An interview Raw Story published with Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee on Monday seeks to break down why Donald Trump’s supporters show such extreme and unwavering support for a man who has repeatedly disenfranchised, lied to, and betrayed them.
First and foremost, Trump communicates with his base on a purely emotional level. Lee explains:
This 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.
She goes on to explain that “strongman types” of personalities appeal to those who are disenfranchised or to normal people under stress, particularly during times of socioeconomic unrest. These people look to Trump for help without realizing he is simply telling them what they want to hear.
Lee also says that Trump’s behavior pattern is that of a follower rather than a leader, which is why he instantly dwarves in the presence of “more successful strongmen, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, or Rodrigo Duterte,” and why when he senses “those who will never go along with his pathological methods—that is, healthy people,” he will instantly drop them.
“That is why we see him desperately clinging to an ever narrower base with increasingly fringe ideas,” she says, referencing the president’s unabashed support of Neo-Nazis and groups devoted to spreading violent and hateful conspiracy theories.
Donald Trump also projects—a psychological term for displacing qualities in yourself you cannot tolerate onto someone else—both through his hateful Twitter timeline and his numerous rallies. This explains how when Trump “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.'”
Perhaps most frightening of all is the prediction Lee gives: how as time goes on, Trump will only further demonize and scapegoat helpless groups and minorities “in order to distract from his billionaire cabinet, tax breaks for the rich, and trade wars that hurt his base the most.”
“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,” she says.
Most of the Twitter reactions to the Raw Story piece can by summarized with a resounding “duh.”
I did not attend Yale, but I have seen Trump supporters interviewed, and I'm pretty sure one needs no fancy Yale degree to see that Trumpies' emotional development stopped at age 5.
— beth, an alien® (@bourgeoisalien) December 5, 2018
— Pinot Noir 🍷 (@Jwine05) December 5, 2018
— Amanda (@amandawiezz) December 5, 2018
We been knew.
— Ryan (@Ryanspeaks140) December 5, 2018
This…. actually explains a lot. https://t.co/BpgY6LQwhf
— Joose (@joosecoffey) December 5, 2018
File under 'well duh' https://t.co/wXWDj8VQI5
— Mike (@Mike_Hasu) December 5, 2018
h/t Raw Story