Tag: psychoanalysis

The Tao of Trump

Today is a special blog post, co-written with my son, Josh Weinstein. He’s a senior at Berkeley, studying Computer Science and Fine Art. Josh is very talented at both, but since he also goes to a liberal university, he likes to talk about politics as well. He’s been closely watching the presidential campaign over the past year or so, and has been particularly interested in Donald Trump. I asked him to join me using a dialog-format for this discussion.

Vida:

Let me start by saying that I’m not a very politically minded person… That is I wasn’t until recently, when I began to read some of the horrific bigoted comments made by Donald Trump. At first, I rolled my eyes and covered my ears, thinking he was some sicko narcissist that would surely never get elected to public office. My sense was that he was trying to run for President to act out some misplaced power hungry fantasy of conquering the highest seat in the nation for all the wrong reasons. When I found out he received the Republican nomination for President, I was totally mortified along with thousands of other people. I decided to invite my son, who is savvy and has political knowledge, to write a blog post on this topic, and I was very happy and honored when he agreed.

Josh:

Hello there! I’m Vida’s son, Josh, and I agreed to write this article because I really like politics. My mom happens to be a great psychotherapist with a wonderful sense of humor and we also work well as a team. At first, I thought Trump was running for president to film some new episodes for a reality TV show… “The Candidate,” or so I thought it would be called, honestly. As time went on, and more Republicans dropped out of the race, my hilarious thought stepped closer to reality. When I saw the news that Cruz and Kasich both dropped out, my worst fears were confirmed. Trump is only a step away from sitting in the Oval Office. It begs the question, “What gives?” Are we really watching the presidential race or some late night comedy show? What’s going on here?

Vida:

Hey, Josh! First, I would like to ask what your thoughts on Donald Trump and the election in general are, and what are your perceptions of him?”

Josh:

That is a tough question, and I will do my best to answer this in a bipartisan fashion.

This election season has experienced many new movements and thought circles emerging in politics. Bernie Sanders started what many view as a political revolution, and a movement of progressive ideas like universal healthcare and college education becoming more popular and mainstream.

However, Trump also carved out his own version of a revolution, on the other side of the political spectrum. Trump, strangely enough, is very different from all of the other candidates. He doesn’t appear to have a concrete left or right theme to his ideas, and seems to change his positions very frequently. He seems to leverage his popularity on people perceiving him as a guy who can “get the job done.”

A major contrast though, is that he seems to not adhere strongly to a specific set of viewpoints, unlike his other opponents.

Vida:

What makes you feel he doesn’t adhere to a strict set of viewpoints?

Josh:

For traditional politicians from the Democratic or Republican parties, or even smaller parties like the Libertarians, candidates normally follow a set principle of how their opinions are structured on the issues. Democrats lean more to the left on both social and fiscal issues, Republicans lean more conservative on both social and fiscal issues, and Libertarians lean left socially and right fiscally, while preferring the least government intervention possible. However, Trump has changed his opinions many times, in even as little as a couple of days.

In this interview with Wolf Blitzer, in 2004, Trump stated, “In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat,” and goes onto explain, “It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn’t be that way.” Something rather peculiar about this statement is that, it’s rather inconclusive, he doesn’t give a firm, binary answer if he identifies as a Republican or Democrat.

In a recent debacle about Trump and his opinions on abortion, he changed his opinions 5 times in as little as 3 days. Now, a candidate changing their opinion is not unusual, but it normally happens over a number of years. For example, Mitt Romney switched his official position on abortion from pro-choice to pro-life over the course of nearly 10 years while in office as governor.

A consistent pattern in these changing of opinions, is the change of tone. Originally, Trump exclaimed that women, “…should be punished for having an abortion.” This is a very harsh rhetoric to be used by even conservative politicians, who normally just say, “Overturn Roe Vs. Wade,” or, “Abortion should not be legal.”

Personally, I believe the harsh rhetoric is a tactic to try and differ the focus from his true intentions. He changes his opinions quickly, to deceive people from whatever his real opinion may be. Additionally, I believe that he does this to sound less serious than he really is, so people on opposing sides don’t view him as a potential opponent in the election until it’s too late.

Vida:

That’s amazing, Josh.

Next question: Why do you believe, despite Trump’s controversies, why that he appeals to so many people?”

Josh:

That’s a tough question to answer, mom, and a lot of people who aren’t Trump supporters are wondering the same thing. Many political analysts originally didn’t expect Trump’s campaign to last so long.

However, I think the main reasons are:

  1. Lots of people are tired of career politicians or politicians from the established parties. There is a common idea among Trump supporters that traditional politicians are all talk and no action. Trump’s visceral and unrestrained personality lures people into believing he will “get the job done.” They want change they haven’t seen with Bush or earlier presidencies from the Republican party.
  2. His supporters are skeptical of big money in politics, and politicians that have campaigns funded by super-PAC’s. Since the 2008 financial crisis, and the resulting recession, the American public has grown skeptical of large corporations and Wall Street banks. Trump has repeatedly criticized his fellow running mates such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush about their super-PAC’s, while boasting his campaign being almost entirely funded by himself. At first glance, this may seem like a big advantage; however, Trump himself is what many would consider “big money.” He’s worth nearly $10 billion and has been on the board of directors of many corporations, including his own hospitality and real estate companies.
  3. Trump, unlike Senator Sanders, does not have any well-established opponents running against him on the Republican side. Secretary Clinton, with her depth of experience as First Lady, a Senator of New York, and as Secretary of State under President Obama, has constantly been viewed as the natural successor to Obama, and to be the one to carry on his legacy. George W. Bush however, did not attain the same impact and favorability. Trump walked into a field of conservatives that are up for change and someone new in the oval office. So far, he has succeeded in harping on that opportunity.
  4. Even if many of his policies seem extreme and Fascist to many of us, such as building a giant wall at the Mexican border and getting the president of Mexico to pay for it, to his supporters, they are viewed as authentic and original. Trump grows his support by standing out as a new voice, with approaches that are unseen in Washington and American politics.

Vida:

Wow, Josh that is amazing! You are so smart! Now, I have one other question. Why do you believe the constant fact checking, showing Trump lies around 72% of the time, along with the mass criticism of his policies, doesn’t deter his supporters? I mean, so many people were turned off.

Josh:

I believe it has to do primarily with an all-negative atmosphere. There are so many scandals and lies the media has uncovered about Trump (the most notable being Trump University), that more of them don’t really stand out as much. They just don’t have that extra effect that Clinton’s email ordeal has, since she normally doesn’t have suspicious activity.

Vida:

The truth is scary; a man like this can become president.

Back in february of this year, Trump blasted immigration reform, stating, “…It’s not just Mexicans who are evil — they’re all rapists and drug lords…

Trump is preying on the fears of middle and lower class Americans. He is tapping into mindsets that divide people, that put the blame of our problems on others, instead of resolving them together as a group. The very thing he says we need more of, unity, is the last thing on his mind.

Secondly, Trump is as steady as a cheap flip-flop from Walmart. He’s changed his position on issues so many times, it’s mind boggling.

Why do you think he does that, Josh?

Josh:

I think he does this because he wants to diffuse what his intentions and goals really are, so people get distracted by his many proclaimed opinions. When he changes his opinion, the rhetoric changes its appeal from one side of the political spectrum. For example, saying, “I want extreme vetting for people entering the US from countries known for harboring terrorists,” coincides with much more of what we have now. It’s extremely difficult for Syrian refugees to enter the United States, with the process taking up to 12 months. Secondly, the FAA has already banned flights from and to the USA and Syria. You can’t even look them up on travel sites like Expedia.

Vida:

So, could be this about the need for control and manipulation? And if yes, what might his need to control the political world have to do with his own personal feelings of inadequacy?

I believe people who retain a lot of internal conflicts without processing them might have the tendency to externally project them onto people they perceive to be of lower socioeconomic status, in order to feel better about themselves.

Josh:

I guess what I am perplexed at is… I don’t think great leaders need to put others down to gain power. I don’t think they need to speak so negatively about disadvantaged groups of people. Most importantly, they don’t need to make huge generalizations about certain ethnicities. I mean, there are so many leaders who rose to power by uniting people… Why does he have the need to divide?

Vida:

I have been reading quite a bit about Trump lately, especially after he officially received the Republican nomination for president at the RNC. In all of his speeches, and as mentioned in our cited article, he seems to have a disregard for empathy of other people, and is very unconcerned with the ethical or moral implications of his actions. Not only is this shocking for a presidential candidate, it’s simply strange that these qualities are associated with being a strong leader in the eyes of his supporters.

Josh:

He is actually a sociopath, thus unconcerned about the implications that his thoughts and beliefs have on other people. His motives for running for public office are far from humanitarian in nature.

Another thing I wonder about is why someone like Trump feels that power stems from having a disregard for others and acting superior towards others, versus having sympathy and compassion for them, much like Senator Sanders, or his other rival candidates?”

Vida:

That’s a great question, Josh. What are your thoughts on it?

Josh:

Well, it makes me ponder even more questions. Why does Trump, despite being so full of himself, seem to be so irritated at someone criticizing him? He has even threatened, as president, to pass a constitutional amendment to make it illegal to criticize him. These types of laws are implemented in totalitarian countries like North Korea, where not praising the president, Kim Jong Un, can lead to years of imprisonment in a labor camp.

Mom, why, if someone sees themselves in such a triumphant light, would they be so bothered by simple criticism?

I have another question, too.

Lately, there have been multiple instances in Trump’s campaign, where deliberate lying has occurred. I’m not talking about the exaggeration of facts… I mean straight up fallacy. The Trump Campaign recently released a website for Melania, stating she had a degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. The website suddenly disappeared, when it was confirmed that Meliana had dropped out after just one year to pursue a modeling career in Milan. My question is, why would someone, like Trump or his campaign, believe they could get away with such a lie, given the extreme amount of public surveillance on them. What is the reason they would think this way?

Vida:

Well, Josh, aren’t you the insightful one?

I read in an article that Donald Trump recently suggested the 2nd amendment may prevent Hillary from selecting judges. This is suggesting the use of violence for people who don’t like a specific supreme court justice being appointed.

What are your thoughts on this, Josh?

Josh:

Well, besides the sociopathic behavior, it indicates by virtue that he DOES NOT adhere to the virtues of freedom and democracy he so proudly boasts about on his campaign trail. For Hillary to pick a justice, she would need to win the election, then nominate someone, then have that person win a vote by the Senate to be elected, which means appealing to both Democrats and Republicans.

The idea of overriding this democratic process with violence is entirely unpatriotic and corruptive. It’s the very foundation of dictatorship.

Vida:

Thank you so much for this conversation, Josh! It was a lot of fun chatting with you and working on this blog post together.

 

 

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