Donald Trump and American Narcissism

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By Robert A. Levine / 05.11.2016
TMV Columnist

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Was just getting accustomed to the idea that Donald Trump, aka The Donald, the motivating force behind the TV show The Apprentice, was going to be the Republican nominee for president, when the Quinipiac Poll had him and Hillary virtually tied in three swing states. He was slightly ahead in Ohio, while she was slightly ahead in Florida and Pennsylvania. But all the results were within the margin of error.

Can it really be that so many Americans are willing to support this blustering, blowhard, bully who appears to be ignorant of basic economics and foreign policy? Admittedly, Hillary is not a strong opponent, with a history of questionable ethical activities and some sloppiness in her emails. But she is like a Greek goddess and a paragon of virtue next to Donald Trump. An independent rater of the political content of the candidates’ important statements (Polifact) has Trump lying 76 percent of the time, with Hillary off base with 28 percent of her comments.

Trump’s lack of economic knowledge had him talking about negotiating a lower payout on America’s national debt, a move that would devastate the financial markets worldwide. Maybe that works when dealing with banks over loans for casinos, but America’s debt is felt to be the safest place to put money in the world, with the dollar as the prime international currency. America has always paid back 100 cents on the dollar on its debt and any change in this policy would ruin the nation’s financial credibility and probably spark a recession or depression. (The Donald is accustomed to bankruptcy as his businesses failed on four different occasions.)

Similarly, could Trump be serious about a 45 percent tariff on imported goods from China. That would initiate a trade war and would not bring manufacturing jobs back. Those jobs are gone forever, not because of China, but because of increases in manufacturing productivity. America’s manufacturing output is the highest it has ever been, even though manufacturing employment has dropped markedly. Factories are robotisized and computerized, with five workers doing the job that five hundred once did. Trump should know those manufacturing jobs are not returning, but has lied about it to get the backing of unemployed, or underemployed white workers who have dropped out of the middle class. He is not going to help them.

His foreign policy cred was shattered when he spoke about encouraging Korea and Japan to have their own nuclear arsenals, though he subsequently walked back on that idea. He also spoke of NATO as outmoded and perhaps unnecessary, when Russia has been becoming more of a threat to Eastern Europe and interfering in the Syrian conflict on the side of Assad. As commander-in-chief, his idea of using torture on terrorist captives was against international law and military law, and top military brass said they would refuse to follow those orders if they were given by Trump.

These are merely a few of the Trumpisms that show his ignorance of policy and his unpreparedness to be president of the United States. (This is disregarding his racism, white supremacist leanings and degradation of minorities.) Being president is not the same as a TV appearance or a real estate deal. But why do so many Americans support him, notwithstanding his lack of knowledge about fundamental issues.

A recent Pew Poll has suggested that Americans are more narcissistic in many ways than their European counterparts, just like The Donald. Americans believe that individuals are in control of their own destinies to a large degree. They are also generally more tolerant of offensive speech to religious minorities (77 percent say it’s okay), and The Donald offends repeatedly. Interestingly, most Americans think that having an affair is morally unacceptable (84 percent), which would seem to work against Trump but is excused by his supporters including evangelicals. Many U.S. voters also believe in American exceptionalism and Trump’s motto about making America great again has struck an emotional chord; national narcissism. Of course, other than bullying and bluster, he hasn’t laid out a course of how he’s going to make America great again (assuming that the country is not).

In addition, a lot of poor uneducated white men idolize Trump and perhaps fantasize about the life he has led. Plenty of money, his own jet plane, all the beautiful women he could possibly want, and now his run for the presidency. If he’s a narcissist and a braggart, perhaps he’s got a lot to brag about. Unfortunately, the media has sustained Trump and put him where he is to boost their ratings. Television has made him and the undiscerning American public has eaten it up. Narcissism and celebrity often go hand in hand and The Donald is the epitome of both, with all the characteristics of the ‘Ugly American.’ Do Americans really want him as their president, in the pantheon with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?

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