Huffington Post science and health writer Carolyn Gregoire has interviewed mental health experts to gauge the psychological make-up of presidential candidate Donald Trump. The assessments aren’t exactly surprising for a man who constantly berates, belittles, and diminishes others. Here’s a sampling:
“In watching Donald Trump in the Republican debates, he comes across as someone who is self-centered and lacking in humility….” (Taya Cohen, Carnegie-Mellon University)
“Narcissists like Donald Trump…are constantly driven to prove themselves among the ‘winners’ of the world, often by triumphing over or denigrating other people as comparative ‘losers….” (Joseph Burgo, psychotherapist and author)
“In general, people like that make a good first impression, but become difficult to work with over time because they feel entitled to special treatment, ignore criticism, and intimidate others…” (Ryne Sherman, personality psychologist, Florida Atlantic University)
The good news? He’s apparently not a Machiavellian who tells people what they want to hear for the sake of manipulating them.
Hate crime expert’s opinion
Hate crime expert Randy Blazak (Portland State University) has devoted his career to studying messaging and communications from groups like the KKK and Nazi sympathizers. He offers a disturbing analysis of Trump’s views on immigrants and racial minorities:
So when I say that presidential candidate Donald Trump is a racist hate-monger it’s not just a political pejorative. He has a constitutional right to hold and express racist views, but using those views to manipulate the intellectually vulnerable and mobilize active bigots requires a coherent response. As an expert on hate, I am more than comfortable stating that either Trump is a virulent racist or that he is willing to perform racism and use racism of others to advance his political position.
At this juncture, Donald Trump is leading in many polls of Republican primary contenders. While I comprehend the potential appeal of a seemingly no-nonsense leader who promises to get things done in Washington D.C., let’s not confuse this brand of toxic, empathy-free “plain talk” with the qualities we need in our next President.
He has tapped into an ugly vein of American society that thrives on incivility and intolerance. His rhetoric is alarmingly free of evidence of kindness or human understanding. I wrote about America’s bullying culture some four years ago, and I think these characterizations apply to Trump:
In the U.S., we put bullying bosses on a pedestal. In fact, here’s a celebrated Harvard Business Review article by organizational behavior professor Roderick Kramer…, praising the “great intimidators” of the management world:
They are not averse to causing a ruckus, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings to get attention.
Kramer insists that the great intimidators aren’t your “typical bullies” driven by ego and the desire to humiliate others. No, he claims, these are people of vision.
…or do we get the leaders we deserve?
A recent Yahoo News commentary by Jerry Adler caused me to ask myself, once again, if we simply get the leaders we deserve.
Adler was writing about the potential presidential candidacy of Vice President Joseph Biden, who lost his son Beau, 46, to brain cancer a little over three months ago. Understandably, that terrible loss has been a major factor, if not the major factor, weighing on Biden’s mind as he wrestles with the decision of whether or not to run.
Some of the Vice President’s grief has played out on the public stage. As a presidential candidate, however, Adler suggests that any signs of emotional weakness would not be tolerated:
As a grieving father, Biden is permitted to show his emotions in public, but as a candidate, he can only show strength.
In the piece, Adler speculates how Biden might react if Donald Trump, as the Republican nominee, questioned his capacity to serve in light of his son’s death.
There are few more grueling marathons than a full-on presidential campaign. Joe Biden knows this as well as anyone else. However, the truism that candidates “can only show strength” is disturbing evidence of how American political discourse is stuck in a retrograde emotional zone where stereotypical “toughness” is valued highly and other displays of feelings must be tempered or hidden.
Anybody here, seen my old friend Abraham…
Okay, so you’ve probably figured out that I could never vote for Donald Trump. But I’m not making an unqualified case for Joe Biden, either. For now, I’d simply like a better array of announced choices.
In considering those choices, let’s reject any embrace of narcissistic, intolerant, bullying so-called leaders. Instead, let’s look for the kind of rich humanity evident in someone like Abraham Lincoln, America’s greatest President. Lincoln was no pushover; when he had to, he played the game rough. But he was driven by deeper core values and goals. Three years ago, in a piece asking about our heroes in public life, I wrote:
During the Civil War, Lincoln was burdened by a difficult marriage and the death of a beloved young son, and he struggled with what now would be diagnosed as clinical depression.
…I get why figures like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton mean so much to so many people. And I understand why Ronald Reagan is so beloved by conservatives.
However, in searching for the qualities of wisdom, compassion, resilience, and courage that we need today, I keep returning to Abraham Lincoln as a singular figure worthy of study and emulation.
Yes, I know that invoking Lincoln is aiming awfully high. But it sure beats the typical political fare served up on cable news these days.