In the past 3 ½ years of the Trump presidency we have been witnessing an ongoing American tragedy with the final act still being written in the months before and beyond the November election. There will be no happy ending to this tragedy as the extreme divisiveness and hate spreading like an infectious virus through our society will not be easily eradicated for years or decades – perhaps never for much of Trump’s rabid base of supporters who portray a messiah- like reverence for their leader. On the other hand, for the well-informed voters, Trump lacks the intellectual capacity, is morally corrupt, and mentally unfit to serve the American people, as we watch him shamelessly and purposely dividing Americans for his own personal benefit.
As Abraham Lincoln first warned as a candidate for the Illinois Senate seat in 1858, "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." It is a line often quoted as a warning to Americans that only by “working together” can our democracy solve such problems as pandemics, climate change, systemic racism, inequality and more. Trump is the antithesis of what made America great. He is the antithesis of the words in the pledge of allegiance…”one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
Trump’s callousness and ineptness in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and the tragedy of over 180,000 American deaths, the ongoing incidents of police brutality and racism in our society, his reversals of economic inequality and climate change, his family separation and “babies in cages” policies at the southern border, and his ruthless malice in undermining the Post Office and other government institutions for his own political gain, have astounded most Americans and have inflamed the political divisions in our society -- the antithesis of “liberty and justice for all”.
Since Trump was elected, his presidency overall has been marked by chaos, corruption, indictments, convictions, and ineptitude. As each transgression unfolds, his enablers, sycophants, and apologists fabricate “alternative facts” to support the president’s latest false reality. Trump and his cabinet, senior level positions, head of agencies and a large majority of the Republican Party have avowed undivided loyalty and obedience to him, at least those that survived not being fired. That loyalty often demands his cronies support in public his corrupt moral values, false fantasies, outlandish lies and otherwise serving his narcissistic ego with undeserving praise. It is a government that only serves Trump’s personal interests and those that support him – the antitheses of “one nation”.
Trump’s partner in the falsehoods is Fox News, sometimes referred to as the “Trump propaganda network” as they help spread lies and conspiracy theories that benefit Trump and Republicans and undermine Democrats. His relationship with Fox News is symbiotic as they feed off each other to keep Trump’s base of supporters misinformed. Sean Hannity is sometimes referred to as Trump’s de facto chief of staff considering that Trump consults with him daily.
Trump and Trumpism must be defeated in November for the sake of our very democracy. The warnings of the dangers to our democracy of another Trump term have come from all directions – former government officials, former and current Republicans, and even some in his own family. His niece, Mary Trump and his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry painted a more sinister side of Trump’s morality than was portrayed in the Republican National Convention. Maryanne Trump Barry calls her brother “cruel with no principles, none…you can’t trust him...a clown.” Mary Trump, a psychologist by profession, calls him “a petty, pathetic little man – ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost in his own delusional world".
Mental health experts have warned of Trump’s dark triad of psychological traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism in addition to authoritarianism, pathological lying, sociopathy, paranoia, hedonism as well as his ignorance, overt racism, and lack of intellectual thought. While many of these character traits individually are common to varying degrees in society – corporate CEOs, religious leaders, military, police, and ordinary citizens -- it is uncommon to find them collectively in one individual, Donald Trump. The character traits can also be found to varying degrees in many of Trump’s cabinet appointments and aides, the most loyal of his supporters in the Republican Party, and Trump’s propaganda news outlet, Fox News.
Mary Trump’s word above describing the “petty, pathetic little man” in her book, Too Much and Never Enough, are consistent with the many sentiments that 37 psychologists and mental health experts made in their book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. “Trump is a clear and present danger to American democracy and must not be reelected in November.”
One of Trump’s often cited traits, narcissism, is especially noteworthy. There are degrees of narcissism from the benign or healthy narcissism of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates to the extreme of Donald Trump. People with a “narcissistic personality disorder” have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, require constant and excessive admiration, exaggerate achievements and talents, lack empathy for anyone but themselves, are preoccupied with fantasies about success and power, and come across as conceited, boastful and pretentious -- all words that describe Trump according to Mary Trump. Additionally, a Johns Hopkins University psychologist has diagnosed Trump as suffering from an even more severe form of narcissism, malignant narcissism, (a.k.a. psychopathic narcissism):
“Trump suffers from malignant narcissism, a diagnosis [that is] far more toxic and dangerous than mere narcissistic personality disorder because it combines narcissism with three other severely pathological components: paranoia, sociopathy, and sadism. When combined, this perfect storm of psychopathology defines the ‘quintessence of evil,’…the closest thing psychiatry has to describing a true human monster.”
Putting aside the clinical terms, in layman’s terms Donald Trump loves himself and thinks only of himself. Everything he does or says has an underlying motive to advance his own political/economic interest and power. He has no conscience and no empathy for anyone but himself. He is deceitful and manipulative, a master at propaganda and messaging. He seeks to divide Americans at every step for his own political gain.
He lies a lot – 20,000 lies and exaggerations according to the Washington Post. Maryanne Trump tells Mary Trump in a recorded conversation: "His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my god,..I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit."
While many of his lies are considered “scams” for his immediate gain, of more concern are his “big lies”, alternative false realities in which he lies so authoritatively he appears to believe his own lies – the Mueller investigation, the southern border wall, immigrants in general, voter fraud claims, the post office mail, the Chinese tariffs, the Russian conspiracy theory on the Biden and Ukraine, and now most heinously, the Covid-19 virus falsehoods – all lies to help prop up his standing for re-election. It is tragic for the many victims of his lies, but also for American democracy that he can lie with such impunity and not get called out for it by Republicans.
Trump cheats at everything. Intellectually Trump is not capable of focusing and learning at the level needed to be competitive in society. He feels insecure in that regard so he cheats. As a boy Maryanne Trump revealed that she did his homework for him, and that he even got someone to take the SAT test for him to get into college. As a businessman he cheated his workers, his contractors, his bankers, and others, but he also cheated on his wives. He cheats regularly at golf as attested by those who golfed with him. "He cheats like a mafia accountant. He cheats crazy. He cheats whether you're watching or not. He cheats whether you like it or not," Rick Reilly told CNN's John Berman on "New Day" Tuesday. And now he is cheating the American public by going all out to suppress the vote for the 2020 election.
Further on Trump’s insecurity, he craves attention and admiration, and until the coronavirus shut him down, he held countless rallies to boost his ego. As psychologists note, Trump rallies help feed a narcissistic symbiotic relationship between Trump and his base. He needs them to bolster his insecurity and ego, but his base also needs him -- a “quality of mutual intoxication for both sides” as one psychologist put it. He is at his best unscripted in front of a rowdy crowd of believers vilifying an opponent. As one avid supporter said, “I love it when he does that.”
Lacking big rallies, he has now reverted to holding presidential daily briefings where he can spout his lies and knock Democrats. On the White House lawn or some other venue, he often cites a litany of grievances and platitudes to the press as he leaves on a trip.
The divisive discourse displayed at this year’s Republican National Convention is evidence that Americans should not expect a course correction if Trump should win a second term. With few exceptions the prerecorded RNC speakers engaged in a litany of outlandish lies and exaggerations about what a Biden presidency would like, while also lying and embellishing Trump’s accomplishments as president. The list of grievances made it appear that the Democrats were the party in power, ignoring the fact that Trump has done little to address those grievances in his 3 ½ years. To be clear, it is Trump’s administration that must be held accountable for their actions, mistakes, and incompetence not the Democrats.
Rather than making the effort to update the platform to address society’s problems on a whole host of very important issues, the party simply surrendered to Trumpism issuing a statement with these words: “The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” In other words, the party will continue to support whatever Trump decides is important to him – a “Trump first” anything goes agenda. It is an agenda therefore that will see Trump and his cronies continue to promote and thrive on a campaign of dividing America – the antitheses of “indivisible”
Trump’s official RNC teleprompter speech from the White House south lawn full of some 1,500 closely packed cheering supporters without masks was characteristic of many of his other speeches -- platitudes, promise, lies, misconceptions, exaggerations, distortions, fear mongering and the endless bragging on himself that we have gotten so accustomed to in his rallies. It was a speech like his other speeches purposely directed to his base of supporters only -- more outright lies and fear mongering about Democrats, Joe Biden and what a Biden presidency would represent, more red meat for his base that perpetuates the many falsehoods that incite divisiveness in our American society. That speech guaranteed that there will not be any “national unity” under a second Trump term...just more divisiveness and outright hate by design. And it set a horrible example for the public following best practices to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many of his speeches are written for him and scripted, his many unscripted, rambling, and incoherent rants at numerous Trump rallies have demonstrated that Trump has no intellectual curiosity, and his only deep thoughts are how he can plot actions for his own benefit and reelection. If Trump has a political philosophy, it is more like “quid pro quo” – you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. Or its corollary, you cross me, and I will cross you. He was impeached for his quest to manufacture dirt on Biden, but with the Senate’s acquittal he has become even more emboldened to “do whatever he wants”.
Attaching the term “Trumpism” to Trump’s political practices suggests intellectual insight that is simply not there. Trump is an ignoramus incapable of deep intellectual thought. His former Secretary of State called him a moron. Ann Coulter calls him a “shallow lazy ignoramus”. He is an embarrassment to much of the American public, but not his loyal base whose ignorance and cognitive dissonance keeps them living in an alternative dark reality.
Former President Obama, breaking from precedent in his DNC speech, summed up the Trump presidency quite well in a similar message: “For close to four years now, he's shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves… he will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win”. The Republican Party and Fox News will be his loyal enablers in that lust for power.
That is, in essence, the American tragedy that for the last 3 ½ years all the chaos, endless lies, crimes, cheating, fear mongering and divisiveness has made little difference to his base of avid supporters. “One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all” are meaningless words to the some 63 million Americans who voted for him in 2016 and are prepared to vote for him again in 2020 -- four more years of Trumpism. That would be a colossal tragedy for America and the whole world.
As Michelle Obama so eloquently stated in her DNC speech, “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
As a sociopath and malignant narcissist, Donald Trump is incapable of feeling empathy or changing his ways. He only thinks of himself. Our democracy cannot stand another four years of his hate rhetoric and divisiveness. For the sake of our democracy, we must vote him out of office.