Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Pa. (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Last weekend, Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Pennsylvania in support of Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone (who appears to have lost an extremely close special election on Tuesday). Trump was in rare form. Like a lounge singer in a casino somewhere off the Las Vegas strip he belted out the classics to the fawning approval of his fans.
Of course there was racism. Trump called Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is African-American, a stupid woman with a low IQ. It has been reported that Trump’s former wife, Ivana, once told her lawyer that Trump kept a book of Adolf Hitler’s speeches by his bedside. This may or may not be true. But Trump’s invective towards Waters certainly suggests he is a fan of Charles Murray’s pseudoscientific racist tract “The Bell Curve.” Not content to limit his racist broadsides to Waters, Trump also mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — who has said her family believed it had Native American ancestry — as “Pocahontas.”
Trump the petit-authoritarian and demagogue attacked the news media because they dare to (minimally) hold him accountable. To that end, NBC News personality Chuck Todd was insulted as a “sleeping son of a bitch.”
Trump tried to draw his usual moral-panic association between immigrants and crime, suggesting that “illegal aliens” were coming to America with the goal of dismembering innocent white women and girls. Of course the only voters who count as “real Americans” are the white people who voted for him.
He even updated one of his classics. Trump’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan will apparently be remixed as “Keep America Great!” for the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s public whooped, howled and cheered at his performance. After the rally, Trump’s detractors highlighted this spectacle as another example of the president’s immense ego, narcissism and lack of decorum. These observations are correct, but miss a key factor in the equation that explains Trump’s appeal to the tens of millions of Americans who have eagerly joined his political cult. Yes, Trump is a malignant narcissist. But he and his supporters are intertwined in a state of collective narcissism.
This is an extremely dangerous relationship.
Writing about Nazi Germany, cultural critic Theodor Adorno and psychologist Erich Fromm developed this concept after observing how, in difficult times, some people may experience a crisis of self. Such a crisis can lead individuals to seek out membership in groups they believe to be special and powerful, as a means of buoying their spirits.
In a 2009 academic article on “Collective Narcissism and Its Social Consequences” for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, psychologist Agnieszka Golec de Zavala and her colleagues designed the following scale for measuring collective narcissism:
I wish other groups would more quickly recognize authority of my group.
My group deserves special treatment.
Not many people seem to fully understand the importance of my group.
I insist upon my group getting the respect that is due to it.
It really makes …read more