As Donald Trump was rising in the Republican primaries, I wrote the first essay in this blog warning that admiration of him as a strong, iconoclastic champion who would face down political correctness and speak truth to power would misunderstand a terrible and dangerous flaw—his narcissism. He would not, perhaps could not, stop doubling down on himself, on his self image as bigger and stronger than the country’s established political and Constitutional order. I now believe this compulsion will drive him to destroy the nation or be martyred.
In daily life, we can usually avoid narcissists, or, if necessary, appease them with a flattering gesture and move away. Most of us know consciously or unconsciously to avoid threatening the ego of a narcissist, that inflicting any kind of “narcissistic injury” will trigger a no holds barred reaction. There is no winning a fight with a narcissist; they will perceive a loss as a threat to their very identity and do whatever they must to prevent it. I observed in the 2016 essay,
….[T]he empathy deficient narcissist will put anything and everything on the line, including relationships, to win and to protect his self image. Nothing is more important. The fact that he doesn’t care how people feel, or will feel, gives him a competitive advantage in confrontations and negotiations.
As president, Donald Trump now has a lot he can put on the line. We have already seen his willingness to order cabinet heads and high government officials to lie for him; and now we see him ordering them to break the law by refusing to honor subpoenas and transmit to Congress a whistle blower’s complaint. These confrontations are bound to accelerate as Congress pushes back, as it ultimately must, in defense of Constitutional order. He also has powerful weapons to fight with: his adoring base, Fox News, his executive authority, and an intimidated Republican Congress. He will use all of these without concern for risks because he must do whatever it takes to win, or for the costs because others’ losses do not concern him. [Please hear this: when I say he doesn’t care about others, I am not trying to insult him or express moral judgment; I simply believe he does not feel empathy and probably is incapable of putting anyone else’s needs ahead of his own.]
This destructive and self-destructive path appears to be inevitable since he must continue feeding the base that feeds his ego. Most of Donald Trump’s power lies in a cult of personality. The power of a personality that can speak bluntly, with total confidence, without hesitation or fear, is compelling and nearly irresistible to many, especially people who feel overwhelmed by rapid change and forces beyond their control. Desire for powerful, authoritative, and hopefully benevolent leadership lies at the heart of patriarchy itself, and where a patriarch’s motives are based in love and desire to serve the needs of a community the downsides are relatively manageable. That is not what we have in Donald Trump. Again, from the 2016 essay:
….[I]f you think Donald is speaking for you, or is going to look out for your interests, or even America’s interests, watch closely and think again. A narcissist sees all of life as a play with him or her self as the central character. Everyone else…yes, even family, is on stage to support his lead role; all are there to reflect his image.
House Democratic leadership clearly sees the risks of moving against Trump as very high, and they are. Beyond possible Democratic election losses, Mr. Trump will use all of his considerable stage management skills to bitterly divide the country by presenting himself as sole savior of honest downtrodden rural Americans, who just want their country back, from apocalyptic destruction by inferior, liberal, elitist, corrupt, urban Democrats, teamed up with dishonest media, to pursue open borders and ruin (brown out) our white Christian nation. Everyone knows it will be ugly and none of us can be sure what the outcome of such a showdown will be. Trust in and support for Democracy here and around the world has weakened of late, and its future is far from certain.
But House Democrats are being left with no good alternatives to bringing charges of unconstitutional, criminal, and anti-democratic behavior forward in articles of impeachment. Less extreme efforts at investigation and oversight are being mocked and obstructed, and not defending the rule of law and Constitutional order against open abuse could be as undermining of public respect for democracy as losing an impeachment trial in the Senate. The deliberate corruption and destruction of the system of governance for which they are stewards cannot be ignored.
We can hope for some ameliorating circumstances. Maybe the formal impeachment process will present the facts of the threat the President is creating in ways those who have been exposed only to conservative media have not previously heard or considered. Maybe the President’s escalation will make more obvious his unfitness and swing more public opinion against him. Maybe as the public is exposed to more evidence of his illegal and irrational behavior Republicans will smell blood flowing toward their own elections and turn against him as they did Richard Nixon; after all, they’ve never really liked him. And hopefully the Democratic candidate(s) can stay a bit aside of the impeachment process and keep their campaigns focused on their positive, constructive messages.
I don’t envy Nancy Pelosi who must step into a battle she doubts she can win. I fear for all of us who love our country and are being forced to choose sides in what is promising to be an epic battle, possibly for the nation’s soul. We are divided around deep values and are seeing that a divided nation cannot stand for long. Let’s hope we can and will find our common ground and overlapping interests in a renewed spirit of national community and love of our neighbors, all of them. Buckle up, fellow Americans, and may our best angels win.