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ANALYSIS

Yale Psychiatrist Explains How Devotion to Trump Is Based on Emotional Patterns Most People Grow Out of by Age 5

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President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to heap praise upon his ally Roger Stone, who continues to maintain his refusal to flip—even as Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who once said he’d take a bullet for the president, begged federal prosecutors to not serve jail time.

Stone might be Trump’s most famous supporter—but there are millions of Americans who refuse to abandon the president regardless of the chaotic news cycle. A poll conducted over the summer found that many Trump supporters trust the President more than their own friends and family.

Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee on why the president’s supporters show such undying devotion to a man who’s repeatedly reneged on promises and whose tumultuous first term has been filled with shake-ups.

Raw Story: In your opinion, what are the emotions driving Donald Trump’s base?

Bandy X. Lee: The sense of grandiose omnipotence that he displays seems especially appealing to his emotionally-needy followers. No matter what the world says, he fights back against criticism, continues to lie in the face of truth, and above all is still president. What matters is that he is winning, not whether he is honest or law-abiding. This may seem puzzling to the rest of us, but when you are overcome with feelings of powerlessness, this type of cartoonish, exaggerated force is often more important than true ability. This is the more primitive morality, as we call it, of “might makes right,” which in normal development you grow out of by age five.

But, in this case, Trump appeals to that childlike degree of emotional development? Why?

Strongman-type personalities are very appealing in times of socioeconomic or political crisis, as the population is less able to think rationally but is rather overcome with fear, or desire to draw strength from fantastical ideas. This happens to normal people in times of stress, or to people whose development has been stunted because of emotional injury. The problem is, the person who promises the impossible and states, “I alone can fix it,” and gives himself an A+ on his performance, is not a strong person who can deliver but the opposite. So Mr. Trump’s “base“ looks for someone to rescue them and their intense yearning does not allow them to see through his deception, while Mr. Trump senses better than anyone their needs (they are his) and makes use of them for his own benefit—even as he disdains his supporters for being so gullible. In this manner, they fulfill each other’s emotional needs in a mutually unhealthy way.

What’s your biggest concern?

One concern I have, in my 20 years of studying this personality structure while treating violent offenders, is the disturbing societal trend. More and more of this personality type are taking on leadership positions, including of corporations, whereas 20 years ago one would mostly find them in jails and prisons. This also means there are a growing number of people who emulate them in the general culture, who become deprived from the structures that they create, and who become emotionally traumatized as a result of any of these consequences. People who are wounded this way continue to seek omnipotent parental figures as adults, and the vicious circle continues. Unable to find outer satisfaction for their inner needs, some keep pursuing ever greater power until they reach the highest positions, but since this is the opposite of proper treatment, their conditions only grow worse while society suffers a trail of carnage. It is actually a tragedy that Mr. Trump cannot receive proper care, even as his disorder is on display for the world to see, but is rather surrounded by those who enable his illness and make use of his weaknesses to their own destructive ends.

On the one hand, different demographics that have tended to support Trump in the past—let’s white women and neo-Nazis—don’t have much in common. Are there psychological factors that unite them?

Well, he unites them through a common, mythological past that they can all be nostalgic for, and that might be his “talent.” We know from the former Yugoslavia that this past can be hundreds of years ago, not just decades, and is really a metaphor for discontent with the self in the present. Mr. Trump’s behavioral pattern is not that of leaders at all but rather of obsequious followers, as we have seen Mr. Trump become in the presence of even more successful strongmen, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, or Rodrigo Duterte. We find in him a pattern of following exactly what his base is looking for—he has no intrinsic philosophy or ideology but is responding to an emotional need for adulation and approval, and so he will try anything that gets as many people on board as possible. He will also sense keenly those who will never go along with his pathological methods—that is, healthy people—and drop them instantly. That is why we see him desperately clinging to an ever narrower base with increasingly fringe ideas.

He also has to scapegoat groups in order to distract from his billionaire cabinet, tax breaks for the rich, and trade wars that hurt his base the most, and so his demonizing of other helpless groups will only increase with time. We were worried that he might lead us into a devastating war or stage a terrorist attack, but he actually managed to turn a humanitarian crisis of people fleeing violence into an invading army that required thousands of troops at the Mexican border. If this “feigned war” fails to distract, then he may yet stage a real war. With the special counsel’s investigations about to be released, after devastating midterm elections for him and in a vulnerable economy, he will experience loss of popularity as a terrifying threat to his inflated self-image. There will likely be no limit to the violence he is capable of, since destroying the world would be nothing compared to the shame and humiliation he might suffer.

By the way, I think we need to include a very different demographic group among his supporters, which is the richest one percent. This will be the more calculating, pragmatic group. How is such a minority able to control politics and to keep convincing 99 percent of the population to give up what it has so that it can grow richer still? It is by distracting and manipulating the 99 percent through advertising, hot-button issues such as abortion, Fox News, and reality TV, which explicitly employ psychological techniques to make the population more impulsive, irrational, and ill-informed. So when the federally-funded American Psychiatric Association, which heavily depends on the pharmaceutical industry, says that psychiatrists should not comment on the president’s mental instability, we have to question: is it protecting the psychological methods that are being used to manipulate the public so as to make it more unhealthy, while blocking information that might restore its health? If mental health professionals were allowed to educate and inform the public more about psychological matters, then the population would be empowered, and healing could start replacing the damage.

How does Donald Trump mirror and communicate with his base?

A big part of this is through Twitter. This is why Mr. Trump will not stop, no matter how undignified people said it was of a president from the beginning. He knows it is his psychological lifeline. I was recently asked in an interview to comment on Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, which I read for the first time, and it was clear that he violated it from the first line, but they were not able to deactivate his account, since they know the backlash would be severe. But the only way to manage someone with his condition is to set severe limits, restrain, and remove from access to weapons—and tweets are his psychological weapon, which he “shoots” in order to exert his power.

And the rallies?

Another way he communicates with his base is through his numerous rallies. He projects a lot. Projection is a psychological term for displacing thoughts or qualities in yourself you cannot tolerate onto someone else. He does this when he calls legitimate news “fake” and news agencies “the enemy of the people.” He is unconsciously telling us that he is himself “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” He also made up the clever slogan, “Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.”

And that is not accurate because … 

But if you look at the statistics, the majority of the “angry mobs” that commit violence and terrorism are right-wing, while Democratic policies almost always lower unemployment rates. And when he calls Hillary Clinton “crooked” and that we should “lock her up,” he is trying to disown his fraudulent tendencies and to block thoughts of seeing himself as someone we need to lock up. The extreme exaggeration, the inability to consider the possibility that it could apply to him, and the failure to test against obvious reality give away the fact that the opposite is true, but his obedient base is predisposed to believing his defenses more than their own observations.

Trump seems to have intuited how to communicate with his base, evading the filter of the media. What do you think about that?

You are right in that it is all intuitive, not rational or logical, which would have less emotional force. Emotional power can be helpful when healthy, but when unhealthy, it can overcome all healthy approaches. As mental health professionals, we have to watch the media continue to get played, and it still has not managed to catch up. There is a phenomenon called “shared psychosis” (also called “folie à deux”) that happens when an untreated sick person is in close proximity to, say, other family members within a household. In such a situation, normal people grow increasingly out of touch with reality and take on symptoms of the person who is unwell. It can also happen with an impaired president—once in power, he becomes not only the most urgent problem that needs to be addressed but a cause of widespread deterioration of health in a way that can become a “folie à millions.” Treatment involves removing the sick individual from the others, and very quickly, the others return to normal. It shows how powerful mental sickness is: the otherwise normal person becomes sick and not the other way around. His unfettered access to the people through Twitter is as dangerous as his unfettered access to the nuclear codes, since he is laying the groundwork for a culture of violence that can unleash epidemics of violence. This is why waiting for the next decision of voters in 2020 is itself dangerous and reckless in its lack of understanding of the present danger the president poses.

 

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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ANALYSIS

George Conway Exposes Three Games Trump’s Lawyers Are Playing With FBI Affidavit

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Attorney George Conway revealed the games Donald Trump’s lawyers are playing after the FBI search of Mar-A-Lago.

Multiple media outlets have asked a judge to unseal the affidavit that justified the search, and Trump and his lawyers have publicly called for that evidence to be revealed — but Conway told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that it’s telling that they haven’t joined the request in court.

“Chances are good that while they would like to know the names of now two, possibly two people inside calling, you know — the call coming from inside the house,” said host Joe Scarborough. “Maybe there are two people now inside of Mar-A-Lago or inside of Trumpworld informing on him.”

“Donald Trump will do what Rudy does outside of courthouses and howl and make a scene,” Scarborough added. “But go inside the courtroom and stay silent. What Republicans in Washington, D.C. know, and I had friends tell me a couple days ago, it’s one of the reasons this IRS conspiracy theory started, is when they figured out how bad this is going to be for Trump. They’re trying to change the subject.”

READ MORE: Former Trump official warns GOP can’t win if it’s the party of ‘indictments, subpoenas and investigations’

Conway said Trump’s attorneys were essentially juggling three balls in the air.

“They’re trying to have it three ways,” he said. “They’re being mendaciously three-faced about it. First of all, they themselves would like to see the affidavit because, you know, Tony Soprano wants to know who is the rat. They want to see who is finking on them. That’s one. Two is, they don’t want us to see the affidavit because it’s bad. It’s a long affidavit, and it is going to have a lot of information about a lot of people saying a lot of bad things about the bad things that the president, the former president of the United States, did and how he squirrelled away these documents and refused to give them back when he was repeatedly told he had to give them back and was subpoenaed to return them. Then, third, they want an issue, a B.S. issue, so they can send out the fundraising grift emails to raise money by saying, ‘Oh, they’re hiding the affidavit from us.'”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

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ANALYSIS

Republicans Largely Ignore Biden Killing of Top al-Qaeda Terrorist While Some Use It to Attack the President

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House and Senate Republicans are mostly quiet about President Joe Biden having killed top al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a terrorist who was Osama bin-Laden’s second in command. Few gave him credit for taking out the terrorist, despite lauding Donald Trump when he took out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was “a mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks” who was “one of the most sought-after people by the U.S. for over two decades,” NBC News reports. Some Republicans offered praise to the men and women in the armed forces, some to the CIA, the agency Biden used to carry out the assassination. And some used the killing of the top al-Qaeda terrorist as an opportunity to attack the President.

Americans paying attention only to Fox News or Republicans on Capitol Hill would have a very different understanding of this critical moment in history.

READ MORE: ‘Trump Was Taking Saudi Blood Money – Biden Was Killing Terrorists’: Experts Weigh in on Historic Counterterrorism News

Matthew Dowd, a former Republican who was a chief strategist on the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, and became a Democrat after Donald Trump was elected, writes, “as I said at the time, too many in the news media were wrong about Biden’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Biden made right decision, and it was managed incredibly well.”

He adds, “we are still able to conduct operations against terrorists without having troops there.”

A few Republicans took to Twitter to recognize the moment, while ignoring President Biden’s achievement – or attacking him.

READ MORE: Viral Video Captures Ted Cruz Fist-Bumping Republicans After Blocking Bill to Help Vets Suffering from Toxic Burn Pits

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave Americans who took out the terrorist, Al Zawahiri,” wrote House Minority Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. “The Biden admin must provide Congress with a briefing as soon as possible to discuss the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the region following his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Retired reporter Dan Murphy responded, saying: “There were over 1,000 terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan in the final year of our military involvement there. US servicemen and woman died there every year. But no longer.”

“Yawn,” he added, suggesting he was bored with the Republican leader’s remarks.

READ MORE: Legal Experts Respond to Report Trump Attorneys Now Preparing Criminal Defense: ‘Would Have Started 18 Months Ago’

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) posted one of the most critical responses.

I’m so proud of our military and Intelligence Community for this successful mission. Al-Zawahiri was an evil man who has been brought to justice. But we did this in spite of @POTUS’ leadership, not because of it.”

“His surrender of Afghanistan continues to threaten our security,” he added, offering nothing to support the claim.

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) repeatedly praised “the members of our Intelligence Community” but not President Biden.

“This mission also serves as a reminder that al-Qaeda is not gone from Afghanistan as President Biden claimed following his disastrous withdrawal,” LaHood charged. “Rising threats from al-Qaeda and other terror orgs must be confronted by the Admin in consultation with Congress to keep America safe.”

Spelling the eradicated terrorist’s name wrong, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) offered this response: “Amman Al Zawhiri’s death is undoubtedly a win for the world. This truly evil man can do no more harm to anyone. God bless the USA!”

William F. Wechsler of the non-partisan think tank The Atlantic Council calls this “A sense of vindication for Biden and a moment of truth for the Taliban.”

“This is a particularly notable accomplishment for President Biden, who decided to withdraw remaining US forces and leave Afghanistan to the Taliban, relying only on ‘over the horizon’ counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda. This decision was criticized by many counterterrorism experts at the time, myself included. But with today’s news, Biden and his team, ably led by Liz Sherwood-Randall at the White House, will go to sleep tonight with a deep sense of vindication and take a well-deserved victory lap.”

 

 

 

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ANALYSIS

How Trump’s Big Lie Is Threatening the Future of Elections

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The Jan. 6 hearings closed for the summer last Thursday night with a plea from Republican House Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Citing the conservative heroine British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Cheney called on the public: “Let it never be said that the dedication of those who love freedom is less than the determination of those who would destroy it.”

Cheney may be willing to pursue former President Donald Trump to the gates of Hell in her determination to expose his threat to democracy; her party, on the other hand, appears willing to join him there.

As the House select committee presented damning evidence of Trump’s months-long campaign to overturn the election, crescendoing in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that left 7 dead and about 150 police officers injured, right-wing groups are trying to make sure that next time, Trump, or any other wannabe dictator, will be successful.

Around the country, right-wing forces are seeking to control state elections by pursuing secretary of state offices and taking over roles typically held by nonpartisan election workers. They’re spreading voter fraud conspiracy theories, casting doubt on the integrity of the elections. They’re no longer flirting with violent rhetoric but embracing it.

On Thursday night, the committee played tape of former White House strategist Steve Bannon—who was recently convicted of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the committee’s subpoena—in which he revealed to a room of supporters Trump’s plan and strategy ahead of Election Day.

“What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory, right?” Bannon told associates on Oct. 31, 2020. “He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”

“More of our people vote early, that count; theirs vote in mail,” Bannon said. “And so they’re going to have a natural disadvantage. And Trump’s going to take advantage of that. That’s our strategy. He’s going to declare himself a winner.”

Trump knew he lost when he spread baseless claims about a stolen election. Countless aides testified to the select committee that they repeatedly told the former president that his conspiracy theories about the election were just that—conspiracy theories—or, in the words of his attorney general Bill Barr, “complete bullshit.” Trump lost by 7 million votes, lost key battleground states, and lost dozens of lawsuits in which he or his supporters claimed voter fraud.

And yet, Trump persisted. Bannon reveled in the chaos. And the chaos opened the door for others. Last fall, California Republican Larry Elder suggested voter fraud would steal the election from him until the results of the gubernatorial race came in and showed how soundly his bid was crushed. Radical America First candidate Shekinah Hollingsworth received a few hundred votes in her bid to become a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, but that didn’t stop her alleging election fraud. In Georgia, the conspiracy theory-minded, gun-toting Christian nationalist Kandiss Taylor received 3.4 percent of the vote in that state’s GOP gubernatorial primary; she predictably claimed the election was stolen and refused to concede. Rachel Hamm in California played this same game, as did Bianca Garcia in Texas. We could go on.

With such false claims of fraud, far-right forces and right-wing media have been able to convince a broad swath of the American public that our elections are not safe. They have convinced Trump supporters that poll workers—public servants like Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, who became the focus of Trump’s ire when he baselessly accused her of processing fake ballots—are to blame.

And so they harass them and threaten them—and when they have driven good people away from those posts, they try to take their places.

A month after the failed insurrection, Bannon called for followers to “take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.” According to ProPublica, GOP leaders in 41 of 65 key counties reported an unusual increase in signups since his call to action.

This strategy to attack and replace local election officials with Trump loyalists is one we’re seeing play out from Fulton County, Georgia, to Yavapai County, Arizona, with the full weight of the Republican Party behind it.

The Republican National Committee—which aided Trump in his plot to stay in power—has spent millions on 17 states to recruit more than 14,000 poll workers and 10,000 poll watchers already, according to the Washington Post.

Working with the RNC is Cleta Mitchell, a Trump lawyer who was on the infamous call on which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 more votes. Mitchell is leading the so-called “election integrity” effort by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which seeks to bring together local right-wing groups with established conservative behemoths like the Heritage Foundation. The Brennan Center describes CPI as such: “The network has published mater­i­als and hosted summits across the coun­try with the aim of coordin­at­ing a nation­wide effort to staff elec­tion offices, recruit poll watch­ers and poll work­ers, and build teams of local citizens to chal­lenge voter rolls, ques­tion postal work­ers, be ‘ever-present’ in local elec­tion offices, and inund­ate elec­tion offi­cials with docu­ment requests.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, CPI became home to other Trump allies who had a role in the months-long effort to overturn the election, including Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows (who sat scrolling through his phone when he heard about threats of violence on Jan. 6), Trump’s former social media director Dan Scavino (who spread voter fraud conspiracies on behalf of the tweet-happy president), and Ed Corrigan (who appeared to be busy behind the scenes encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to buck his constitutional duty and overturn the election). CPI enjoyed a $1 million boost from Trump’s Save America PAC.

CPI and organizations like it are finding success. One in 5 local election administrators say they are likely to leave their jobs before the 2024 presidential election, according to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice. These public servants cite politicians attacking “a system that they know is fair and honest” and the stress of the job as the top two reasons for their planned departures.

Meanwhile, other politicians are running for secretary of state to gain control of their states’ elections. Arizona’s Mark Finchem stood outside the U.S. Capitol’s east steps as the anti-government extremist Oath Keepers—of which Finchem claims to be a member—stormed the building. Three months later, he announced his bid for Arizona’s secretary of state and earned Trump’s endorsement. In Michigan, Kristina Karamano, also blessed with a Trump endorsement for her voter-fraud conspiracy theories, became the Republican nominee in the race for secretary of state. And in Georgia, Rep. Jody Hice tried to best Trump nemesis Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger out of the Republican nomination to no avail.

Added to this stew: a large dose of violent rhetoric. Ahead of Jan. 6, violent rhetoric was widespreadon pro-Trump social media and among far-right groups. Today, it no longer remains on the fringes but has been embraced by right-wing politicians.

In Missouri, former governor Eric Greitens—whose ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence—released a campaign ad for his U.S. Senate bid. “Today, we’re going RINO hunting,” Greitens says in the ad, before bursting through a door with a SWAT team, guns raised. “Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country,” he says.

He’s not the only one seeing red. In Oklahoma, state Senate candidate Jarrin Jackson wants to shoot “godless commies.” In February, Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers voiced her desire “to build more gallows” in a video address to white nationalists.

When asked by Cheney whether he believed in the peaceful transfer of power, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded the Fifth Amendment, every American’s right against forced self-incrimination. The recorded testimony, which was shown during the sixth hearing, was shocking, and yet, Flynn is not alone. Republicans are more likely than other Americans to say political violence might be necessary, with four in 10 subscribing to that belief, according to a survey conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute shortly after the Jan. 6 attack. Perhaps that’s why, after hearing Trump’s suggestion that Mike Pence was a traitor to the country, so many of the Trump supporters storming the Capitol were keen on hanging the former vice president.

Trump, as the hearing Thursday revealed, did nothing for 187 minutes while his supporters rampaged through the Capitol, beat police officers, and hunted for Pence, Pelosi, and other members of Congress, all with the goal of preventing the peaceful transfer of power. As we move into the 2022 elections, Americans have a choice about the future of democracy in our country and whether the coup next time will succeed.

 

This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.

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