From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Donald Trump’s Sanity Is Not the Question. The Real Issue Is How He Got Into Office
Date October 19, 2019 1:57 AM
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[To reduce his presidency to a frail mind is to ignore the fact
he’s an emblem of free-market, white supremacist nationalism]
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DONALD TRUMP’S SANITY IS NOT THE QUESTION. THE REAL ISSUE IS HOW HE
GOT INTO OFFICE   [[link removed]]

 

Gary Younge
October 18, 2019
The Guardian
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_ To reduce his presidency to a frail mind is to ignore the fact
he’s an emblem of free-market, white supremacist nationalism _

, Illustration: Nate Kitch

 

While writing a New Yorker profile on Donald Trump in the late 1990s,
Mark Singer attempted to discover something about the
businessman’s private thoughts
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as opposed to his outsized, public persona. When Singer asked him what
he thought about when shaving in front of the mirror, Trump did not
really understand the question.

“OK, I guess I’m asking, ‘do you consider yourself ideal
company?’” Singer said. “You really want to know what I consider
ideal company?” replied Trump. “A total piece of ass.”

Divining, assessing and adjudicating the mental health of this US
president has become more than just a parlour game

Divining, assessing and adjudicating the mental health of this US
president has become more than
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a parlour game. Following a 2017 conference, 27 psychiatrists,
psychologists and other mental health experts wrote a book, The
Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, arguing
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was their moral and civic “duty to warn” America that “for
psychological reasons”, Trump was “more dangerous than any
president in history”. They diagnosed him with everything from
“severe character pathology” to “delusional disorder”, which
can be added to the more common verdicts
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“narcissistic personality disorder” and “antisocial personality
disorder” which are regularly offered.

His behaviour and comments over the past fortnight would appear to not
only confirm these conclusions, but to suggest his condition is
deteriorating. There has been the appalling treatment
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Harry Dunn’s parents, and his reference to his own “great and
unmatched wisdom
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He sent a letter to the Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan, warning
him
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“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool. I will call you
later.” On Wednesday, in a single press conference
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the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, he attacked Google, Amazon,
Germany, France, Spain, his guest and the European Union, as well as
several US intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Later that day, Democratic leaders walked out of a White House meeting
with him after he continually insulted them. But not before he told
House speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I hate Isis more than you do,” and
claimed “I captured Isis … in one month.”

As the threat of impeachment leaves him more isolated, and an election
he may lose makes him more vulnerable, we can expect more bizarre
behaviour and, consequently, more attempts to frame his actions as
those of an unstable and unhinged despot. Such depictions are
tempting. They should also be resisted.

Trump’s state of mind is, of course, relevant. He is the
commander-in-chief of the most powerful military forces in the world.
He has the nuclear codes. He is impulsive and capricious. He lies
constantly, unashamedly and apparently compulsively. It is deeply
worrying that the executive powers of the presidency lie in the hands
of a man who is at one and the same time so brittle, aggressive,
vindictive, ridiculous and self-obsessed. His decision to abandon a
longstanding ally in Kurdistan and pull US troops out of Syria,
against all military advice, is a case in point.

But to reduce his presidency to this – one man and his frail mind
– is to ignore how he got there, all he has said and done since he
has been there, and how he remains there. (It also risks reducing
mental health to a lazy slur.) Just because he believes he will go
down in history as a great man doesn’t mean we have to subscribe to
the “great man theory of history” – the theory which claims
events are moulded not by ordinary people, social movements and
economic processes, but by key individuals who stamp their will on the
world through force of personality.

For along with Trump’s personal frailties is a series of political
characteristics that underpins his anomie. He is a misogynist, a
racist, a xenophobe and a nationalist. Those are not psychological
descriptors but political ones, fortified by systems and ideology.

As such, his behaviour has been irascible but hardly erratic. The
rhetorical objects of his disdain are not random. He has not lashed
out at the National Rifle Association, the religious right or white
people. Politically, his tantrums invariably find their mark in the
weak, the poor, the dark, the female, the Muslim, the marginalised and
the foreigner. (He will attack powerful people, but not simply for
existing. They must cross him first.)

These inclinations were clear when he stood for the presidency. He has
been every bit as bigoted, undisciplined, indiscreet, thin-skinned and
braggadocious as his campaign promised. And he won.

This was not because people didn’t see those things, but because
they either didn’t care, cared about other things more, preferred
him to the alternative, or simply didn’t show up. As such, his
victory marked a high point for the naked appeal of white supremacy in
particular and rightwing populism in general, and a low point for the
centre-left, neoliberal agenda.

True, he did not win the popular vote, but nonetheless close to 63
million people voted for him
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True, his party lost the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term
elections. But they also gained two seats in the Senate – the first
time the party holding the presidency has achieved that since 2002
– in the wake of
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synagogue shooting and mail-bomb attacks inspired by his rhetoric.
True, more than half of the country wants to impeach him; but about
40%
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approve of the job he’s doing. The one thing that stands between him
and impeachment is the party behind him in both houses.

Even his thuggish “America first” foreign policy stands as part of
a tradition. In 1964, when the Greek ambassador tried to point out the
shortcomings of the US plan to partition Cyprus, President Lyndon
Johnson replied
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“Fuck your parliament and your constitution … We pay a lot of good
American dollars to the Greeks, Mr Ambassador. If your prime minister
gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution he, his
parliament and his constitution may not last long.” He would never
have put that in a letter. But three years later, Greece was under a
brutal military junta backed by the US from which it did not emerge
for seven years.

Donald Trump’s bizarre, threatening letter to Erdogan: ‘Don’t be
a fool’
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In other words, this particular form of insanity – if that is what
it is – enjoys mass, if not majority, support, institutional defence
and historical precedent. It is the mindset of more than just an
individual. Trump’s presence serves a purpose and interests. If he
is a lone wolf, how do we explain the likes of Boris Johnson or Silvio
Berlusconi, who share so many of his “idiosyncratic traits”, from
accusations of sexual harassment to a cavalier attitude towards
democratic norms and casual racism.

“The great man of the age,” wrote Friedrich Hegel – using
“great” to mean powerful rather than wonderful – “is the one
who can put into words the will of his age, tell his age what its will
is, and accomplish it. What he does is the heart and essence of his
age; he actualises his age.”

As such, in his desire to blame everyone but himself, in his lies,
bullying, despotism, insecurity, ineptitude, cheating, scapegoating,
preening self-regard, vanity and ignorance, Trump is an emblem of the
free-market, white supremacist nationalism that is ascendant in this
moment.

Ultimately there may be a medical or therapeutic intervention that can
help him; but only a political intervention can help us get rid of
him.

_Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist_

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