Let’s get a few things on the table from the start. If you have read any of my blog posts, you probably realize that I am not a fan of Donald J Trump. That is true and is not likely to change.
Equally certain, however, is that I am no fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton either. For the first time in my adult life, I can actually visualize myself not voting for President. What I cannot visualize is pulling a lever for either of these two candidates.
Now that I have cleared the air on my over-arching personal dilemma, let’s take a look at right and wrong – good and evil – vis-à-vis the Trump phenomenon. In this case, Americans are faced with the conundrum that two rights lead us inevitably to one wrong.
First, with respect to Trump’s policy criticisms, he is mostly right, at least at a macro level. Donald Trump has, in one way or another, made the following assertions. It is hard, no, impossible, to dispute them. Hardly anyone does, whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.
- This country has an illegal immigration problem.
- America has lost credibility among its allies and the respect of its enemies.
- The US economy has suffered a significant loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs.
- Our military has been weakened over the past decade.
- America cannot, indeed should not, play Texas Ranger to the world.
- The political system in Washington is broken.
- Money has too great an influence in American politics.
He is right! These assertions cannot be questioned. It seems simple, therefore, that we can finally elect a Presidential candidate who has accurately identified a number of problems facing our country. But, let's not get the cart ahead of the horse. Other candidates have been able to identify each these problems equally as well.
While Mr. Trump has identified a number of problems, critics have pointed out that he has offered few, if any, specifics on how he would address these issues. Policy prescriptions have been few and far between.
Regardless, I do not intend to get into a policy discussion in this post. Let me simply concede that Mr. Trump has correctly listed a number of major problems that need to be addressed by our next President. To the extent he has offered any specific solutions, I generally disagree with him in every instance. I believe electing Mr. Trump not only does not fix these problems, but puts America at risk of facing even more critical challenges.
Trump’s assertions about our challenges simply state the obvious. The more important question is, can he fix these problems or will he make things worse. To use an analogy, just because one doctor is a great diagnostician, does not necessarily equate to him or her being a great surgeon. The faith that Mr. Trump can solve any of these problems solely because he has identified them is, in my view, sorely misplaced.
Yet he tells us that, not only can he fix the problems, he is the only one up to the task. He goes even further, reminding us each time that "Believe me, I'm the only one who can!" It is this boast that troubles me. Confidence is one thing. Hubris and egotism is something else.
Recently, the issue of Trump’s stature, his demeanor and bearing have come center stage. While this concern has been pointed out throughout the campaign, it was magnified by a suggestion that there are two Donald J Trump personas, made by a new campaign addition, Paul Manafort. Much has been made of Manafort's comment. At the end, however, Mr. Trump himself has put the question to rest, asserting that he does not intend to change his style or behavior.
I go one step further. I believe Mr. Trump is incapable of changing. Nor do I believe he has two personas. I believe what you see with Mr. Trump is what you get. Some extol that trait as a virtue. I believe that depends on what it is that you see.
It is this difference in public perception that brings us to the second right. That "right" is that Mr. Trump lacks the character to be President. Many of Mr. Trump’s critics, me included, worry that he does not have the disposition, the temperament to be president. It has been suggested that his sense of self, his boorish, bullying behavior highlight a deeper, more serious personality disorder.
While every candidate seeking the office of President of the United States must have a high degree of confidence, and must have a strong belief in his or her abilities, that must be tempered with humility and judgement. The stakes are simply too high! The power of the office too great! It cannot be entrusted to someone who believes only in himself! Who cares only for himself! Who regards only his views as being valid!
If you think these criticisms are overstated, consider this. Have you ever heard a prior presidential candidate boast of his looks, his charm, his intelligence, his memory for crying out loud? Mr. Trump has boasted of all of these personal attributes and more.
It has been suggested that Mr. Trump is a xenophobe. Whether true or not is hard to say, but he deliberately appeals to xenophobia in others. Although illegal immigration is a major problem, rampant crime caused by illegal immigrants isn’t. (author's note - I recognize - clearly - every illegal immigrant is committing at least one crime.) He uses the statistically few crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants to fan the flames of xenophobic fervor.
It has also been argued that Mr. Trump is a misogynist. He vigorously disputes that charge, claiming to love women. If you limit your understanding of misogyny to the hatred or dislike of women, then I suspect Mr. Trump’s counterclaim is accurate. He has boasted of his sexual prowess, has been married three times, and has been filmed with models and actresses at his side all over the country, indeed the world. Yes, I suspect he loves women.
But, misogyny can be manifested in other ways, including hostility toward women, male supremacy, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. It is impossible to argue that many, if not all of these manifestations, have been demonstrated by Mr. Trump.
It has been argued that Mr. Trump is a bigot. Most of his supporters respond to this characterization by saying that he is not a racist. Like misogyny, bigotry has a broader definition than commonly understood. While bigotry can present itself as overt racism, it can also be demonstrated in other ways. A bigot is a person who obstinately and intolerantly adheres to his own opinions and prejudices.
Is there any doubt of the fact that Mr. Trump is the epitome of bigotry? Have you ever heard him accept another's views, praise another's position on anything? When asked who gives him advice, his favorite response is that he is his best adviser, regardless of the subject matter. He neither cares for, nor considers anyone's opinion but his own. His world view is the only acceptable world view.
More troubling in all of this is the concern, expressed by many, that Mr. Trump exhibits many traits associated with a narcissistic personality disorder. These include:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance.
- A preoccupation with success, power, brilliance, or beauty.
- A belief that he is “unique” and can only be understood by other special people.
- An excessive need for admiration, even more to the point, adulation.
- A sense of entitlement.
- An exploitative personality when dealing with others.
- A lack of empathy.
- A continual envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him.
- An arrogant, rude and abusive behavior.
Can you honestly state that, after watching speech after speech, interview after interview, that Mr. Trump does not exude all of these traits? In spades?
The real danger comes from a narcissist’s reaction to challenges to his ego. Needing desperately to protect an overblown but fragile ego, it can be extraordinarily easy to set off an irrational response. Narcissists typically respond negatively to criticism, but any action perceived as questioning his competence can activate an aggressive self-protective response.
This makes it difficult to discuss alternatives with a narcissist in conflict situations. First, he holds that only his views are relevant and correct. He is not seeking alternate input. He is seeking validation. If challenged he holds that the most important thing is being right or justified. Listening to others is impossible for him. In an extreme example, the idea of admitting a mistake — uttering the words “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong — is foreign to him.
Can we afford a person of this character to hold the most powerful office in the world? I do not believe so. Simply, we cannot!
Yes, Mr. Trump is right when he enumerates many of the problems America faces. But, equally right is the criticism leveled at the character of this man who would be king. Trump is right! His critics are right! We must consider both or risk reaching a horribly wrong conclusion.
These two rights lead to one wrong - the election of Donald J Trump would be wrong. To employ Mr. Trump's use of hyperbole, doing so would be a disaster. This country must not elect Donald J Trump as President.