On the Psychology of Donald Trump

To understand Donald Trump you need to understand how he thinks. And to understand that you need to understand his history.

Donald Trump’s psyche was shaped by the excesses of the Go-Go ‘80s. In the ‘80s a lot of young wannabe entrepreneurs were out to get rich fast. It was a time of cut throat business. A very freudian period and subculture where one’s status, one’s virility, one’s very standing as a man was all based on “winning”. There were “winners” and “losers”. For this group, business was not about giving a good product or service to people and make them happy. To this subculture business was about getting the upper hand. Deals for these people were not viewed as mutually beneficial to both partners. Each tried to come out on top, of their opponent. To do whatever was needed to “win”. Being benevolent was for losers. Charity for suckers. Ethics for chumps. While most of society made fun off these guys in their Gucci suits and pink ties, inside the subculture, respect went to whomever had the biggest and most flashy apartment, car, or trophy wife. Respect from customers wasn’t even on their radar. Whatever you did, you had to be top dog and anything you had to do to get there was acceptable, ethical or not, legal or not. It was a way of viewing the world only slightly more refined than that of a street gang. This was the mindset that lead to the Saving’s and Loan meltdown, to Iran Contra, and later when these people were a bit older, to Enron. It was this environment that shaped Donald Trump’s view of the world.

Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” is all about this concept of doing business. Of winners and losers and screwing the other guy because he was your opponent. Not an other businessman to deal with, but an enemy to be beaten. One of Trump’s biggest deals of the time was polishing up and unloading a decrepit hotel in Atlantic City on Merv Griffin for far more than it was worth. A deal that helped to drive Griffin toward bankruptcy, and one Trump would laugh and brag about in the following years. Unlike most of his compatriots however, Trump never grew up. He still thinks all deals must be one way. He has to win AND just as importantly, the other party must lose. So when Trump says that the Paris climate accord, or the Trans Pacific Partnership, or NAFTA, or Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba “Was the worst deal”, he is viewing it through these glasses. Because the US did not end up “winning”, coming out way ahead and the other party or parties did not end up subservient to the US, he thinks the deals were terrible. This is his blind side. He has no concept of how diplomacy or international relations work. He cannot comprehend a deal that is mutually beneficial, and especially not one that will be hard on all but is for the common good.

This is why he can praise Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on Qatar because they supposedly are sponsoring terrorist organizations while SIMULTANEOUSLY selling Qatar billions of dollars in weapons. He views these as separate deals, that both give advantage to the US. He does not, and cannot see how one would affect the other. It is why he is unable to deal with Congress. He thinks he can show some muscle, talk to them like he talked to his staff and they will fall in line. The idea that they have their own constituents and have no need to be grovelling at his feet is beyond him. The Trump name has carried so much cachet that he thinks that he just has to snap his fingers and things will happen. This is why he is trying to schmooze the former FBI director and various prosecutors to get cases dropped or to roll the way he wants. He thinks of America as his company now, and in his companies he has always been able to just order whatever he wanted to happen. He has no understanding of the principle of Separation of Powers in government. This is why he is so offended when his Executive Orders were stopped by the courts. He is unable to comprehend that a judge can rule something he ordered is unconstitutional. The idea that the Constitution is above him, in his mind the CEO of America, is totally outside of his world view. He cannot comprehend it. Donald Trump is motivated by power. He sought the Presidency because he thought it would give him absolute power. Now that he is encountering roadblocks to his perceived power, he has no idea of what he actually should do. So he blusters, he Tweets, he demands things, he threatens, he makes matters worse and worse.

Most telling, after Trump has cancelled each of the major treaties or laws he has immediately said “I will negotiate a better deal”. He has no concept of the fact that those WERE the best deals possible. Yes the Paris accord was bad for the US coal industry, but the alternative is far worse for the US and everyone. Paris would not have happened without those promises. Yes the TPP and NAFTA made the US accept foreign products without tariffs, but that was so the US could have access to markets elsewhere in the world. That access would not have happened without reciprocal access for foreign companies. Yes Obamacare is flawed, but it took twenty years for even that to be agreed upon. It can be refined but if Trump gets his way and it is scrapped he will long have passed from this mortal coil before anything is put in its place. These laws and treaties took years, in some cases decades of negotiation. Negotiation that required all sides to give up something. There is simply no way Trump can walk in and demand terms. He will be laughed out of the room. That is if the other leaders even bother to show up. Trump is not respected by modern business leaders and similarly Trump is not respected by other world leaders. More and more he’s not respected or even listened to by members of Congress or even the American people. They all understand that he is an anachronism. Someone as out of place as a black clad gunslinger would be in today’s Dodge City Kansas. Someone as obsolete and beyond his depth as a Conquistador would be if he landed and tried to claim Ft. Lauderdale. He is America’s Silvio Berlusconi.

In the real world of modern business, it is understood that shortsighted pursuit of “winning” is in the long run a near guarantee of losing. Almost all of the people that engaged in that behaviour have learned their lessen and adopted ethical business practices, or are out of business, or are in jail for fraud or smuggling. The notable exception is Donald Trump who, after being tabloid fodder and a reality TV star, has accepted the image he crafted as fact. He has fallen for his own publicity. He is operating under the delusion that he is a good businessman. The delusion that he can rule by decree as he did in his company. The delusion that all he needs to do is flash the President Trump business card and he will be able to replace the results of years of diplomacy and negotiation with deals that make other countries grovel at the feet of the US. None of that will happen. It is a total fantasy, a delusion bordering on psychosis.

Donald Trump is delusional, that much is without question. In his delusion however, are the seeds of untold amounts of, criminality, death, and misery, for people in the US and the world. The real tragedy however, is that Trump, like most delusional people, does not understand that he is delusional. Worse yet, his children and his sycophants, are also apparently incapable of understanding that he is dangerously delusional. They are gladly following orders like good Germans in 1943, oblivious to the long term consequences of their actions for America or the world.

And that is the path that leads from the merely delusional, to true evil.