Trump’s Authoritarians at The Gates

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Photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Here they come, in droves.

In truth, though, they have never left. The paranoid style of American politics that goes hand in hand with the authoritarian personalities* of a substantial subset of the American population is a well-known phenomenon, although it can be puzzling to outsiders — and no more so perhaps than today, in the era of Donald Trump’s seemingly inexplicable rise to power.

Last year, most Americans (and not only) sniggered at the prospect of Trump’s presidential run. It was considered “good for the laughs.” Now the previously amused no longer laugh, but start to process the possibility of the inevitable.

For people familiar with history and psychology, however, Trump’s rise to power does not surprise, although it frightens. And it should.

Disregarding the prudent Goldwater Rule, American mental professionals recently threw caution to the wind and stated the obvious: Donald Trump is a narcissist. A textbook example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

That’s hardly news to anyone — apart perhaps from his supporters who either deny this painfully obvious fact, or minimize it in various predictable ways (“Every great leader is a narcissist,” etc.).

I’d wager that it takes a fairly sensitive average person about 5 seconds, if not less, to realize that Trump is an egotistical blowhard sucking out the oxygen from the universe around him. If presented with the diagnostic criteria of NPD, that average person would most likely correctly match Trump’s observable behaviors with the checklist, saving somebody hundreds of dollars on professional expertise. If such were needed. Trump is so textbook NPD that, I’d wager again, if he showed up to illustrate the disorder to, say, psychology students or psychiatric residents, a la Kramer in Seinfeld, they would call it an over-the-top caricature and ask him to tone it down. Because, c’mon, you can’t be that obvious.

But enough wagering.

There is more to Trump’s narcissism than the above quoted (linked) professionals are willing to discuss. There is also his sadistic cruelty demonstrated in his rape of Ivana, his first wife; in his glib mockery of a disabled reporter; in his open and callous disregard for the humanity and dignity of immigrants and women; and in his bragging (taunting?) that he could shoot random people on the street and his supporters would not abandon him. (Frighteningly, he is right.)

That cruelty, and his clear and proud relishing in it, without a smidgen of remorse, demonstrates a deficit of conscience that goes beyond “simple” narcissism, veering into psychopathy, thus suggesting that what ails Trump is malignant narcissism (Steven Becker calls Trump a charismatic psychopath).

The question, then, is how is it possible for so many Americans to not only disregard this man’s obvious narcissistic psychopathy and its dire implications should he become American president, but to champion it in their enthusiastic responses to his ever-more primitive displays of its symptoms?

The answer lies in not just socio-political dimensions, but in the personality characteristics of the authoritarians who by virtue of their psychological needs are drawn to narcissists and psychopaths like moths to a flame:

the authoritarian followers are both men and women, who tend to be highly conventional, always and easily submissive to authority, while willing to work aggressively on behalf of such an authority. They tend to be very religious, with moderate to little education, trusting of untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (e.g., with respect to gay marriage); they are typically mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical of their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarian, severely punitive; they also demand loyalty and return it, have little self-awareness, and are typically politically and economically conservative Republicans.**

That description applies not just to the political right-wing adherents, but also — and obviously — to the religious fundamentalists of all stripes as well as most members of the so-called manosphere. It is no surprise that so many of the religious as well as the manospherians are enamored with Trump.

Narcissistic psychopaths, who exude extreme confidence that comes from not being burdened by such silly obstacles produced by human conscience like empathy, guilt, shame, remorse, doubt, and critical self-reflection, are the epitome of authoritarianism — specifically of the socially dominant end of its spectrum — and as such they coalesce the submissive authoritarians’ hopes and dreams. The Leader who exhibits those highly desirable, for the authoritarians, characteristics, represents the alluring ideal of The Strong Man or The Father, and will inspire unquestioning devotion so strong that it will override whatever remnants of conscience and independent thought they may have possessed. And so history repeats itself.

*I strongly encourage everyone to read this excellent and most comprehensive piece on authoritarianism by Mike from OpEdNews. It is an oldie(ish), but goodie; I’d wager possibly the best.

**There are left-wing authoritarians as well. Those are the people who made Communist atrocities possible. For example.

Edit: You can find out how authoritarian you are by taking this fun test.

Edit 2: On a more positive note, check out #NeverTrump — a growing collection of voices from the entire political spectrum opposing Trump.

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52 thoughts on “Trump’s Authoritarians at The Gates

  1. Superb post. Trump has as much interest in Jesus as I do: none. But his NPD + his great wealth make him a deified person to those eager for a savior to rise and save them from…well..from whatever boogeymen they think is after them. We’re a sick nation, and Trump is but a manifestation of that sickness. These are, IMO, very scary and sad times.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well said. If only his supporters wouldn’t look at it and cheer.
    What I don’t understand is how he is grabbing those that don’t necessarily line up along traditional conservative lines. Are people just so tired of politics that they are willing to go along for the ride?
    I greatly appreciated your sources, too, by the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Trump’s Authoritarians at The Gate | Wary Wonderlust

    • Some people are hard to please… 😉 Just you wait till November.

      If there is a hope for any ta-dah! moments, it would be, for me, in the people’s increased awareness of psychopathy as one of the greatest problems facing the human race. Not that I’m prone to bombast, but I believe this is indeed so, and we have proof of it all around us.

      Like

      • Ooh, thanks for that. Prosner speaks my language (of ponerology; also kinda literally, as Lobaczewski was a fellow Pole and based his work in a large part on that of my mentor, prof. Kazimierz Dabrowski — look him up if you have a moment).

        The 6% is an underestimate, in my informed opinion. It should, and will be revised, I’m sure, in the near future.

        Like

      • I see that Richard has not blogged for a while. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but he is a depressive with a seriously despairing streak, so I wonder if he is OK.

        Like

      • I chat with him via email from time to time. Yes, he sees the world and doesn’t like what he sees. It pains him. Deeply. He’s also taking care of his ailing father, so I think that consumes much of his time these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Was he born in March (or early spring), by any chance? He sounds like a “March baby” — the highly sensitive congenital depressives (wonderful people, generally speaking) have a higher incidence of early spring births and their depressive disposition is attributed, rightly or not, to (among things) nutritional deficiencies experienced by mother in winter months. Whether it’s bunk or not, this kid was born that special, distinctly non-psychopathic way.

        Idle and probably untoward speculation aside, I hope he is well. Say hi to him when you have a chance. And mention to him Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration as something he should look into (he would have benefitted from it many years ago, I think, but he still may find it interesting today). He is one of the positively disintegrated/-ing — and it’s a good thing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Do you think he offers hope?

    Clearly he offers a target for, and affirmation of, wild hatreds.
    -Who’ll pay for the wall?
    -Mexico!!! roar the supporters. There’s euphoria, there, but not hope. It’s the feeling of your team beating the other lot. I wonder if he could do speeches like that as president, and still be as popular. Probably.

    Lovely to see you blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you, Clare!

    The hope that Trump offers wears boots and carries a gun. It promises to restore Law and Order (TM) by eliminating the undesirables, or at least putting them “in their right place,” which is under his and his followers’ boots. This itself will magically make America great, you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Possibly it is not hope at all. They are hopeless, and know it, but enjoy the fantasy of their team winning. And they enjoy their anger being expressed at the Hispanics and Muslims by someone who seems to get away with it, who seems triumphant despite the condemnation of wiser folk, which they resent. I think as I write. Yeah, wanting a strong Authority figure to hate those they hate.

      Liked by 2 people

      • This is such a good point, Clare, and you gave me something to think about.

        Is a psychopath’s hope really hope? Psychopaths do not know values, they only know goals — and those are primitive: dominance/power, greed, and sex. A psychopath’s “love,” for example, is hardly different from hate. If one cannot grasp higher values, hope as we know it is not an adequate term to apply in his case.

        So I think you are right. That “hope” is really a prospect of their revenge on “the others.” The fantasy of their team winning, as you put it, by unloading their pent-up wrath on their favorite scapegoats.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post, Emma. Trump knows his audience well. From the last article, page 2:

    “Being born into an excessively authoritarian family, surrounded by education and religious structures denies the child a chance to experience the natural capacity of self-regulation; they reach adulthood with no confidence in their own ability to conduct their lives without external authorities guiding them.

    The evangelicals and religious cults know exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties. Firstly, they create more rigid authoritarian social communities and structures which relieve anxiety by limiting choice, by observing the messages selectively chosen by those granted special powers from above and contend that they alone know the unchanging Truth.

    Secondly, they promote racist ideology, which claims that all of our unhappiness and disappointments in life are the direct results of external enemies. Immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Socialists, Liberals, Hispanics, Blacks, Intellectuals, Feminists, Islamics, Peace Advocates and Progressives all conspire to make our lives miserable. Any one who is not a White male is automatically suspicious, and many White males are also considered problematic because of their unconventional views. The authoritarian-based religious-cult-churches offer the only protection from being further victimized, or so it appears. …

    Three main escape mechanisms that Fromm outlined are: automation-conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness (Wikipedia). Automation-Conformity, Fromm wrote, is the act of changing one’s ideal-self to what is perceived as the preferred type of personality in society. This action displaces the burden of choice from the individual to the society. The true-self, one’s naturally developed sense of worth and value, are given freely away so as to conform to the mentality and dysfunction of the masses.”

    This is exactly the way it is in the Bible Belt, the biggest supporters of Trump, and explains why people here continue to vote against their own best interests, keeping this area of the country perpetually dysfunctional.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Spot on ending of the article, last paragraph, page 7:

    “Those who would like to call America a Christian Nation are the folks who seek blind allegiance to dogmatic practices of authoritarianism; leadership and followers which keep the population gripped in fear of rejection, denial and devaluation. They support a resistance to creative ideas; endorse polarized thinking, stereotyping, xenophobia, prejudice, scapegoating, aggression and destructiveness. Whether they know it or not, they are endorsing the end of Democracy as we once knew it.

    These are not bad people, but rather people who refuse to think for themselves and find it far easier to accept direction from pseudo-authorities than face the anxiety of creating their own set of values and beliefs. Perhaps they are just lazy, or maybe they don’t care to question themselves for fear of what they may find. Either way, they are sheeple headed for the slaughter house, and they are taking their children along.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My assessment of Trump whether a narcissist or psychopath is a megalomaniacal kakistocrat. and a fraud.

    I find it ironic that much of the tone of the above writing, while in many respects thoughtful and informative, is as ignorant about matters regarded as religious however much discussed as Donald Trump manifestly is (“Two Corinthians” anybody, for one example?). I also find “Mike”‘s “OpEdNews” piece regrettably flawed by a certain sloppiness that would benefit from a careful editor, but that’s a quibble and perhaps sop to the authoritarianism of language.

    Like opinions of which I think it was Aristotle who observed (and repeated by a 16th c. influencer of western civilization) not all are of the same level, similarly matters of religion and the like.

    Why in the coverage of Pope Francis and Donald Trump, for example, has there not been any mention of the letter from the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to Trump on how his views on immigrants jibe with with the views of that denomination, with which Trump asserts membership?
    https://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/10/2/clerk-issues-letter-trump-refugees-immigrants/

    There has been no objective evidence of Trump’s being Christian presented other than his own assertion that he is, and he rejects that any church leader imply otherwise. In this too he shows his unfamiliarity with real estate he claims.

    In a Presbyterian church it is the session — the elders, who are the church’s leaders — who receive individuals into membership as recognition of, among other things, their being Christian.

    John Knox, who led the development of the views of his and others’ mentor John Calvin in Scotland (from which Trump’s mother came), held church discipline in accordance with the Bible and the stated standards sessions were to follow in its administration, to be one of the marks of the true church.

    It is also a provision of the Book of Order of the PCUSA that in church trials, where the local church session or wider governing body sits as court, that others than ones in the church, even outside the denomination, or even ones not Christians, can give testimony, even bringing charges of failure to accord with Scripture and standards.

    Donald John Trump, although baptized a child of the Covenant as an infant in First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Queens, by his rebuttal of remarks into which he read himself, from Francis, shows further his distance from the precepts and example of the faith to which he purports to subscribe. By not being a member of any Presbyterian congregation he evades being held accountable under church discipline before its church court.

    The instance of a Presbyterian elder (which Trump is not and has had sufficiency decency not to claim to be) of whom it was observed that he exemplified all the Christian virtues except for humility, comes to mind.

    May my blindness be forgiven, but I see in Donald Trump no repentance, which some consider the initial hallmark of a gospel personal faith. Let any who do report the evidence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Stranger.

      I agree that Trump is a fraud. An opportunistic con man who uses any means available to accomplish his goals (which always relate to self-aggrandizement). Psychopaths can be, and usually are like that.

      As a non-religious person, I don’t focus on his obvious abuse of religious sentiments to garner votes, but it is obvious — and shameless, as everything else he does.

      I hope that decent religious folks out there can see through his game; but if push comes to shove and he does become the GOP candidate, I doubt they would reconsider their vote for him.

      We’ll see. Time will tell.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m glad I followed your ‘plug’ at Ark’s, Emma. This is a v. interesting post, although indeed, scary. Given the influence the US has over the rest of the world, I thought a few elections ago, that we, that rest of humanity, should have a serious say on who becomes US president. That so many people in US appear not to SEE that Trump is a hate-filled fraud is grotesque. What a paradox ‘the land of the free’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for coming and commenting, Tish.

      Grotesque is a good word to describe this tragi-comedy. I was commiserating last night with someone over the good ol’ days of W, when we thought, first, that there was no way somebody like him could become president (thanks, the Supremes), and then we endured his nightmarish reign with its awful consequences, which we reap today and will for centuries.

      But when W was gone, we (well, I) thought, alright, the worst is over, it will only get better from now on. Ha. Shows how little I know…

      It is inconceivable to me that someone so obviously disordered — and primitive in every sense of the word — could become the American president. And that’s apart from his politics (whatever they are).

      Yep, shows how little I know.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have a feeling Trump got the idea to run after this. The man does not take humiliation well, and the only way he could get back at Obama after this roasting was to actually become President himself. Behold, watch as the seed is planted in a psychopath

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, you betcha! Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned. (I should write a post about narcissistic rage with this title.)

      I remember watching it and thinking that Donald’s head would explode any second. You could feel his seething burn the computer / TV screens.

      If you want to see something else along these lines, check out Donald’s roast by his Hollywood “pals:”

      It takes intelligence and sensitivity (i.e., class) to make these roasts funny but not cruel and vulgar, and most people lack the skills to make it work. And sometimes, like in this case, I think they were aiming at vulgar and cruel, making the spectacle unbearable — for the viewers (well, me), much less the roastee.

      And yet Donald sat there for the whole hour or so, and took it with aplomb. I admit I was mesmerized by it — by his reactions, or rather lack of them. He smiled and nodded at times, or when the “jokes” got especially offensive, showed some restrained mild (and somewhat facetious) indignation. But he managed to sit through it, even as his face reddened at times (can’t control those involuntary responses after all), and as, I imagine, he felt like destroying someone or something (preferably both).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. No one thought Rob Ford could win an election in cosmopolitan Toronto, either, but people can be surprisingly tolerant of and willing to join in astounding stupidity, blatant ignorance, and an utter lack of concern about law or have any desire to follow it… if they feel their vote represents that they’re fighting for the ‘little guy’ against Big Establishment… even if the ‘little’ guy running is in fact very much a full fledged member. It takes a certain amount of cognitive shutdown to ignore and/or dismiss reality to this extent but who better than those who’ve been doing it for years: the religious. That’s why the core of The Donald support comes from these wingnuts… and they are everywhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. I completely understand the sentiment of “the little guy” vs. Big Establishment. And I get the Trump’s appeal, particularly when he’s positioned against the other riders of the GOP clown car who are hopeless and uninspiring.

      But this is an extra reason to be on guard against the populist fever that sweeps the masses deluded into thinking that this spoiled, rich bully gives a damn about their concerns and well-being.

      Trump’s supporters vary in terms of demographics. There are also (former?) democrats who are on his side, to my surprise. A majority of Trump’s supporters are women — another surprise to me. Also, neo-Nazis (to no one’s surprise) who see in him their chance for that “triumph” that Clare suggested in her comment.

      There are many people who were politically apathetic, but now, thanks to Trump, feel energized and motivated to vote.

      It is a wild ride, this election. Nothing should be taken for granted.

      Thanks for stopping by, tildeb!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Scary. Looks a fair assessment of him. However, I’m wary of the tendency to paint the opposition as all things bad. In spite of the fact he does seem just unbelievably bad, I remember being terrified about George W Bush. He’s gone and it could have been worse.
    And I see the ‘other side’ is terrified of Obama, who seems like the most harmless, well-meaning man ever. Point being, we’re so tribal, and each side goes to town seeing awfulness in the other.
    Positive points about Trump – it would be nice to a ginger world leader. If Boris Johnson becomes the next British PM, there could be some classic pictures and quotes from any time they have together. The Great Wall of China is a tourist attraction now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure Trump is a natural ginger (not that it matters).

      Good point on tribalism and a tendency toward demonization. Yes, right-wingers consider Obama to be Antichrist, in addition to a psychopathic Kenyan Muslim commie, and a Hitler’s clone.

      Thing is, we look for evidence. Is there evidence of psychopathy — lack of conscience demonstrated in the absence of empathy, guilt, shame, remorse (among other things) — in this person?

      In Obama — the man who worked as a community organizer and fought for health care for all, among other accomplishments — there is not. He is not perfect, by any means, and certainly not a walking saint; but the existence of his conscience is not questionable (despite the right-wingers attempts to do just that — but these are the people who think universal health care is a communist evil).

      Is there evidence of psychopathy (of the narcissistic kind) in Trump? Hmm. Let’s see…

      Like

      • “..right-wingers consider Obama to be Antichrist, in addition to a psychopathic Kenyan Muslim commie, and a Hitler’s clone.” You forgot atheist. He’s a devout Muslim, AntiChrist, Commie, Atheist. Right-wingers, dey be real smart-like ‘n all. Ain’t nawbuddy gonna pull no wool over der eyes.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh my gosh, that photo says it all. And what it says is, if that man were to become president, the world will be much the worse for it. Those people are actually gushing over a narcissistic psycho.

    Please urge your community to get out and vote. A high voter turnout is all that can save us.

    I haven’t found this blog until just now, great piece. Blog followed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, shell. (This is me, the same Emma, under a different grava and email — will have to figure out the way to straighten this out.)

      Yes, that photo is… something, isn’t it. It is from his last year rally in Alabama. If anything, by now his supporters are even more frenzied.

      The voters’ turnout this election will be huuuge (comparatively speaking), if Trump is the GOP candidate.

      There is no question that we must do our part in stopping him from becoming president.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Narcissistic Psychopath in Chief | good marriage central*

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