Readers Respond on Dignity Wraiths and Democracy #1

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From TPM Reader EA

You are totally correct that Trump’s style of dominance politics demands that everyone around him surrender their dignity. But it’s wrong to call him a strongman, because his demand is really a sign of his utter weakness. I have never seen a more psychically fragile, pathetic U.S. President, and doubt if there was ever a weaker one.

Innumerable reports came out as soon as Trump won the 2016 election on how his staff could only brief him with materials that flattered him. He needed to see the electoral college map displaying his victory again and again. Every day, he needed to be propped up with flattering headlines and photos. Sometimes his staff even had to make up fake headlines to flatter him, as he has done for himself many times. He has literally no attention span for anything else. Trump regularly boasts about his golfing skills in ridiculous ways–displaying fake golfing trophies, bragging about holes-in-one he never made, etc. All of his boasts are easily debunked, childish lies. He boasts that he knows more about military affairs than any general. He boasts that he passed a purportedly difficult test of cognitive ability, when it’s a test for dementia, a ridiculously low bar. It’s a test so easy that the very fact his doctor would think of administering it is a sign that his doctor worried that he has signs of dementia. (It’s incredible to me that the mainstream media does not report this fact!  No doctor bothers administering this test in the absence of worrying signs of steep cognitive decline. Yet the press prattles on about Biden’s cognition, even though Biden runs circles around the press with his command of policy issues, and around GOP rivals in Congress with clever political moves, as in the SOTU.)

Some see Trump’s behavior as a strongman’s technique of humiliating supporters by forcing them to swallow and repeat obvious lying flattery.  I see something else: a pathetic narcissist. Narcissists assume airs of superiority and grandiosity out of a profound insecurity that can never be overcome, no matter how much praise, flattery, fawning attention, and slavish subordination they get. Their thirst for flattery and favorable attention, however baseless and insincere it may be, is unquenchable. Regardless of their achievements, they still need everyone to shore up their fragile egos with ever more flattery. Because deep down, they have no inner core, no strength of character. They are like a pile of sand that is constantly falling down, requiring dozens of cronies to constantly shore it up again. He flexes precisely to cover up his psychic fragility.

Another sign of his fragility is the way he sucks up to Putin. Trump is slavish before and openly envious of Putin, who he accurately sees as more ruthless and powerful (in the sense of having total impunity) than himself. So he flatters Putin and begs for favors from him. And he accepts Putin putting him in his place. Where is Trump Tower Moscow, after all?

He makes himself a dignity wraith before Putin. That’s how all narcissists behave. As soon as they confront someone they view as stronger, in the sense of more ruthless and having more impunity, they collapse. As you have accurately pointed out, Trump understands only domination and subordination, and cannot comprehend relating to another person as an equal. But that means he’ll assume a position of slavish subordination to anyone he perceives as more dominant.

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