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Updated 04 April 2016

How Trump is leading America by the nose (Part I)

CyberShrink examines the tricks and techniques Trump uses to sell his own brand of flimflam.

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Part 1: Power without responsibility

Donald Trump is a perfect example of someone who is rich enough to do as he pleases. He enjoys increasing his power, without any clearly stated aim for doing so other than personal satisfaction, disguised by vague slogans.

This reminds me of a phrase actually first created by Rudyard Kipling, who spoke of people seeking “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. Politicians who will say and do anything to satisfy their constituents are surely no different.

Read: Power leads to moral hypocrisy

Trump is not an intelligent man, but very skilled within his very limited range of abilities. His main shortcoming is probably his lack of modesty. He is so boastful that when he tries to sound modest, it cannot but sound phony. He’s also not at all well-read – he has such little knowledge of literature that he rates his own book The Art of the Deal the second greatest book of all time, second only to the Bible!! Now how’s that for modesty?

He’s a brilliant manipulator of audiences (as was Hitler) and is masterful at giving simple answers to complex problems – and assumes that he has solved them merely by asserting that he can do so. He didn’t invent this technique, but uses it superlatively well, employing his natural talent for selling snake-oil.  As the saying goes, he could sell refrigerators to the Eskimos. And he has the greatest confidence in the value of his product – himself.  

He deliberately speaks at a level even the most unintelligent people can understand. An added bonus is that everyone else can understand him, but his main purpose is to reach the dimmest of the dim. “I love the poorly educated,” he declared in an unguarded moment. They’re his main focus, but the remarkable thing is that he has also gained support from intelligent and highly educated people who really should know better. To me this emphasises that American education clearly neither teaches nor encourages critical thinking.

No peace at all

The Republican Party has unwittingly made things easy for him. They encouraged great anger among the people, which they tried to focus on their political opponents. This plan unfortunately backfired by including them as a target. Also by determinedly blocking almost every initiative Obama tried, they not only blocked changes the people wanted, but convinced them that the entire system doesn’t work.

Read: Anger management for guys

Obama didn’t help either by promising marvellous changes he could not produce. He made a fool of himself by proclaiming, “Yes, we can!” and then proving decisively that “we can’t”. Remember how he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before making any peace at all.

Trump is not at a nice man. He has shown consistent dislike for intelligent women and prefers beauty queens – good to look at but not valued for their wisdom. He’s racist and xenophobic. He also cleverly gets the message across that regardless of how much he “loves” whichever group whose favour he is seeking, his heart remains with the frustrated white under-class voter.  

This works very well because America ignores its working class and only recognises the middle and upper (rich) classes, giving rise to a group of mainly men who feel emasculated and disempowered through no fault of their own. These people are unable to earn what they feel they’re worth and many can’t find any employment at all, unable to provide for their families. For a long time they put up with this, sustained by the hope of eventual improvement, and by the expectation that at least their children would have a better life. This is however wearing thin. 

Trump's a bully

To make matters worse, they are constantly being bombarded by the noxious celebrity culture propagated in the media, reminding them of the obscene amounts of money earned by often vulgar and underserving people. At one time this success was inspirational, encouraging people to work towards achieving at least a modicum of that prosperity. Nowadays, however, it only serves to remind them of what they’ll never have.   

Trump’s a bully, instinctively sensing and attacking his opponents’ weak points. And like all bullies, he can hand it out, but not take it himself. He’s notoriously thin-skinned. Look at the fuss he made about the jibe that he has small hands. Apparently that’s supposed to mean that a man has a small penis.

Read: Childhood bullying felt in adulthood

It was a tiny barb, childish and silly, but he magnified it by making such a fuss about it, ensuring that it will haunt him for decades. Look at how he responded to comments from Romney and others about the failure of so many of his ventures. Then there was the silly jibe from a comedian that he inherited his red hair from an affair his mother had with an orangutan. It deserved to be ignored, but he threatened to sue and made such a fuss that people remembered it. Besides, his father also had red hair. He just can’t resist rising to any bait.  

One enormous 'up yours!' 

What many of his fans find attractive is his ability to get away with anything. His campaign has been a series of blunders and outrageous statements, after each of which commentators would suggest that this was going too far and be the end of his campaign – only to watch him soar in approval ratings. 

It’s not so much that his followers agree with everything he says. That’s not even possible as not even he agrees with everything he says. But they are delighted by the fact that he has the power to attack and offend as he wishes, something they wish they could do themselves, but are unable to. In a way, his campaign is one giant exercise in giving the finger to the entire political establishment. In an age dominated by the pathetic doctrine of political correctness, Trump exults in political incorrectness.

Read: Politics hard-wired in brain

Make no mistake, he isn’t interested in giving power to the people, he wants them to give all their power to him. But he likes giving them the impression that they will be empowered. I worry about what might come after a Trump presidency – after so many people unwisely chose to trust “an insider pretending to be an outsider”,  the man who seeks to make ignorance of how things work into a virtue. If Trump becomes president, the people will get what they deserve.

Obsession with birth certificates

Trump has a peculiar obsession about birthplace. For a long time he led the “birther” movement that demanded that President Obama release publically his birth certificate, asserting that he was not born in America, but in Kenya. Eventually Obama did so, but still they weren’t satisfied. There were darkly paranoid reports that all those present at Obama’s birth are now dead, and that the official who had certified the copy of his birth certificate as correct had since died in an accident. As always, Trump refused to acknowledge that he was wrong, his only reply being: “I don’t talk about it anymore.”

Then he started again, insisting his rival Ted Cruz had been born in Canada, thus being ineligible to run for the presidency. Again he claimed that he (or someone else) would take the matter to court and have Cruz disqualified, but as with Obama, no court case ever ensued. Ironically, when a newspaper asked Trump to produce his own birth certificate, his team angrily refused to do so. I’ve seen Trump’s birth certificate, and it all seems in order. What I can’t understand is why this is an area of such profound interest to him.  

By the way, John Oliver’s claim is true: the Trump family name was indeed once Drumpf, and it’s not clear when it changed, or whether the name change was done legally and officially.

Trump is like climate change – something we ignore at our own risk.  

Read more:

The body language of power

People new to power more vengeful

The confidence cribsheet

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.

 

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