the subjects of his aggressive remarks and/or those taking him to task for them — and immediately assumes the stance of a victim himself. Because his denials and deflections may sound plausible, people end up giving him the benefit of a doubt and he “wins.”

For a malignant narcissist*, such overt displays of aggression, followed by denials and victim blaming, are meant to meet the following objectives, immediate and long-term:

  1. release the pent-up rage;
  2. exact revenge for the “wounding” on the humiliators or their proxies, or even on unrelated subjects;
  3. patch up his narcissistic wound and restore the elevated (grandiose) sense of his power and importance;
  4. divert attention from the reason for his humiliation (his incompetence, dishonesty, etc.);
  5. cow the victims into submission by engendering confusion and fear (gaslighting);
  6. continue with whatever schemes he’s perpetrating at the moment.

This behavior is not conscious and typically is not premeditated (although it can be), but it is purposeful (see the above objectives, esp. 4 to 6).

Politico has compiled a list of Trump-the-candidate’s most egregious expressions of direct aggression / calls for violence to date. Here are a few:

At a rally in Cedar Rapids on the day of the Iowa caucuses, Trump offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who attacked anyone trying to throw fruit at him. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously,” he said. “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.” As it turned out, there were no attempts to throw fruit at him at the rally.

Later in February, at a Las Vegas rally on the eve of the Nevada caucuses, Trump said of a protester, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

“We’re not allowed to punch back any more,” Trump lamented in Las Vegas. “You know what they used to do to a guy like that in a place like this?” he said. “They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

And last month, Trump said he’d like to “hit” speakers at the Democratic National Convention who spoke ill of him.

“The things that were said about me. You know what, I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard,” Trump said. “I was gonna hit this guy so hard, his head would spin. He wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

It is worth noting that these incidents followed some major public humiliation that exposed his ineptness and dishonesty (widely publicized and disastrous interviews with the WaPo and NYT in early spring, the collective bashing at the DNC, and the latest, his inane “economy” speech on Monday). His outrageous statements thus effectively deflect attention from his glaring lack of substance and basic qualifications for any office, much less that of the American president. But as long as we debate whether he really called for Hillary’s assassination or not, we are not talking about his lack of actionable solutions to the problems he’s promising to cure. Remember, he admitted so himself when he said that the controversy is good for him.

Astonishingly, his jaw-dropping statements about wanting to hit the DNC speakers did not elicit much outrage, suggesting that either we are immune to Trump’s threatening behavior or find it acceptable, maybe both. (That, however, was before The Khan Effect, fully exposing the chasm between the humanity with a conscience and Trump, took hold, which may be the reason for this relative silence.)

It does not help that the media insist on treating the man as if he were a normal candidate, straining for reasonable explanations and equivalencies, as documented by Peter Dreier :

The headlines about Trump’s comment that appeared on-line within hours of his speech reflect how constrained the media are in reporting such an outrageous statement:

  • “Trump Appears To Suggest ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Stop Clinton” (NPR),
  • “Donald Trump Says ‘Second Amendment People’ Can Stop Hillary Clinton From Curbing Gun Rights” (Wall Street Journal),
  • “Trump sparks uproar by saying ‘maybe there is’ a way for ‘2nd Amendment people’ to keep Clinton from naming justices” (Los Angeles Times),
  • “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton” (New York Times),
  • “Trump suggests ‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Clinton” (Chicago Tribune),
  • “What Ever Could Trump Have Meant With This Joke About ‘Second Amendment People’ and Clinton?” (Slate),
    • “Trump ‘Second Amendment’ Quip Seen as Veiled Threat Against Clinton” (NBC)
  • “Donald Trump says ‘Second Amendment people’ may be the only check on Clinton judicial appointments” (Washington Post)
  • “Trump in trouble over ‘Second Amendment’ remark” (Politico).

All these headlines are accurate but misleading. They don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context.

He is right, they don’t. They do illustrate, however, how the narcissistic collusion that’s behind much evil in the world, happens: almost imperceptibly and almost with our full, though usually unwitting, participation.

There is dangerous but predictable logic to Trump’s destructive behavior. And this is just a preview of things to come, should he become our president (may fates help us). Understanding what we are dealing with — a con, one in a long series of many, this time the largest of them all, perpetrated by a psychologically primitive, but skilled in abuse, conscienceless manipulator who’s driven by an insatiable desire for power and adulation — would be helpful to the media as well as the American citizens dealing with the inevitable emotional reactions of being subjected to such abuse (confusion, fear, anger, helplessness, exhaustion).  We are being led by our noses; it is up to us to resist this enforced march toward an abyss.

*Not a medical diagnosis.

Quote of the Day: “People don’t understand”


During a campaign stop in Dubuque, Iowa on January 30, 2016.

Updated, below.

Dana Milbank relates the following from Trump’s rally today in Ashburn, VA, where, among other notable things, Donald accepted the Purple Heart from a veteran, saying “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier“:

The Republican presidential nominee, rallying supporters in a high school auditorium here, was talking about Chinese currency manipulation when an infant began to cry.

“Don’t worry about that baby. I love babies,” he said. “Don’t worry. The mom’s running around like — don’t worry about it, you know. It’s young and beautiful, and healthy and that’s what we want.”

It was an unexpected moment of tenderness from the strongman — and it lasted precisely 55 seconds.

 “Actually I was only kidding: You can get the baby out of here,” he said, when the child continued to cry. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s okay. People don’t understand, that’s okay.”

There were murmurs and some uncomfortable laughter.

After attacking prisoners of war, virtually every racial minority in the United States and even the parents of a fallen U.S. soldier, it was perhaps just a matter of time until Trump got around to attacking a mother and her baby.

This is obviously unsurprising. But I would like to focus on the ease (or “ease”) with which Trump switches between his pretend “benevolent” persona and his real ruthless self.

I put “ease” in quotes the second time, because when you watch the clip of this performance, you’ll see how difficult it really is for Donny to fake pro-social emotions: the grimacing and the outlandish statements meant to underscore his smarmy sentiments, for which he has no internal correspondence, are a sure and cringe-inducing giveaway of the effort involved. He wants to convey care and joy, but what comes out is a barely disguised contempt.

And then, as if on cue, comes Donny’s own admission of his psychopathic manipulation (amazingly, he does this once in a while, openly reveling in his power and the people’s inability to see through his craven games — that’s how brazen he is and seemingly unconcerned with any possible fallouts from such admissions):

I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s okay. People don’t understand, that’s okay.

Yes, sadly too many still believe that this man is what he so strenuously, at times, pretends to be: a caring and normal human being. But his always wobbly mask of normalcy slips more often these days, revealing the “Freudian junkyard” within, as one astute WaPo commenter put it. They react with “uncomfortable laughter,” but don’t know what to make of it.

Donald, meanwhile, revels in his deception, as evidenced by his proud tone when he mocks the mother for believing that he cares. And “that’s okay,” because people’s naivete that comes from their ingrained goodness is what has enabled his destructive existence and rise to power so far. People with a conscience have a hard time imagining that there are those without it and don’t know what it may look like.

So Donald is correct that “people don’t understand,” but no, it is not “okay.” People must wake up to the existence of psychopaths in our midst and start seeing the damage they inflict on the world. This is as good a time for it as any.

Update:

Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant who has become the (badly missing so far) conscience of America, has something to say about Trump’s acquisition of that Purple Heart:

The Khan Effect

You may have heard the words that shook the world — or at least awakened the American pundits’ dormant consciences and opened a few eyes:

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

The words were spoken by Khizr Khan at the DNC, where he, accompanied by his aggrieved wife, Ghazala, talked about his late son, Capt. Humayun Khan, and what his ultimate sacrifice meant for the Khan family and what it should mean for others, including Donald Trump, if he had a conscience.

However, bereft of conscience as Trump is, he responded, predictably, with a slew of insults, seeing himself as the aggrieved and injured one (the Perpetual Victim Complex is strong in all narcissists). This has led to an ongoing media storm of unusual, so far in this campaign, proportions, complete with (wait for it) long overdue questions about the candidate’s mental health and suitability for office.

It is remarkable to watch the punditry opening their sleepy eyes to the stark raving reality of the presidential candidate’s character defect — a defect that has been on display all along and as long as Trump has been in the public eye, so at least several decades; a defect that they, American journalists, helped deepen through their adulation for, or even participation in, the narcissistic psychopath’s narcissistically psychopathic ways; a defect that has led him to this moment in history, where he is able to hijack the nation and bring it to the brink of the abyss — and he’s not even elected to office yet.

Better late than never, one consoles oneself.

The poignant irony of this moment cannot be overstated. It has taken two unknown grieving parents, Muslim immigrants (Muslim. immigrants.), to present America with the undeniable contrast between human and democratic values and their utter lack embodied in Trump. Good versus evil, not to put too fine a point on it.

You must watch the humble and courageous Khans to fully appreciate how different they are from the bloviating, power-hungry ignoramus whose nemesis they have become. On PBS, Mr. Khan confesses, with a mixture of pride and embarrassment, that at home they keep a supply of pocket-size copies of the American Constitution, which they give out to their guests. You can’t make this up. Just as you can’t make up the fact that the only book apparently ever read by Trump, or at least kept on his nightstand, was a collection of Hitler’s speeches.

This irrefutable contrast between good and evil has caused the opinion-makers take note and wonder, finally, just what kind of pathology may be involved in such an utter lack of human values, including empathy and plain decency, as displayed by Trump. Only now they are beginning to notice what was glaringly obvious all along: that their presumptive emperor has no conscience and that this peculiar defect may carry some predictable consequences.

Apparently it ain’t over — or real, or true — until a fat pundit sings.

The Avenger’s Fractured Song

“I’m of the belief, having covered politics for a long time, that people by and large go by the tone of the person. People can come out of a Trump speech and say, ‘What do you think about him saying, possibly rearming the Japanese with a nuclear weapon?’ ‘I don’t know, I didn’t hear all that clearly, but I like the guy.’ That’s tone, and Trump has mastered it. It’s one reason that if you’re a Democrat and want Hillary Clinton elected, you should be very, very afraid coming into November.”

This is Dan Rather, discussing the media’s influence in aiding Trump’s rise to power.

Rather is, of course, correct on all counts, including the responsibility of American media in creating the Trump phenomenon. His words are worth remembering especially as we are watching Fear and Loathing (and Plagiarism) in Cleveland, or the week-long Trump brand infomercial known as the RNC.

It is, or should be, apparent by now that Trump’s so-called policies as he presents them in public do not have much to do with reality and even less so with his supporters’ enthusiasm for him. Sure, there is The Wall — the biggest, most awesomest wall you’ll ever see, a real beauty, believe me — but even he admits that he uses it as an agitprop to spark enthusiasm during dull moments of his rallies, when, unable to follow his meandering stream of grievances and braggadocio, his supporters start losing interest. His rallying cry We gonna built The Wall! never fails, because it is the theme of projected crime and punishment — or scapegoating and revenge, to be accurate — that’s always the greatest aphrodisiac for narcissists everywhere, both the grandiose and the vulnerable ones.

We’ve talked about the main features of Trump’s speech/talk. His public performances — because calling them speeches does not do them justice — always follow the same predictable script. It is essentially an ongoing list of personal grievances, past and especially present, interspersed with compulsive bragging and punctuated by random (yet often strategic in timing) invocations of issues, which, as he has learned by now, bring him the greatest applause. They are always the same: the Wall, our poor veterans, Crooked Hillary, radical Islamic terrorism, dishonest media, and unfair trade, all tied together with the undercurrent of imminent danger and quasi-militaristic posturing meant to assuage the fears evoked by this danger. Did we mention Crooked Hillary?

He throws out those slogans like bones to his fear-driven and revenge-hungry audiences, who do not notice that none of them are ever elaborated — other than in the context of airing more of Trump’s personal grievances (see dishonest media) — and often are the very issues on which Trump’s personal record is dismal (see his history of scheming our poor veterans’ charities out of their promised donations, for example).

When you listen to Trump, you notice that he is the least coherent when discussing facts and those objective bone-like, non-Trump-related issues, whatever they may be (facts and the objective reality they inhabit are not a narcissist’s strong suit); but his speech flows almost effortlessly and largely coherently when he airs his personal grievances (nothing sets a narcissist afire like frustrated entitlement and the rage it fuels).

This is where Trump feels at home. Aggrieved entitlement is his territory, of which he is an undisputed king. And this is what his followers identify with the most, so much so that they forget he is not, never has been, and never will be one of them. But it is, paradoxically enough, the same narcissistic wound of personal humiliation that binds the spoiled, selfish billionaire who has not put a week of honest work in his life, with his working stiff followers who, after Steinbeck, see themselves as billionaires too, just temporarily down on their luck.

Revenge is the theme of Trumpism. Those pundits and journalists who have not yet noticed it continue to be surprised by the man’s enduring popularity and lecture his supporters about the dangers of racism and bigotry, believing somehow that Trumpists give a damn. Racism and bigotry of all kinds are necessary fortifiers of Trumpism, but those who keep bringing up and condemning Trump’s racism and bigotry as his raison d’etre and THE reason not to vote for him miss the point along with the source of his appeal.

Trump’s bigotry is a fact, but it is a plausibly deniable one, since he would not exert himself to single out anyone, including non-white non-males, for otherization and discrimination. As a supreme narcissist, he is an equal opportunity “natural” dehumanizer: treating anyone as lesser than — if even human — comes as easily to him as breathing (though if you watch his speeches, you’ll notice that his breathing, specifically inhaling, tends to be unsettlingly loud and laborious at times — maybe he should have it checked out). His racism and bigotry are part of his character defect, but not its most obvious or defining feature. In fact, from the perspective of dehumanization inherent in a narcissistic / psychopathic pathology, it is hard to see what the big deal is. Why, he loves broads! Particularly 10s under 30. He’s consistently demonstrated that, has he not? Same with the blacks. Remember his African-American? Didn’t Trump like him at his rally? Nasty people are just looking for any reason to unfairly criticize the great man.

Trumpism is all about revenge, and that revenge is achieved through winning. But it is not just ordinary winning, of the kind that makes the winners happy, proud, and satisfied, and maybe even benevolent toward the losers. Winning with Trump comes at a price — for the winners — and he is not shy about making it known:

If I’m president we’ll win so much, you’ll get bored with winning.

We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning.

Gonna win so much people will say we can’t take it anymore.

We’re going to win, win, win! We’re going to win so much, you’re going to get sick and tired of it. You’re going to say “Mr. President, we can’t take it anymore, we’re winning too much! Because we’re going to make America great again. We’re going to make it greater than ever before!

My father used to say, “Son, you are are too tough.” (…) My father was great. (…) Folks, we’re gonna start winning again. We gonna win so much. You’re gonna be so sick of me, you’re gonna have the justice call me, you’re gonna have the lieutenant governor and the governor call me and say, “Mr. President, the people of NC are sick and tired of winning! You are winning too much! They’re really starting to dislike you, Mr. President.” And I’m gonna tell the justice, and I’m gonna tell the the governor and the lieutenant governor, “I’m sorry, but we’ve gotta keep winning, because we’re gonna make America great again.”‘

So Trumpian Victory™ (new phrase alert!) is as much a promise as it is a threat, because what kind of winning guarantees to overwhelm the winners so much that they would be conquered and vanquished by it?

“Please, we don’t want to win that much anymore, we can’t take it, Mr. President!” And I’m not going to care — we’re going to keep winning!”

Does this not invoke an image of a torture victim begging his or her oppressor to stop? Or, more accurately perhaps, an abused child asking his parent for mercy?

The parent, however, does not care: You are going to keep winning, no matter what! You’ll keep winning even if it destroys you. This is what narcissistic parental abuse looks like, although it is always coached in the language of “It’s for your own good” and “You’re gonna thank me for it one day.” This kind of abuse is perpetrated from one generation to the next, creating new ranks of emotionally crippled, conscience-deficient people, confused and blindly rageful, eager to unload their suppressed pain and anger on others — their children and spouses, and their enemies, real and imagined (though mostly the latter) — especially with the approving nod from their beloved authority figure (boss, commander, god), a substitute for their abusive parent.

Since Donny is always enacting in public his private psychodramas, it is not too farfetched to speculate that this is the same message he received from his father.  Fred Trump called his favorite son “king” and “killer.” Names that our parents give us are powerful: they convey parental feelings, hopes and expectations, helping to shape a child’s character and thus his future. In Donny’s case, they primed him for his apparent character defect, that of narcissistic psychopathy, something he is proud of and the main reason for his appeal today.

Trump’s followers gulp up the promise of this self-destructive winning, as if elated by the prospect of that overwhelm, or at least oblivious to it. No one stops to ask Win what, exactly? because that’s irrelevant. Winning, even if you will get sick of it, is all that matters, according to Trump’s philosophy that appears to have roots as much in the American cultural pathology as it does in his childhood abuse, hinted at so clearly in his speeches, not in the least through his vehement assurances about the awesomeness of his father. (By most accounts, Fred was anything but.)

He promises to abuse his supporters (and the entire nation), and they clap and cheer, conditioned by the mistreatment they experienced in their formative years. Finally they have gotten a ruler who feels familiar to them and speaks their language. They call him Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR and Father, in the kind of effusive, histrionic praise that signals a total — and dangerous — devotion to a cult leader, impenetrable to reason.

In his book, Narcissism and Politics, Jerrold Post writes the following about Germany under Hitler:

Especially for the Hitler Youth Movement, which was at the forefront of Hitler’s support, Hitler’s externalizing hate-mongering rhetoric was a comforting and inspiring message, and Hitler provided the strong inspiring father figure that these children could not find within their own families.  But, in rebelling against their own families, they submitted uncritically to Hitler’s authoritarian leadership. Importantly, Adolf Hitler’s unleashing of the demons of war was turning the passive humiliation of defeat [in WWI] into the active experience of redemptive action. (p.34)

Now listen to what this devoted Trump’s fan says:

You taught me how to Win. I appreciate what you’ve done for me personally, and what you’re doing for our country. I know I’m not the only man who admires you, and can’t wait for you to become the father, and leader, of our country. It’s been a long, cold winter for men in America the last 8 years, and I believe that your election will dramatically improve the level of respect, admiration, and love people will show for strong men and Fathers, and will create a new generation of leaders from impressionable young boys.

Narcissistic leaders and their followers fit together like hand and glove, as their pathological needs become  enmeshed, to everyone’s detriment. The leader obtains thousands of mirrors to reflect his glory, an open and ongoing line of narcissistic supply that feeds his insatiable desire for adulation and power, at least for some time; and his followers receive The Ideal to emulate, which, via identification, patches up their inner wounds and makes them feel whole, if only for a while. In this state of heightened narcissistic collusion that suspends reason and conscience, anything, no matter how unrealistic or vile, becomes possible and necessary.

This is often how revolutions or wars get started — incited by the narcissistic leader’s need for power and glory, which is uncritically and enthusiastically reflected by his adoring supporters who eagerly follow his every order. At some point in the future, after the killing exhausts the faithful and the earth is scorched beyond recognition, the bloodlust diminishes for a while, enough for the reality to intrude on that sacred leader-follower bond, opening the eyes of many — but never all — on its destructiveness. As the inevitable disappointment sets in, a few may grow up and out of their need for a strong leader, but most will just seek a new one, assuring the continuation of the destructive cycle, for psychopathically narcissistic leaders always guarantee disorder (there are also positive charismatic/non-psychopathically narcissistic leaders, who can inspire their followers to affect change in the right direction; Trump does not appear to be one of them).

It is no accident that the most enthusiastic Trumpists can be found among the manospheriansalt-righters and neo-Nazis: white men (usually) with a deficient conscience and a sense of hurt and their own, so far unrecognized (but that’s gonna change soon!), specialness. They feel victimized by their own fears, at least some of which come from having to share human rights with the groups that were previously denied them, something they consider both a personal insult and grave threat to their existence. These are the men who live with the specter of white genocide taking place under the feminazi totalitarianism, in their minds already in progress in America. They come from among the spite voters, a large and largely unrecognized voting bloc brilliantly described by Mark Ames — in 2004 — as affected with the Middle American malice:

Spite voting is mostly a white male phenomenon, which is why a majority of white males vote Republican. It comes from a toxic mix of thwarted expectations, cowardice, shame, and a particular strain of anomie that is unique to the white American male experience.

It is not the economic woes that drive their spite, although this explanation always sounds plausible in America, because the deepening inequality with all its sordid effects is an ever present fact of this American life of the past several decades. Trump supporters do not come from the poor; and if they were genuinely interested in improving the lot of the working class, they would support Bernie. But they choose to follow a con artist who capitalizes on their fears and rage, promising them a deal they won’t be able to refuse: he will erase their feeling of weakness by avenging their humiliations, and thus make them feel great again, even if at a price. The Avenger’s fractured song is a siren call for the wounded. Resistance, if there even was a possibility of such, is futile, and so he marches on, in his successful “bid to transform the GOP into the abusive-daddy party,” as Ed Kilgore astutely put it in his analysis yesterday.

I encourage you to read Ames’ 2004 piece because he nails the never-changing psychology of the American spite voter and the liberals’ eternal incomprehension of it:

If I’m an obese 40-something white male living in Ohio or Nevada, locked into a permanent struggle with foreclosure, child support payments and diabetes, then I’m going to vote for the guy who delivers a big greasy portion of misery to the Sarandon-Robbins dining room table, then brags about it on Fox News. Even if it means hurting myself in the process. (…)

It’s simple mathematics: Bring down the coastal elite and the single 40-something Ohio salesman might actually matter.

Even if it means hurting myself in the process. This explains why Trumpian Victory™, winning so much that you beg (and beg, and beg) to stop, is an attractive proposition for so many.

Some do not seem to understand or care about what’s at stake, but that blindness is part and parcel of the narcissistic collusion taking place (which, paradoxically, Trumpism is here to unmask — because its unstated purpose is to make this darkness visible once and for all, whether you want it or not, and especially if not).

I recently came upon a blog written by a white, upper middle class, middle-ageish man who openly supports Trump despite his doubts, having rationalized this stance through his hatred of Hillary.

This is what he said (won’t link):

Some say that Donald Trump is an “authoritarian.” But Trump cares nothing about what I do personally. (…) Trump may be kind of thuggish, but he’ll leave me alone.  

Too bad Martin Niemöller is not available for comment.

Quote of the Day: Real author of “The Art of the Deal” speaks out

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Tony Schwartz is being interviewed in this week’s New Yorker. It is a must read.