Trump’s Charisma

Eli Zaretsky

Several factors point to a Democratic victory in the next US presidential election, including success in the 2018 midterms, a series of state polls, and enormous rank and file enthusiasm, reflected in the large number of candidates who qualified for the debates. Still, the Democrats vastly underestimated Trump in 2016 and may repeat the mistake in 2020. Wishful thinking is not the only pitfall. Understanding the nature of Trump’s divisive personality, and the relation between that divisiveness and America’s politics, is still undeveloped. Here Max Weber’s theory of charisma may be helpful.

Charisma, according to Weber, is a quality of the individual personality that sets them aside from ordinary men and women, so that they are ‘treated as endowed with … exceptional powers or qualities’. Charisma supplements other forms of political power such as bureaucracy (Trump’s ‘deep state’), plutocracy and aristocracy (strong in Weber’s time and perpetuated in the US in the legacy practices of elite universities). Writing in Germany during the First World War, Weber did not believe that traditional democratic values, such as equality and inclusion, could explain the politics of what he called ‘mass-states’ or ‘leader-democracies’, such as Germany, Britain, France and the United States. Rather, such states generate charismatic leaders capable of strong and independent direction, both to allow mass democracy to flourish, and to fulfil their geopolitical role. According to Weber, the charismatic leader has three qualities, all of which Trump exemplifies, and all of which the Democrats misunderstand.

First, the charismatic leader’s power rests on beating rivals in competition, rather than on knowledge or right of inheritance; the charismatic leader is always an expert in struggle. Their status as victor, however, is always in doubt. Charisma is bestowed by the masses, who remain the ultimate authority; the claim to a special mission breaks down when it is not recognised by those to whom the leader ‘feels he has been sent’. In Trump’s case, his charisma rests not so much on having previously beaten his rivals, as on beating them over and over, like a children’s superhero. Understanding this is key to understanding his constantly picking fights and engaging in apparently absurd conflicts, especially after he seems to have won a victory – as with the Mueller Report, or immediately after his election. Democrats see this as an expression of personal insecurity, bad temper and bullying. It may well be, but Trump’s ‘insecurity’, his unending struggle with those who question his legitimacy, is integral to his charisma.

Second, the charismatic leader in a democracy must articulate and defend a new direction and new values for the country as a whole, values that necessarily derive from creative individuals and not from institutions. The Democrats have difficulty seeing that Trump is doing this because of their defensiveness regarding the Obama presidency. Obama’s articulation of the need for what he called a ‘new mindset’, not just a new policy, was in good part responsible for his charisma in 2008 (much greater than Trump’s). Obama’s switch from charismatic leader to pragmatic manager once he took office left a void into which Trump stepped eight years later. It is impossible to understand Trump’s historic role without seeing that he is fulfilling, however perversely, the promise of a new beginning that Obama made in 2008.

Third, charismatic leaders to demonstrate that they are personally responsible for their decisions in a way that the bureaucrat, or the party leader in a parliamentary system, is not. The liberal complaint that Trump makes everything about himself – his egoism or narcissism – misses the point that charisma must be personal. One way that this element of personal responsibility shows itself is by uninhibited associative speech, which presupposes a suspension of ego control – what is often regarded as Trump ‘running his mouth’. Here, taken more or less at random, is an example of Trump’s speech:

We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them. And we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.

The Democrats reduce this to Trump’s obviously egregious racism. But it is also an example of how he lets his guard down to convince his followers that they are seeing a ‘real person’, not a scripted persona. Weber’s prototype for ancient charisma, the Hebrew prophets, frequently made public appearances in which they lacked control, behaved unpredictably and exposed themselves to abuse. Gladstone, Weber’s prototype for modern charisma, was noted for speaking extemporaneously, supposedly a sign of his personal responsibility or ‘genuineness’. Here again it is Trump’s charisma, not his personality, that needs to be understood.

Still, Weber’s focus on charisma has a notable gap: what exactly creates the bond between the leader and his or her followers? Here, Freudian mass psychology deepens Weber’s analysis. Freud showed in his book on mass psychology that in democratic societies the charismatic bond may rest on an appeal to frustrated or unfulfilled narcissism. The followers idealise the leader as they once – in childhood – idealised themselves. For this to work, the charismatic leader has to possess not only exceptional qualities but also the typical qualities of the individuals who follow him, in a ‘clearly marked and pure form’ that gives the impression ‘of greater force and of more freedom of libido’. The charismatic leader thus appears as an ‘enlargement’ of the follower, completing the follower’s self-image rather than, as in other forms of charisma, being out of reach.

Charismatic leaders may also appeal to their follower’s better natures – as, for example, Lincoln and Roosevelt did. Such appeals to what Freud called the ego-ideal also raise self-esteem, more firmly than the narcissistic bond that Trump favours. Trump not only refuses to do this, but appeals to the opposite values to Lincoln and Roosevelt: nationalism rather than patriotism, exclusion rather than inclusion, self-interest rather than social justice. This is why he stirs up fury and hatred, along with loyalty and admiration. Both the love and the hate arise out of an intense personal connection, which is what Weber meant by charisma.

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.


  • 28 June 2019 at 1:25pm
    Simon Wood says:
    Only some sort of Americana can beat Trump's Americana. Obama was in his way a cool, relaxed gunslinger. He was more the "Magnificent Seven" than the dour Gary Cooper in "High Noon".

    The problem with being left of centre is that it is associated with suffering, not success.

    Johnson is a success at pushing himself forward. Corbyn's charisma is etched in the acid bath of suffering.

    • 1 July 2019 at 11:31pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Simon Wood
      yes, that is a problem.

  • 3 July 2019 at 4:13am
    Trevor Pederson says:
    I liked some of the formulations in this piece, like beating one’s enemies like a children's superhero. This fits nicely with Trumps statements of winning so much that people will get tired of winning.  

    In Freud’s work there is a distinction between the high and low ego ideal, with the latter being comparable to a type of narcissism, but I argue that it does have its own type of ego ideal. The high ego ideal relates to ego drives of competency, conscientiousness in work, and has a strong idealization of authority figures or parental-substitutes. The low ego ideal, is defined as not having a strong idealization, the parental-substitute is felt to be more on equal terms although they might have an edge, or something that gives them an advantage. The low ego ideal doesn't register as competency and conscientiousness but as being a doer who gets things done even if they are not traditional or accepted ways. This individual doesn't feel the ego ideal tensions to have to take on more knowledge and fear the embarrassment of not knowing as much as he should, he feels special/exceptional and "trusts his gut" and his ability to improvise. Although, as Trump shows, this doesn't mean that he is actually able to improvise well and do better than someone who practices with the teleprompter. But ,Trump feels that he is exceptional, and his self-satisfaction is communicated in his mannerisms and physiognomy, and this is enough for some of his followers to feel like he does well.  

    The idea of Trump being like a prophet and letting himself lose self-control doesn’t sit well with me. I would associate the prophets more with invoking symbols and speaking poetically in a moment of ecstasy.

    Zaretsky writes that charismatic leader needs:
    “new direction and new values for the country as a whole, values that necessarily derive from creative individuals and not from institutions”

    The Make America Great Again slogan does not appear to be a new mindset. It is perhaps a new mindset in the sense that you people have to admit that things are not great anymore, but in the notion that we only have to tap into what is already a part of us. It is not a creative leap and as Zaretsky intimates, is built more on exclusion and exclusiveness.

    It would be a creative leap to for the democratic candidate to tout social justice but, just as Zaretsky points out all of the character flaws that the left sees in Trump, the political right will point these out in such a candidate. He or she has white guilt, he is a beta male, he or she wants a big government and cannot count on his or her own self-reliance, etc.

    • 3 July 2019 at 1:25pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Trevor Pederson
      Dear Trevor: thank you for a very interesting piece. First, Where does Freud make this distinction. I am not familiar with it and it is important. I do think MAGA is a reorientation to meaning. It is a classic ego ideal expression, meaning it looks backward and projects forward at the same time. The Brexit slogan, Take Back Control, had the same quality. If you let me know where Freud distinguishes high and low ego ideals I will be in a better position to respond on this point. Its extremely important and would be very clarifying. Thanks again, eli

    • 3 July 2019 at 3:09pm
      Trevor Pederson says: @ Eli Zaretsky
      Dear Eli

      The actual term high ego ideal is from W. Reich, but Freud talks of how "In many individuals the separation between the ego and the ego ideal is not very far advanced; the two still coincide readily; the ego has often preserved its earlier narcissistic self-complacency. The selection of the leader is very much facilitated by this circumstance." This is in the same passage that you quoted from in 'Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego.'

      In Libidinal Types, Freud differentiates the obsessional from the narcissistic type by indicating that the former "is distinguished by the predominance of the super-ego, which is separated from the ego under great tension" while with the latter

      "[t]here is no tension between ego and super-ego (indeed, on the strength of this type one would scarcely have arrived at the hypothesis of a super-ego)... People belonging to this type impress others as being ‘personalities’; they are especially suited to act as a support for others, to take on the role of leaders and to give a fresh stimulus to cultural development or to damage the established state of affairs."

      I take up these passages, along with the thoughts of other analysts, and my own clinical examples to argue for the different expressions of the high and low ego ideal. This work is in Psychoanalysis and Hidden Narrative in Film: Reading the Symptom (Routledge, 2018).

      "I do think MAGA is a reorientation to meaning."

      Sure, but this is a much more mundane statement than a
      “new direction and new values for the country as a whole, values that necessarily derive from creative individuals and not from institutions.”

      Trump's followers are simply waiting for him to save their coal plant, build the wall, and stimulate the economy. With Hitler, there could be an argument that the appeal to the return to the glory of the German Reich went along with new directions and new values. Individuals were called upon to make sacrifices and create an ideal for the future of Germany, even if in a grotesque and inhuman way. Trump and Brexit are quite tepid in comparison.

      Again, thanks for the stimulating piece, Trevor

    • 3 July 2019 at 6:14pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Trevor Pederson
      Thanks for this. Yes, I thought high and low didn't really sound like Freud/ However, I do think the difference over the amount of tension makes sense. This is the distinction between authoritarian and democratic authority that I spoke about in my piece The Mass Psychology of Trumpism, which is easy to get as it is on LRB. I think to develop the point about "high ideals" the path would be to take up the question of instinctual restraint, GHeistigkeit, the nature of the ego-- somewhat different than high and low ego-ideals. I very much look forward to looking at your book. Where di you teach? I assume you teach.

    • 3 July 2019 at 11:19pm
      Trevor Pederson says: @ Eli Zaretsky
      Hi Eli.

      Freud technically uses the expression:

      "A man who has exchanged his narcissism for homage to a high ego ideal has not necessarily on that account succeeded in sublimating his libidinal instincts." On Narcissism

      But, it's not used consistently across the discussion of the differences of tension or differentiation in the superego.

      I'm going to find the piece you mention. Thanks for the suggestion.

      I'm in private practice and don't teach. I've been in a couple of Psychology and Social Work depts. to teach the psychoanalytic/dynamic sections in their survey courses, but that is all.

      Best, Trevor

  • 3 July 2019 at 5:53pm
    Pepysian says:
    Interesting piece, but lacking in any political angle. Trump is not only charismatic: he also stands for certain clearly defined policies. This is central to his appeal: his ability to make inhumanity sound like common-sense.

    • 3 July 2019 at 6:10pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Pepysian
      yes, I agree. That occurred to me too. Still, I hope it made. contribution.

  • 3 July 2019 at 6:49pm
    hag says:
    "It is impossible to understand Trump’s historic role without seeing that he is fulfilling, however perversely, the promise of a new beginning that Obama made in 2008."

    A useful insight, one Trump himself seems to have had; hence his obsession with being the anti-Obama.

    • 3 July 2019 at 8:25pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ hag
      Yes, good point. Of course, Trump always hated Obama since Obama did that takedown of him at the Roast. A response to the birther stuff. I personally always thought Obama went too far, lowered himself so to speak.

  • 3 July 2019 at 7:12pm
    Mitchell Zimmerman says:
    Part of Trump's effective articulation of "new values" include his fairly open embrace of racism and national chauvinism. Although the Republican Party actively promoted white resentment and openly courted racists ever since Nixon's campaigns, before Trump the GOP had done so under a thin cover that still required their supporters to pay lip service to anti-racist values and perhaps made them feel defensive about their white supremacist views. Trump has eliminated any need for such defensiveness. Perhaps this comfort in Trump's affirmation of their identity as, above all else, white people, is what makes his supporters indifferent to his broken promises and lies (insofar as they may access media that allow them to learn of such matters).
    What to do? I agree that whoever the Democrats nominate, to defeat Trump will a candidate whose appeal is not merely to restore an (imaginary) past of good feelings. Although I share the fear that being "too left" could cost Democrats the election, I can't see the charismatic appeal of just going back to the good old days. Perhaps championing a national struggle to halt climate change, as part of a program to reverse the economic decline of the so-called middle class, would be sufficiently inspirational.

    • 3 July 2019 at 8:26pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Mitchell Zimmerman
      I think all values are held with ambivalence and that Trump's appeal, eg his legitimation of racism, is that he speaks for the negative side of the ambivalence.

  • 3 July 2019 at 9:36pm
    Russell Child says:
    "Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking."

    Exactly so - which is why Biden's recent promise to not change a thing if he is elected means that should the Democrats make the fatal error of selecting him, Trump will win again.

    Nice piece. Thanks for writing.

    • 4 July 2019 at 3:31pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Russell Child
      thank you Russell

  • 4 July 2019 at 7:50am
    ikallicrates says:
    So wrong in so many ways that I won't try to list them all. But let’s begin at the beginning.

    Zaretsky says “several factors point to a Democratic victory in the next US presidential election”. Among them he mentions an “enormous rank and file enthusiasm, reflected in the large number of candidates who qualified for the debates”. But this large number of candidates reflects rank and file enthusiasm for just one candidate: Bernie Sanders.

    Sanders emerged from the 2016 debates as the most popular politician in the USA, more popular than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Republicans I spoke with during the debates said they didn’t like Trump, and would vote for Sanders if the Democrats nominated him. The Democrats would have won the presidency in a landslide if they had nominated Sanders. But the party’s neoliberal grandees hated Sanders because he’s a social democrat, so they rigged the primaries against him (Is this news to Zaretsky? Has he never heard of Wikileaks?) and now they’re doing it again. By flooding the competition with other candidates, they’re ensuring that Sanders won’t win the party’s nomination on the first ballot, and a second ballot will have to be held. The “superdelegates”, party hacks who shafted Sanders back in 2016, can’t vote on the first ballot, but they can on the second, and they’ll shaft him in 2020 just as they did back in 2016.

    The Democrats didn’t lose in 2016 because they underestimated Trump and his charisma. They lost because they overestimated Clinton and her charisma. The more voters saw of her, the more Clinton’s poll numbers dropped because she offered nothing of substance. She campaigned as a woman, and it was time we had a woman president.

    Weber’s theory of charisma isn’t wrong, but Zaretky is wrong to apply it to Trump. Americans didn’t vote for Trump as much as they voted against Clinton and the failed establishment politics she represents. Because everyone knows establishment politics has failed, and failed disastrously. That’s why Trump presented himself as an outsider, not a professional politician but a businessman, and Americans were so sick of professional politicians that they persuaded themselves this notorious con man might for once be telling the truth. Because they had no alternative.

    • 4 July 2019 at 3:35pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ ikallicrates
      There is much in this that I agree with. Sanders, in my view, is a great figure, comparable to earlier American radicals like Eugene Debs or Wendell Phillips. Sanders combines charisma based on high ideals with the overall transvaluation of meaning, the global reorientation that Obama promised but then simply dropped. I personally thought Sanders would be the nominee this time and that he would win. However, his behavior in the first debate-- simply repeating the same things he said in 2016 with no sense of the present-- dismayed me and it will be very hard for him to recoup. If he does I am for him.

  • 4 July 2019 at 11:44am
    tigran says:
    As Max is long dead and cannot comment this is Eli's take on Trump. As I see it, living in the USA, the strange and almost funny thing about Left (or moderate, America has little left of Left) response to Trump is to deny his essential Americanness. Or, to be clearer, there is the old story of the man who walks into the room where every man wants to be him or fight him and every woman wants to be with him. Of course it depends upon the room. There are many places where Trump's "charisma" would be invisible: a council of Cheyenne woman for instance. America is a specific white macho "room" still where ancient senators extol the virtues of boyscoutdom as their highest praise, Kavanaugh hearings, and then confirm the squalling frat boy as a Supreme. Perhaps the Athens of Pericles would be a place where real universal charisma would be necessary, or an unknown playing Carnegie Hall. A reality tv host and famous rich person with enough narcissism to run for President, an office that is Monarch with term limits, needs as much charisma as the Bay City Rollers. What he does have is a natural affinity with American male myth and a media to shoulder most of the otherwise heavy lifting while blaming to be critical. For example: Trump is a fighter. All, all agree. CNN, MSNBC etc. Or Trump is a "success" as I see echoed in the comments here. Only in the Disney world of the Room, among a people addicted to the vicarious, the careful grinding empty world of commercial American culture where to be born rich is a success. And a world suspicious of real Ocasio-Cortez Cortez type quality.

    • 4 July 2019 at 3:40pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ tigran
      Max is dead? I think you mean Marx is dead. Anyway, this is wrong. Trump's polling numbers among women are very strong, though of course still not a majority. He is not just a "male myth." Also his polling is strong among Hispanics. Finally, Marx is not at all dead. Turning to Weber and Freud does not mean that Marx is dead. As to Cheyenne women, I know one would-be Cheyenna who will never live down Harvard's claims for her. I think you know who I mean.

  • 7 July 2019 at 1:34pm
    Sam Whimster says:
    Charisma, for Max Weber, was certainly an individual quality, one that was able to create absolute loyalty and devotion among followers. Charismatic rule was the only force able to challenge traditional power and traditional bureaucracy. But Weber did not extend its usage into the era of modern mass politics. Weber did, as Zaretsky notes, term Gladstone a charismatic party leader who through force of ethical conviction was able to appeal to a large constituency of Puritan believers. "Gladstone's very personal charisma, which was irresistible to Puritan rationalism..." This is the only mention of charisma by Weber in relation to a modern politician and it owes much to the religious fervour which Gladstone was able to command. True charismatic leaders appear to have been graced by god, or claim to possess magical powers, and charisma has little to do with profanity.

    Not even Bismarck reached charismatic political status. Instead Weber thought of him as a great statesman, though he despised the Bismarck legend which was an anti-democratic sentiment. He also criticised Bismarck for holding back the defining feature of modern mass democracy: equal suffrage.

    Where Weber is still relevant is his analysis of plebiscitary leadership and its tendency towards authoritarianism (which he termed Caesarism). The leader is elected directly by the people and to achieve this the plebiscitary leader has to make - or manufacture - an emotional appeal to voters. In Weber's day (he died in 1920) Bismarck achieved this, as did Theodor Roosevelt, and so onwards with many US Presidents, including Donald Trump. The plebiscitary vote, where Trump did not obtain a majority, gives the US President a power and legitimacy advantage over Congress and the political parties.

    So, when invoking Weber, it's best to subsume charisma to his more penetrating analysis of plebiscitary democracy. Weber provides this definition in Economy and Society (p. 268): "Plebiscitary democracy - the most important type of leader-democracy (Fuehrer-Demokratie) - is a variant of charismatic authority, which hides behind a legitimacy that is formally derived from the will of the governed. The leader (demagogue) rules by virtue of the devotion and trust which his political followers have in him personally."

    The United States has far greater experience in handling the tension between President and Congress, something George Washington himself flagged up when offering himself to the voters for his second presidential term. Here in the United Kingdom we are completely unprepared for the threat of Caesarism to parliamentary democracy. With his classical eye Weber would already have spotted the upcoming Gracchi brothers.

    • 7 July 2019 at 6:43pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Sam Whimster
      thank you for a lucid and important reply. Incidentally, I do know that you are a Weber scholar (I am not) and I am familiar with your book on Weber and anarchy. In spite of this I doubt your conclusion, namely that charisma is not applicable to modern politics. First, Weber has a whole discussion of what he calls "The Transformation of Charisma in a Democratic Direction" on volume one of Economy and Society. Second, charisma is such a general and ubiquitous concept for Weber that some truly world historical shift would have had to occur for charisma not to be operative. What shift? Second, I believe it is appropriate to extend a concept like charisma, as has often been done in studies of mass culture. Third, a work that influenced my post is Jeffrey Edward Green, "Max Weber and the Invention of Popular Power," published in Max Weber Studies. Finally, Weber himself discusses plebiscitary democracy as an example of charismatic leadership. What is to be gained by excluding the idea of charisma?

  • 8 July 2019 at 11:17am
    Larry says:
    I haven't read all the comments, but I don't see much mention of religion. Surely any explanation of the Trump phenomenon has to explain his overwhelming popularity with Christians, especially evangelicals?

    • 8 July 2019 at 3:13pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Larry
      very important point. I haven't really thought about it, In the US Ross Douthat is the person who writes best on this. Let me think about it though.

  • 9 July 2019 at 10:13am
    Sam Whimster says:
    The American translator-editors took a bit of a liberty with Weber's own subtitling. He wrote "Die herrschaftsfremde Umdeutung des Charisma" which more strictly translated reads "The anti-authoritarian reinterpretation of charisma".

    Charisma does pass into the modern world but in an altered form. Perhaps we can agree on that. Charisma transitions into the modern electoral era in the form of the plebiscitary leadership. "The most important transitional type is the legitimation of authority by plebiscite: plebiscitary leadership. The most common examples are the modern party leaders." Weber sees this as typical of US democracy. The would-be President has to sell himself - or herself - to the mass of electors. This involves an emotional appeal. "This accounts for a tendency to favor the type of individual who is most spectacular, who promises the most, or who employs the most effective propaganda measures in the competition for leadership." This well describes Donald Trump and, over here in the UK, Boris Johnson. Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are engaged in competition to out-promise each other in order to become party leader - and so prime minister under the UK's rotten constitution. The "mass" base, however, is a ludicrous 160,000 Conservative party members. Johnson will win this competition because he has the greater emotional appeal to this miniscule electorate.

    My point is that we should not ascribe to Boris Johnson or any US President supernatural or superhuman powers of the charismatic leader. They are plebiscitary leaders deeply involved in the black arts of modern politics: demagogy, propaganda machines, manipulation of emotions, the projection - and now amplification- of personality through media. Your own study of the cultural psychology of emotional bonding between leader and follower is important - and part of a proud tradition at the New School, but I would argue this is best pursued within the framework of modern electoral politics.

    • 9 July 2019 at 3:18pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Sam Whimster
      Thanks Sam, if I may. This is helpful-- the key for me is to be precise about charisma. This point was also raised for me by another friend.

  • 9 July 2019 at 4:48pm
    Howard B says:
    Yes, Trump is charismatic, in a front stage and vulgar sense, and yes, he is a bully and a fascist and a narcissist. But crucially, he is not a leader, in the sense meant by the British group psychologist Bion. He is not in any way what Bion calls a work leader. He leads the group in pairing and in fight/flight (witness. MAGA and slanders against immigrants and trade wars and real wars). Even more to the point, Trump is afraid of losing, of being dependent. That is his glaring weakness, having to rely on others, to be defeated, to lose and to be a loser.
    The Democrats must and it is imperative, use psychology against this demagogue, and use his own weaknesses against him.
    It doesn't take a Iago to ruin this man and his grip on the Presidency

    • 9 July 2019 at 5:52pm
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ Howard B
      Bion is very helpful here. However, you say Trump leads fight flight and pairing groups (not sure how in that case( but deny him the status of leader. he surely leads dependency groups in that his followers are dependent on him. Finally, I do not believe that we need psychology to beat Trump. But we do need it to understand him. Thanks for your comment, eli

  • 10 July 2019 at 5:37am
    pinhut says:
    The article passes over how Democrats and the mainstream media mercilessly mocked Trump's candidacy, and the part this played in generating Trump's political capital.

    Firstly, Trump was able to convincingly point to a partisan media that was seeking to destroy him. These attacks had a double-edged quality, as what was presented as a train-wreck of a campaign was also a ratings winner, drawing in both liberals desirous of laughing at Trump and providing huge amounts of free publicity for his campaign.

    Secondly, Trump presented himself as an everyman. He uses a very simple vocabulary, he doesn't deploy skilful rhetoric as Obama did, he doesn't display any signs of intellectual snobbery. This allowed him to take the personal mockery he was subjected to and say to the swath of American people without college degrees and/or who live outside of liberal metropolises, this mockery directed at myself is how the Hillary Clintons of the world think about you. They think you're dumb, they think you're ignorant. In this respect, one of the most crucial moments of the race was Hillary Clinton confirming this view by branding Trump supporters as 'deplorables'.

    If Democrats and the media aligned with them continue to attack Trump by mocking him, my view is he will win again easily. By licensing boorish behavior by both liberals (for whom white poor/rich middle-aged men are the only demographic they can insult and denigrate with good conscience) and his own supporters, Trump turned the campaign away from any kind of nuance and made it all about winning and losing itself, and given he has now already won once, he requires no leap of faith from his base this time around.

    Lastly, in the UK we see the same dynamic around Remainers treatment of Brexit voters. While requiring to change minds re Brexit in order to win a second referendum, Remainers struggle to bracket their disdain for the ignorance, racism, xenophobia, etc. of those they would convert, and continue to support counter-productive mocking/derogatory memes that posit the Leave position as a fundamentally stupid view (sawing off a branch one is sat on, etc.) rather than acknowledging that Brexit is about wider political, cultural, economic differences.

    • 11 July 2019 at 2:07am
      Eli Zaretsky says: @ pinhut
      I agree with all of this.

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