This the first of a two-part article. Read the second part of “Narcissism Is Trumpism” right here on DemCast.
America is still at a crossroads. While trump’s defeat in 2020 likely saved American democracy, the future is still under grave threat from trumpism and much must be done to save it. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the trumpism threat is that silly little things like facts, logic and reason are no longer effective in helping most Republicans care, understand or believe in obvious truths like the sky is blue, night is dark, or that the name trump isn’t worthy of capitalization, unless we are talking about Mary.
Many of us have watched in disbelief over the years as conservatives went from having sincere and reasonable different points of view, to taking facts out of context, to making up facts to support conclusions, to where we are today with many all-out lying and crying about alternative realities to justify horrific and stupid trumpist words, lies and actions.
What is often asked in pursuit of trying to understand and solve America’s trumpism problem: How did so many get so easily pulled into trump’s cult of personality to the point where they are no longer tethered to reality? What is this psychological hold trump has over most Republicans? How can we deprogram them? Can we deprogram them? These are questions we must answer or trumpism will continue to be an existential threat to “truth, justice, and the American way.”
The Psychology of the Cult of trump
Like almost everyone, I initially resisted using “cult” to describe the trump Republicans, but in hindsight, I waited too long, and I definitely underestimated the depth of the cultlike hold trump has had over so many ever since he started running for president in 2015.
Remarkably, even after all the self-dealing, constant lying, and multiple failures to protect the country from Covid, losing in 2020 and then triggering his supporters to invade the capital to overturn our democracy, he still seems to have lost little to none of his normal 80–90% Republican support. If anything, his followers have become increasingly ridiculous, fanatical, detached from reality and authoritarian to the point where their cult leader trump really could “shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any support.”
This is why it is so important to first understand that trumpism was never really about trump. Republicans have been grooming followers, conservatives, Christians and the ignorant for decades via right-wing politics and media. In addition, many conservative religious authorities have preached that blind faith is holy; then Republicans masterfully conflated religious blind faith with Republican politics, so legions were primed and ready to cult up for a charismatic con man like trump who would tell them everything they were groomed to want to hear politically, despite all facts, truths, and realities to the contrary. This appears to be a big part of why evangelicals support trump. They seem the most conditioned to follow their leader, no matter who or what.
He was the inevitable result of a cult the Republicans had already built. This is the obvious part of why trumpism was never about trump. He was just their first presidential candidate to so publicly stroke racist and bigoted egos by saying the right-wing quiet parts out loud with the same shameless pride they had heard for decades in conservative media; and the like-minded fell in line and love saying, “it’s about time.”
For decades, the more reality slipped away from Republicans, the more they turned into one big radio shock jock, fake wrestling, reality TV show for their supporters. In 2021, all that is left of the GOP is a party of antidemocratic, staged false flag lies, fictions and alternate realities meant to create tension, drama and outrage, that works their crowds into an emotional frenzy, solely for gaining undeserved political support, ratings, power, and extracting people’s money. Hence, once all “legitimate” parts of the GOP extraction business model failed in the 2016 presidential primaries, the powers that be took the last off-ramp before their long overdue reckoning by going with a deeply disturbed fascist con man instead of having their “come to Jesus moment.” Thus the trump cult was born.
If only there were an area of psychology that made sense of this self-serving destructive behavior and how it all connects to trump and trumpism! Well, where their whacked out, too stupid, too greedy, totally selfish, pathological lying begins, I did find an area of psychology that explains it all while studying how to rescue a friend from a sociopath’s web. In fact, everything I learned about narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths then still accurately predicts and fully answers all my GOP, trump and trumpism questions now.
So, the short answer to trumpism’s threat is clear when you know the psychology: trump is a poster child for narcissistic personality disorder at a minimum, and his followers are mostly composed of clinical narcissists and those who were individually or culturally conditioned by narcissists into having myopic, selfish, and self-serving beliefs. This forms today’s collective GOP narcissism. In other words, trumpism is narcissism.
Of course in 2015, many of us got heavy criticism for saying trump was psychologically unfit for office. What that criticism revealed was so many didn’t get what he really was: a pathological narcissist. Ironically, most of those very same people would also say, “He lies more than anyone I’ve ever heard previously.” This explained exactly why so many didn’t grasp his level of narcissism. Some of us had experienced a trump-level liar before 2015; so we understood we were dealing with a pathological liar incapable of being selfless, and he would not, or could not, stop. Like a definition of malignant, we knew he would “get progressively worse” unless stopped.
This is also why when people ask if trumpism will survive trump, they show they still don’t get what it really is. We must ask why most people don’t see trumpism is practically a textbook personality disorder that is little more than egomania, selfishness and a thirst for power, mostly fueled by insecurity, fear, and greed. Obviously, since these negative traits have always been part of humanity, until we can end trauma and grow logic and consciences in human brains, they will remain part of the human story.
To be fair, pathological narcissists sneak up on almost everyone before they are identified for being toxically abusive. They are psychologically conditioned to appear “normal,” hide in the shadows, and in plain sight with superficial charm, while we are never really taught to see the signs of these very disturbed, little-to-no-conscience sharks swimming among us.
Even Republican kingmakers didn’t take the trump threat seriously, and once he destroyed their “strong bench” in their 2016 primary, they still willingly chose to avoid their party’s reckoning with reality by embracing his corrupt clown show. They did this because their billionaire owners only care about another round of swamp judges, 1% tax cuts, corporate welfare, and no enforced corporate regulations. Apparently, what none of them saw coming was trump winning over the hearts and minds of those they had programmed, aka Republican base voters. Now, they are stuck with him as Dear Leader.
You may also enjoy Sam Ray’s discussion of Trump as viewed through a psychological, not a political, lens, “Trump and His Party of Flying Monkeys.“
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