Is It Him, or Us?

One thing about Donald Trump’s candidacy–his obvious psychological problems have triggered all sorts of armchair diagnoses, most centering on “classical narcissism.” I recently came across a different theory, one that will be familiar to those of us who remember male teenage classmates who constantly boasted about their “conquests.”

According to Steven Marche, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times,

The most popular candidate among white American men is a parody of American manhood. By now, we have become used to the frat-boy performance that defines Donald Trump’s candidacy: the sexual boasting, the condescending or outright insulting treatment of women, the open discussion about the size of his penis. As we approach the general election, it becomes ever more clear that Trump’s flagrant and empty machismo is not a distraction from his campaign but its substance…

The theory of masculine overcompensation has been well-established for decades, going back to Sigmund Freud’s notions of “reaction formation” and “defense mechanisms:” When men think their masculinity is in doubt, they respond by emphasizing traditional masculine traits.

This new parlor game of “Guess Trump’s diagnosis” may be fun (or in the case of James Patterson’s analysis, both persuasive and terrifying) but what this man-child’s primary success suggests for our democracy is anything but entertaining. That issue was more soberly–and insightfully–analyzed by David Frum in a recent article for the Atlantic. Frum, as you will recall, was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, but he has refused to be a “team player” more loyal to his party than to his country. The article is long, but well worth reading. One paragraph:

The television networks that promoted Trump; the primary voters who elevated him; the politicians who eventually surrendered to him; the intellectuals who argued for him, and the donors who, however grudgingly, wrote checks to him—all of them knew, by the time they made their decisions, that Trump lied all the time, about everything. They knew that Trump was ignorant, and coarse, and boastful, and cruel. They knew he habitually sympathized with dictators and kleptocrats—and that his instinct when confronted with criticism of himself was to attack, vilify, and suppress. They knew his disrespect for women, the disabled, and ethnic and religious minorities. They knew that he wished to unravel NATO and other U.S.-led alliances, and that he speculated aloud about partial default on American financial obligations. None of that dissuaded or deterred them.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times takes on the false equivalence of those who insist that Hillary and The Donald are equally distasteful/dangerous:

All lying in politics is not created equal…. What is grating about Hillary is that her prevarications seem so unnecessary and often insult our intelligence. But they are not about existential issues. As for Trump, his lies are industrial size and often contradict each other. But there is no theory behind his lies, except what will advance him, which is why Trump is only scary if he wins. Otherwise, his candidacy will leave no ideas behind. It will just be a reality TV show that got canceled.

Trump without power is easily dismissed; there is no “there” there.

What isn’t so easily dismissed, as Frum writes in his essay, is the fact that he won the Republican primary. What should give every thinking American pause is the existence of voters willing to support a blustering and cartoonish empty suit.

That is the condition that requires a diagnosis.


  1. I have said repeatedly that his supporters are more frightening than Trump; there is only one of him (at least as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee), his supporters are numbered in the millions and they surround us. They are our family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, servers in businesses we patronize, people we come in contact with on a daily basis. My granddaughter said her fiance (a Catholic, Republican from a wealthy family in a small southern Indiana town) is angry because Kasich dropped out and he doesn’t THINK he can vote for Trump. I suggested she tell him not to vote for anyone for president if that is the way he feels…at least don’t help elect him. I would say that his supporters get what they deserve if he is elected but…he isn’t aiming at them, he has the rest of us in his sights.

  2. You don’t fill a nation with cars and expect there to be no wrecks. You don’t flood a society with murder weapons and expect there to be no murders.
    You don’t saturate a nation with all kinds of sex, whether actual or innuendo, and expect nobody to revert to the most primitive forms of insecurity reflected in pornography — whether personal or political.
    And, you don’t fill a political party with all this kind of stuff and expect it to hold to the traditions of its founders.

  3. Donald Trump is a godsend for the Democratic party. It allows them to focus on his faults and totally gloss-over the moonscape of flaws of their own candidate.

  4. The reaction to Trump is more amazing to me than the man.
    Just keep thinking of Buzz Windrip in “It Can’t Happen Here.”
    This country has always had her Huey Long’s and has always found a way to blame the messenger.

  5. Steve and Duane you are both on target. This election will be another historical milestone but for vastly different reasons than the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. The election of President Barack Obama was a step up in the eyes of most Americans and in the eyes of the world; but it also brought this country’s racism back to the forefront and we have learned of the doubling of white supremist organizations, many of them militant. This election; with the GOP allowing our National Fool to become the presumptive nominee of their party has also allowed the approval of hatred, racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia and violence to be their campaign platform. Try as they might to remove themselves from what Trump says, does, supports and encourages; the blame lies with their internal weakness which is supported and approved by their control of Congress.

    We MUST rid this country of their scourge on all levels of government on November 8th or America will be in another Civil War with the gun nuts well armed and the victims in their cross hairs will drop as the victims in the mass shootings have been dropping on a regular basis. The GOP allowed Trump to take control of this election but WE allowed the GOP to take control of this country.

  6. I believe that many of us on this blog have mentioned our concern about people in this country actually supporting and voting for Trump. This is very frightening. When they gather at his appearances they seem like blood-thirsty vampires.

    The Republican party leadership has got to stop catering to and selling themselves to the wealthy elite. It seems they are completely incapable of realizing or accepting, after presidential losses in 2008 and 2012, that the American public is angry about what has been happening to them economically over the past three decades. It worked well for their leaders until eight years ago and they are not about to give up that power. However, the Koch brothers and their ilk realized a couple decades ago that they could gain the most power by owning state politicians. Until we can convince the general public that change must start at the state level, those in power will continue to gain more wealth and power and push the working class further into struggling to survive.

    The Koch brothers and other uber-wealthy business owners have skillfully fed lies to the Republican masses. These lies have inspired the belief that they are being controlled by too much government and that Democrats want to tax them more and take care of the poor (you know, those who are just too lazy to work and pay their own way).

    They have successfully tricked the members of the Republican party into supporting their self-serving policies. The average worker hears that they are being taxed too much and blames the people on public assistance for the high taxes, when it is really the filty-rich who are not paying their fair share of taxes. Trying to explain this to their followers is like talking to a brick wall. The plan laid out by the uber-wealthy decades ago to control the minds of the general public has been very successful.

    Now, we must hope that the younger generations will step forward to create the changes needed that will bring better economic opportunities for everyone. Until the older white men (and the older white women who have enjoyed a good life with the older white men) are gone, it seems that we will continue to see more of the same.

  7. Whatever your feelings about this election, we cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot just decide not to vote or to vote for a third party candidate this year. It would be unconscionable to turn this country over to a GOP that includes the likes of Louie Ghomert and Donald Trump.

  8. Sheila, could you provide us with the reason that the Indiana Democratic party has not been able to get a better candidate than Gregg to run for the office of governor? The highest office in our state seems to mirror the situation with the candidates for our country’s presidential office.

  9. The reason for Trump’s success in politics so far?

    There are many, many Archie Bunkers in this country.

  10. Ack, hit the “post” button by accident.

    So long as we have people willing to let others do their thinking for them, we will have Archie Bunkers and candidates like Donald Trump, religious leaders like Franklin Graham, and the whole rest of the bunch.

  11. I have yet to meet a person who believes, and can articulate why, Trump is in any way qualified to be President of anything, much less the country. Not a single person.

    Most people that I know are repulsed by the idea.

    Some others say “yea, but he does say whatever he wants to” as if that is a good thing.

    Others say “yea, but Hillary is worse.”

    “How so?” Is a good response to them.

    “She’s dishonest.” Is a typical reply.


    “It’s well known.”

    I went through this with my son-in-law last night. It took quite a while but we finally got down to his observation that so many people believe that she is dishonest that there must be some truth to it.

    So his bottom line is he will not vote for either given the truth about him and the rumors about her and the fact that most of his business acquaintances are Republican and he has no time or energy to invest in learning about our current politics.

    Politics has become just another of our entertainments complete with home teams. “Well of course I’m a Colts fan, I’m from Indiana.”

    It seems that the point that football has no consequences and politics huge ones is beyond our reach.

    We get the government that we deserve. Like Great Britain we won’t face the hangover until morning.

    We here typically speculate that modern humans merely follow the screens in front of their faces. If the screen says go right the minions follow faithfully.

    Some screens are set on Democrat, some on Republican. No screens are off. That explains about 90% of the half of us who bother to vote. That means it’s up to 5% of us to choose whether to leave the business of government up to the wealthy icons of society who have proven the inability to do the job or return power to we, the people.

    Not much of a head on the body. It’s marginally sufficient though. Right a small majority of the time. This has to be one of those times because if not there may not be a second chance.

  12. Duane is on target! Spot on!

    So,how did we get here? Who created the milieu for a Trump candidacy? My opinion of Trump’s candidacy can be summed up in the following; In a country where the businessman is God,money is religion and commerce absolutely sacrosanct,is it any wonder Trump is so popular? He’s Romney without the credentials.

    No matter how many seem scared by a Trump presidency,Cruz–as far as I’m concerned– was the real danger. The scary part about a Clinton presidency will the role of Victoria Nuland. She’ll have unfettered access to do more damage on the international landscape. Pun intended.

    Speaking of creating the environs for Trump. Perhaps the following should be heeded..

    An excerpt:
    The New Democrats and New Labour did not embrace “free trade.” They embraced deals that gave CEOs exceptional leverage to prevent effective environmental, financial, and safety regulation and increased leverage against their workers. Those deals were drafted and negotiated largely by corporate CEOs for the benefit of corporate CEOs. The key to the deals is not “trade,” much less “free trade,” but the kangaroo, non-judicial arbiters that can bankrupt smaller nations that dare to protect their citizens and workers’ health and safety through law and regulation.

    The New Democrats did not embrace “lower taxes,” they embraced greatly reduced government services and protections and an eroded safety nets. Some of them even embraced the Republicans dramatically lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans, even hedge fund billionaires. Collectively, the New Democrats and New Labour’s policies were designed to swing sharply against the working class and labor in favor of the wealthy, particularly financial elites. The policies were accompanied by rhetoric reviling labor and the working class. Those policies transformed America and the UK, harming labor and the working class while making the wealthiest far wealthier.

    Btw,back to the original query…Is it him or us? Trump is just a symptom. We are the problem.

  13. The scariest prospect is a man who has the weapons of war with which to ‘prove’ his manhood.
    A battle over “My nuclear weapons are bigger than yours” between the likes of the N. Korean dictator and Donald Trump is a prescription for the ultimate catastrophic consequence.

  14. Grammar police: “Is It He, or We?” Just kidding….a little Thursday humor. Technically correct, but sounds awful. Keep up the great work, Sheila! I’m a yuge fan!

  15. Cheryl Gregory; I totally agree with your fear. We have had candidates we didn’t like or trust but I don’t remember ever having a presidential candidate I actually fear. And I voted in my first election in 1958.

    Bill Wilson; MEATHEADS, UNITE!!! Where do I sign up?

  16. We have one qualified and one not and people whine that we are not offered a perfect choice like we have had in the past.

    That’s a past that I completely missed.

  17. While there are many things that are known to guide our choice for President, for the simplest minded, here’s the Classic Comics version.

    She will manage climate change giving us a future that we can afford and he will not.

    That should be all one needs to know but a shade less than half of the half who will select our next President believes that home team loyalty is more important than our future.

  18. Ph.D. candidate Matthew MacWilliams found that the most frequent reason supporters back Donald Trump is his authoritarianism. From Politico (

    “My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December [2015] under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

    “Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to ‘make America great again’ by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.”

  19. The number of people that Donald Trump has screwed figuratively and literally is legion and he’s offering that same experience to the rest of the world.

    A half of the half of Americans who will decide for the rest of the world will support his offer based on home team loyalty.

  20. William 1 you make excellent points. The New Democrats (Clinton Establishment) and New Labour (Tony Blair) see the Corporations – Multi-Nationals and the 1% as the source of their political success. Consequently, they write the rules in private behind closed doors. The Republicans are all on board this same ship. Tony Blair like the Clinton’s struck gold once he left public office. Blair’s estimated wealth is 60 M Pounds. Blair has own foundation too. Must be a template out there. The title of the Template is probably Clout for Cash.

    Bottom line the working class in America has no political counterbalance to the 1% and Multi-National Corporations. Unions which used to provide the counterbalance have been gutted. The Republicans will destroy the Unions. The Democrat Establishment will allow Unions to exist and donate money but their economic and political ability to change the trajectory of Democratic Party Corporatism will not be permitted.

    Good example is the Democrats candidate for Governor – Gregg said he wouldn’t try to reinstate a law that the Republican-controlled state legislature repealed last year. The law, known as the common construction wage, allowed local boards to set wages — often union wages — for public construction projects. Gregg also said he wouldn’t try to get rid of the state’s right-to-work law that lawmakers passed in 2012, after massive union protests and walkouts by Democrats.

    Gregg is happy to take Union campaign contributions.

  21. Sheila, one correction, the analysis was written by Richard North Patterson instead of James Patterson, RNP being the much better writer, in my humble opinion. Good article; thanks for sharing.

  22. Hillary will do nothing wrt climate change. That would require restrictions upon business. She supports TPP. The treaty is anathema to putting strings,regulations et al upon business.

    That’s the truth,not opinion.

    The simpleminded do not require empirical evidence in order to garner support for their candidate. They need only to continue the chorus of empty canards and platitudes.

  23. There is more than one narcissist in this campaign. The only difference is he brags about it and she hides it.

  24. Hello Louie.

    You’re right. Gregg is a staunch conservative and Democrat in name only. I will leave the governorship blank this coming election. I am voting against every super-delegate for Clinton,which means I will be voting for a couple of Republicans for the first time. I’ll either write -in Bernie or vote for Jill Stein. The Democrats have alienated a large part of their base. They’re in for a rude awakening come November.

  25. William 1 yes Hillary believes in science, the most rigorous process humans have for separating truth from fiction and Donald supports the fiction that if we ignore science, reality will go easy on us.

    Of course fiction is the choice of many in these days of entertainment over news. We can all live in fiction until reality comes a’knocking on the door.

    You claim to study both truth and fiction and consider them equally. Your choice I suppose but the Universe only honors reality and that’s a problem.

  26. Our addiction to entertainment has led to an equal treatment of truth and rumor.

    “Oh I heard on some show that TPP is bad because some people say so.”

    “Well what is TPP?”

    “I don’t know any of the details but I think that it involves other countries.”

    “Oh, that can’t be good. Must be what they said on TV is right.”

  27. Pete,way to obfuscate the point. Hillary may believe in science,but she will not acquiesce to the truths of science in order to step on the toes of commerce. After all,that’s what the acceptance of those donations are about. She’s “willfully” ignoring the laws of science to enrich her business donors. She has done that in the past and she will continue to do so in the future.

    I understand you’re a die hard brand loyalist. That’s ok. I know you hate people when they don’t agree with your “assumptions”. That’s ok too. You’ve been in a bubble and could be disparagingly regarded as a privileged snowflake. Empirical evidence is evidence. Just as it can be in science. Beyond rhetoric and platitudes,Clinton will not burden business wrt climate change. What legislation did she write wrt climate change during her years as a Senator? She claims TPP needs to be tweaked, but it can’t be,that’s what Fast Track was all about.

  28. EFK. As usual the academics correctly analyzed culture.

    It does boil down to freedom vs power. Authoritarians sell and buy power. I need to have control because I know best. Trump = Hitler in that regard.

    People who have that need, as does he, line up like good little soldiers behind the strongest without the slightest thought to freedom at all is freedom for all. They blindly enslave themselves.

    The war for this election is no different than any of them. Power vs freedom.

  29. Again William 1 you claim rumors as facts and compare Hillary to perfect when in fact perfection is itself a rumor, unobserved.

    Realistically (not your favorite place we know) we will choose between qualified and unqualified. In most elections we chose between more qualified and less qualified.

    Republicans continued their now decades long demonstration of political ineptitude in actual results not political theory.

    America ignores reality at our peril which is one of the many realities neo Republicans choose behind team loyalty.

    I’m a huge fan of reality. It doesn’t always treat me right but it’s so reliable.

  30. If a Party can’t nominate qualified candidates there is no reason to grant them credibility in anything.

  31. Pete:”It does boil down to freedom vs power. Authoritarians sell and buy power. I need to have control because I know best. Trump = Hitler in that regard.”

    William 1: I dunno. I bet there are some Hondurans who might have a different view of your favored candidate. In fact,they might compare her to Hitler. Again,empirical evidence. Hell,some of the commenters here seem to be authoritarian as well. Then again,they’re former Republicans. They just can’t help themselves.

    Pete: “People who have that need, as does he, line up like good little soldiers behind the strongest without the slightest thought to freedom at all is freedom for all. They blindly enslave themselves.”

    William 1: Exactly. Just as you and many of the commenters here have done. The DNC says jump and you summarily reply “How High!”

    Pete:” The war for this election is no different than any of them. Power vs freedom.”

    William: I’m always skeptical of those comparing election (at least in the U.S.) campaigns to genuine war. Especially when the only casualty befalling most of the warriors will be a broken fingernail from striking the keyboard a bit too hard. Tell me Pete,back in your Republican days,did put on camouflage clothing and watch the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer?

  32. Is it Him, Her, or Us?

    “Him” is boastful, arrogant, and given to hyperbole. His lies are built upon bold impossible promises shrink-wrapped and protected by embellishment. In short, he’s another braggart who likes to hear himself talk.

    “Her” most bothersome lies are the lies of a person who truly must believe the rest of us are clueless numb skulls. Consider the self-involved conceit of announcing your given name, Hillary, as your mother’s choice based on Sir Edmund Hillary’s Mt Everest expedition in 1953, six years ‘before’ Ms Clinton’s birth. Mr Friedman calls Hillary’s mistruths ‘prevarications’ which is simply a bit of soft language, polite talk for ‘lies’.

    “Us” the voters are wrapped in partisanship where many would vote for a yellow dog if their favorite party listed the dog on the ballot.

  33. Not that long ago folks could say, “I like the idea that the earth and I are the center of the Universe so I’m going with that.”

    Fortunately a few saw that as something that could be settled one way or another, invested the necessary time and thought, and proved that we are not.


    We are faced daily with similar if smaller scale challenges. What is reality? How can I live consistent with it so it doesn’t have to knock me down for struggling counter to it?

    Today many here and abroad are wondering will American voters invest enough time and thought into our political reality or will they instead go with “I like the idea of _______, so I’m going with it?”

    We know of course that more by far will take that route than not. Most of us in fact.

    That’s reality.

    But you and I don’t have to be default no brainer voters. We can invest the time and critical skeptical thought.

    The more of us that do the better the odds of avoiding being slapped down by reality.

  34. William 1, I am with you concerning your post of 12:02, no Hillary or Trump for me, no Gregg either or Pence.

    Here is an interesting article: The Attorney General of the United States just happened to run into the former president of the United States who just so happens to be married to a woman running for president, who just happens to be under federal investigation and they just happened to have a 30 minute meeting aboard a government owned airplane and we’re to believe that all they talked about was their grandchildren?

    In 1999, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

    Nothing to see or hear, just a casual accidental crossing of paths. File it under the Chaos Theory.

  35. Let’s see, BSH repeats an old story about how Mrs. Rodham claimed to name her daughter Hillary. Disgraceful parental nonobjectivity.

    How does that compare in scale to the future of the earth as a result of climate change?

  36. Pete,

    Attempting to change the subject to your area of primary interest, climate change, does not change, erase, or discount Ms Clinton’s prevarications. Focus on the topic.

  37. One interesting aspect of elections are the terms “base” and “swing”.

    Base voters are demographic groups about which the assumption can be reliably made can be counted on by one party/candidate or the other. Not that 100% vote at all or always for the same party but a majority of them will with a high degree of certainty. They tend to be party loyalists, single issue, or less informed voters. They are targeted during primary campaigns.

    Swing voters are demographic groups where the majority could go either way depending on how each campaign addresses their specific primary issues. Those votes are pursued primarily during the general election campaign. They tend to be single issue voters.

    Campaign statisticians have a hard time dealing with those who are informed voters. Why? Their loyalty depends on the specific candidates and typically the candidates have never run against each other before, certainly not in these times, so there is no precedent upon which to base a forecast.

    Campaigns aim their sights at base and swing groups and portray their interests as important to the candidate.

    All of that is essential for the democratic process to unfold and while we would hope for informed voters making good decisions that is a distinct minority unpredictable element in campaign advertising and that’s all campaigns have become, advertising.

    Because they can’t be effectively advertised to informed voters have to do the heavy lifting themselves.

    It’s time consuming critical thinking skepticism intense work and that’s why most people avoid it.

    But not all.

    Forums like this one are essential tools for seeing all sides of issues and candidates and assigning credibility more or less to every issue and every candidate.

    We’re all limited in our objectivity but that limitation can be mitigated by mental work.

    This is one resource for your workplace.

  38. Without any real ability to confirm or remove it, I have the impression that Trump and Putin share something – both appear to me to be high functioning autistics. This doesn’t, however, preclude additional personality disorders, e.g., narcissism. Hillary has different problems. That is why I am giving the Libertarians a stron look, despite a few policy differences.

  39. It was well known that up to this election getting elected President takes about $1B in advertising. That’s just over a third of what P&G spends annually selling soap.

    To spend it a candidate/party has to first raise it and to paraphrase Willy Sutton, famed bank robber, to do that you have to go where the money is.

    Bernie thought that to be an outrageous reality, as do I, but in the end he proved it unimpeachable reality.

    Good for him for dreaming it to be otherwise, but good for us Hillary didn’t and had a plan to raise it because if she hadn’t the consequences would have been unthinkable.

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