Thursday, March 08, 2018

Trumpism-- Is It A Uniquely American Infectious Disease?


Earlier this morning, we looked at the mad house the White House has become since Putin installed Señor Trump in the Oval Office, the most brilliant foreign policy coup in Russian history-- and certainly the worst non-violent attack on America ever. Our resident psychologist, Helen Klein, keeps trying to explain Trump's behavior in terms of psychological deformities. Yesterday right-wing polemicist Jonah Goldberg tried the same thing, more or less, at the National Review, although in terms of Trumpism rather than the workings or dysfunction of Señor T's mind. His point is that "Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to an intellectual approach to politics because his decisions aren't based on any coherent body of ideas... Trumpism," he says is a "psychological phenomenon." I think most observers have come to that conclusion over the past several decades, several years, several months... or even several days, depending on how long he or she has been paying attention to the penny-ante huckster and cheap cable TV reality show Putin saddled us with. There certainly is no "coherent Trumpist ideology."
On the left, there’s an enormous investment in the idea that Trump isn’t a break with conservatism but the apotheosis of it. This is a defensible, or at least understandable, claim if you believe conservatism has always been an intellectually vacuous bundle of racial and cultural resentments. But if that were the case, Commentary magazine’s Noah Rothman recently noted, you would not see so many mainstream and consistent conservatives objecting to Trump’s behavior.

Intellectuals and ideologically committed journalists on the left and right have a natural tendency to see events through the prism of ideas. Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to such approaches because, by his own admission, he doesn’t consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.

Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That’s narcissism, not ideology, talking.

Even the “ideas” that he has championed consistently-- despite countervailing evidence and expertise-- are grounded not in arguments but in instincts. He dislikes regulations because, as a businessman, they got in his way. He dislikes trade because he has a childish, narrow understanding of what “winning” means. Foreigners are ripping us off. Other countries are laughing at us. He doesn’t actually care about, let alone understand, the arguments suggesting that protectionism can work. Indeed, he reportedly issued his recent diktat on steel tariffs in a fit of pique over negative media coverage and the investigation into Russian election interference. His administration was wholly unprepared for the announcement.

News emanating from the White House is always more understandable once you accept that Trumpist policy is downstream of Trump’s personality.

The president's attack on his attorney general's conduct as "disgraceful" makes no political, legal or ideological sense, but it is utterly predictable as an expression of Trump’s view that loyalty to Trump should trump everything else.

Likewise, his blather about skipping due process to “take the guns” was politically bizarre but perfectly consistent with his poor impulse control and well-established tendency to tell people in the room with him what they want to hear.

And, of course, his decision to promote and protect his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is purely psychological. Giving Kushner the responsibility to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for all time seems like the premise of a sitcom-- yet is wholly congruent with Trump’s management style.

Still, many of Trump’s biggest fans stick by him, mirroring Trump’s mode of thinking and discovering ever more extravagant ways to explain or rationalize the president’s behavior. (Krein’s abandonment of Trump was an exception to the rule.) When Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University tweeted his support, floating the idea that Sessions was an anti-Trump deep cover operative who endorsed Trump to undermine his presidency from within.

It seems Trumpism is infectious. If this infection becomes a pandemic-- a cult of personality-- one could fairly call Trumpism a movement. But psychology would still be the best way to understand it.

Too late for the U.S. Congress. Few were immune and the bulk of Republican members of both the House and the Senate are the equivalent of the Walking Dead now. The rest of us have to protect ourselves, not just from Trump, but from Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell as everyone in their voracious, insatiable herds. Count on American women to protect their children, their families-- and the species. A new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday found 41% of voters feeling that Señor Trumpanzee is the worst of the 13 presidents who have served since the end of World War II. Trump's overall approval rating is 38%. (And only 26% of Americans approve of how he handles issues involving Putin.)

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At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

racist morons aren't unique to Americans though we certainly have far more than our share.
Demagogues exist elsewhere too (Duterte) but ours are worse because of our plethora of racist morons and the size of our military.

Infectious? One could argue that it could be... after all elections in the EU are trending toward neo-fascists and corporatists like May and whatever just happened in Italy.

At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Helen Klein said...

Nicely put. The Trumpism disease primarily affects banana republics and I guess this is now us, although it seems to be spreading in Europe as well.

As a malignant narcissist, Trump does have an ideology and an M.O.: his ideology is promoting Trump and his own desires (simply put - power, money and sex), and his M.O. is letting loose his entourage of thugs (often lawyers) on anyone standing in his way. This has worked for him his whole life. Trump is all about himself and he will mobilize whatever bullying, threats and lies he can (through other individuals as vehicles, of course, as he himself is a coward) to obtain his goals and avoid consequences. Period.

Since his entourage consists of individuals with few or no ethics and are not the brightest bunch, those who provide the force behind his M.O. will eventually fry in Mueller's pan. What is truly disgusting is how Trump has gotten away with his extensive illegal, irresponsible and heartless activities for so many decades and probably would have continued to do so had he not become President. Is our justice system that compromised? Obviously, it is. How many other businessmen and politicians have gotten away with similar shenanigans on such a massive scale while the rest of us Americans adhere to laws and dutifully pay our taxes? So many people are in prison for crimes that are minuscule compared to what we are seeing right before our eyes. It is appalling, albeit necessary, for Mueller to cut deals with the likes of Gates, who have committed financial crimes beyond belief and will get off so lightly, while people of color languish in prison for years for smoking a joint.

I suspect Trump will let Jared hang in the wind and not lift a finger to save him. Trump will probably enjoy watching the show, too, as he is a truly sick malevolent son of a bitch. Trump does not really care about his family either, when push comes to shove. A narcissist only cares about himself. Jared, after all, is not even blood related. And, he is a Jew and we know how Trump feels about Jews. (Although like Archie Bunker, Trump loves Jewish lawyers.) Within the cauldron of Trump's many potential psychiatric diagnoses are signs of borderline personality, a hallmark of which perceptions of others can easily flip 180 degrees in an nanosecond, from love to hate, from laudatory to despicable. We have seen many examples of this from Trump. He expects loyalty from all but he is loyal to none.

Poor, poor Jared.

At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen, agreed. I do hope your last sentence was with tongue firmly in cheek.
I just listened to Michael Wolff on a podcast. He was brutal in his assessment of ALL of the trumps as well as the kushners. He called them "not bright people" and said they are all "totally without scruples".

But I remain skeptical about how much "justice" Mueller will ultimately achieve. I also expect trump to, on a whim at some point, issue a "class" pardon -- and expect that democraps won't have the stomach to challenge such an anti-constitutional act in court (the supremes might sign their own epitaph as serious jurists if they upheld it).

"Is our justice system that compromised? Obviously, it is." after the obamanation DOJ refused (without trying) to put anyone in prison stripes for the $20 trillion fraud in 2008; after the gonzalez DOJ actively engaged in voter suppression and prosecutions; after several DOJs refused (without trying) to enforce the Vienna accords on torture... yeah. it's TOTALLY compromised... as in bought. Mueller was there. He deserves some of the blame.

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no Justice in America for those who aren't rich enough to buy it.


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