Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The precarious propping up of Donald Trump’s presidency

Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, is a petulant, narcissistic megalomaniac dispositionally prone to delusional beliefs, as well as magical and wishful thinking (in a manner, alas, that accords renewed significance to ‘reality testing’), while subscribing to a mishmash of reactionary political beliefs, some with strong ideological roots in the Republican Party, the crasser forms of pluralism, and racism (and white supremacy).

How might we characterize those elites who enable and support Trump, in other words, particularly those in his administration and the Republican politicians who have not publicly disavowed him (there are other powerful individuals and financial and corporate entities that support him, but well leave those aside for the time being)? Here’s a first attempt: “ideologically-motivated sycophantic plutocrats with a dispositional aversion to truth (in this case,‘like attracts like,’ is the appropriate proverb, while in accounting for his populist appeal, it seems ‘opposites attract’), an authoritarians lust for power, and an overweening penchant for practicing the dark arts of denial, deception, and wishful thinking in public fora.

I need to think more about those among the electorate who voted for and still enthusiastically support Trump, more than a few (but far from all) of whom I believe are latent or shameless racists (i.e., white supremacists), although these voters in toto are something of a motley, with mixed motivations often tied to socio-economic insecurities and anxieties, hence specific class interests, and staunchly conservative or reactionary and Republican political ideology (to the extent, that is, that their economic and political beliefs exhibit coherence). Their motivations and dispositional tendencies are likewise shaped by (self- and collective-) denial, self-deception, and wishful if not fantastical thinking, in addition to being prone to a host of cognitive biases (e.g., one or more of the following: attentional bias, availability cascade, group think, shared information bias, in-group bias), while steeped in cognitive dissonance and routinely resorting to availability and affect heuristics. Not a few of these “hot and “cold” psychological phenomena, mechanisms, and biases are well distributed across the political spectrum, although in markedly varying degress. Anger, rage, resentment, anxiety, and fear appear to be the predominant passions and emotions (perhaps anxiety is best thought of as a mood, rather than an emotion) that serve as both cause and effect of their political beliefs and behavior. This article provides a somewhat conventional if not predictable breakdown of these folks which I suspect is close to the mark, although I might have used different descriptive terminology and characterizations for some of these groups: Who Were Donald Trump’s Voters? Now We Know.

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