The Trump Delusion, or a letter home.

Over the last couple of weeks, my hometown of Middletown, Ohio has been in the national political news several times, presented as a prototypical Trump town: rust belt, predominantly white and working class, depressed, angry, strongly pro-Trump. It's like a million other towns in the Midwest, but the reason it keeps coming up is that JD Vance wrote a well-timed memoir (now a NYT Bestseller) about growing up in the town called Hillbilly Elegy that has been circulated as an eloquent descriptor of Trump's primary demographic. He's become a media go-to for outlets that want to understand the sociology of the Trump movement, and by extension Middletown has become perhaps the most important case study from whence this madness came.

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about my own roots in this Trump town, and have written a fair number of words that basically amounted to an attempt to explain and empathize with why people (my people - my actual family, and the actual friends I grew up with) from there would be able to, in good conscience, vote for him. I wrote a bit about how I feel the anti-NAFTA rhetoric, for instance, because my Dad's family business was as much a victim of modern global economic forces as were the manufacturing jobs that used to make Middletown an All-American city, but have now moved away and left it desperate and declining. And I wrote about the difference between open bigotry and the understandable if not defensible implicit bias that Middletown locals might feel towards people groups that they've never been exposed to. I wrote that I admire the fight that Middletonians are putting up - their resolve to not give up on their history and town, despite economic decline and changing social forces - and noted that as one positive drive behind the Trump movement.

Then, today, this recording comes out, and I just can't bring myself to keep writing that post...

"And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."

It's been a long time since Middletown has been home, but my roots are still there, and I owe a big part of who I am to the people there. I've changed a lot, but the community there has still formed me more than any other place in the world. Which is to say that I still care about the place, and especially the people who live there.

Which is why it's more important to say what I actually think, which today's article just re-emphasizes. It is that no matter what you think about who Hillary is, or how the government has wronged you, this man cannot, and will not, help you. He does not care about you, he does not know how to fix your problems, and he actually doesn't even want to. He is the king of the shysters. He is the scam artist who stole your grandmother's inheritance. He is the factory owner who left your town to make more money in China. He is the business man who hired your uncle as a contractor, and then stiffed him after he did his job. The "a vote against him is a vote for Hillary" rhetoric is false. A vote for Trump is a vote for, quite literally as today's recording demonstrates, the rich, married prick who tried to sleep with your wife.

I work in the psychiatric field, and to say all of this is not hyperbole or demonization. And I'm not hoping to make a point about any policy question. Rather, I'm hoping to point out to you that you're being lied to and manipulated by a person with an identifiable set of personality traits that make him particularly dangerous as a presidential candidate, and particularly likely to use you for his own gain. This isn't just politics as usual, and there's no equivalency between him and Hillary. It's painful to think that people I care about are being jerked around and used by someone powerful and self interested, again, with virtually zero chance that what's being promised to you will actually be delivered.

It has been suggested that Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and I believe that characterization is fair. More specifically, I believe Trump may fit the profile of 'malignant narcissism'. This is not to say that Trump is 'crazy'. Rather, it is to say that Trump fits a personality profile that is relatively common, but that is damaging to the people around him, and particularly to the people who depend on his support. It means that he is driven by self-interest, is particularly likely to manipulate his political position for his own gain - even at the expense of the country - and feels no particular responsibility to follow through on promises he has made to others when it isn't expedient for him.

Some key characteristics of narcissistic leaders are arrogance, dominance and hostility,
and an intense need for adoration. They are pseudo-perfectionists who need to be the center of attention, they demonstrate an inability to accept responsibility for deficiencies, fly into narcissistic rage when they are criticized, and do not possess a normal adult ability to understand others' feelings. Malignant narcissists are paranoid, and are able to cause harm to others without triggering feelings of remorse. Narcissists are very frequently charismatic and intelligent, and commonly able to attain positions of power, even at the highest levels. People like Hitler, Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet, Richard Nixon, Kim Jong-Il, and Vladimir Putin also all fit the profile. (Hillary Clinton, by the way, does not, although you could perhaps make the argument that Bill did, and that she behaves in Machiavellian ways at times.)

For the voter, it's important to know that Narcissists commonly lie: to maintain power and control, maintain their popularity, and avoid shame. Because they don't empathize with others strongly, they don't feel bad about lying, and thus can do so boldly and convincingly. I believe that this is why Trump can be seen as a straight shooter, even when he lies openly, or denies having said things that are documented or recorded. (As a side note, the fact that Hillary is a bad liar is actually one of the reasons that I don't buy her as a narcissist.) Trump commonly makes political promises that he cannot reasonably uphold, and at times literally promises to make dreams come true. He is lying to you, and more so than the average politician lies to you.

Trump's bigotry and now completely undeniable misogyny, his tendency to be easily baited by insults, the fact that he puts his name in gold on everything he touches, his multiple failed marriages and infidelities, his inability to apologize convincingly, his attempt to spin not paying taxes as a type of genius in the same breath as suggesting that he will make the tax system more equitable, and his belief that he is qualified to be President of the United States, despite lacking any political experience, are indicators and symptoms of his Narcissism. The testimony of sexual harassment by women who have worked with him over the years, and contractors who he has underpaid, staff who have reported that they were scared of him, and public promotion of the paranoid delusion that is birtherism (and subsequent attempt to suggest that it was good for the country, rather than the propagation of a racist lie) are on public record. Business dealings in Cuba during the embargo, business ties to Russia, lawsuits for racial discrimination, mentorship by Roy Freaking Cohn...

Whatever political change it is that you're looking for, Trump is not the man to deliver it. If you want change, you almost could not have picked a worse agent to deliver it, in fact. The most likely scenario this election cycle is that you're being manipulated by a rich, cynical man with little to no sense of responsibility towards those who helped him get there. You know these people exist. I'm confident that he's one of them. Don't let this type of person keep doing this to you.


Anonymous said…
Trump is indeed troubled and does not truly represent Conservative values and fiscal diligence.

HilLIARy is as her name infers....a pathological liar and a threat to the future existence of the US.

Neither candidate is a good choice. Maybe the VPs should run for the top job. It may not be too late after tonight's news!
Anonymous said…
"anonymous" what a coward
mrsdearing said…
Well said, Tim, and I certainly hope you have convinced some people.
smy french said…
I agree with your DX.
Mary said…
Very nicely put. I hope Middletown listens.
Darrell said…
Thin, very thin, to use the recording as the reason for a major change in your opinion and this rant. Your reasoning is weak and not based on sound psychological theory. Come on guys, which one of you hasn't said something to another guy, locker room talk, that you weren't glad wasn't recorded and later played for public consumption.And, ladies that goes for you too and some of that "girl talk"? Get real and quit being such hypocrites.