There is little doubt that US President Donald Trump is a dangerous man. Dr. Bandy Lee, the courageous Yale psychiatrist who drew the world’s attention to Trump’s emotional illness when he won his party’s nomination, even before he was elected, edited a book entitled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump in which 37 first-rate mental-health professionals discussed Trump’s illness and his dangerousness. Trump’s psychologist niece, Mary Lea Trump, who lost her father Freddy when she was a teenager partly due to Trump’s taking his place within their family and berating him, titled her book on him Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Trump holds more destructive power that he can use dangerously, including war-making powers, than any other world leader, except perhaps Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping, both of whom hold near-dictatorial powers.
Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, due to his disturbed personality, has produced over a quarter of a million deaths in the US. Over 12 million Americans have caught the disease. Recently Trump wished to launch a military attack on Iran. It took all the persuasive skills of his closest military and political advisers to dissuade him from starting a war that could engulf the entire Middle East, if not other parts of the world. For years, Trump has incited, directly and indirectly, to hatred, racism, division, discrimination, and bigotry, which has produced violent riots by his extremist supporters. People have been killed in pro-Trump and anti-Trump protests. Trump revels in crude insults, trivial and baseless accusations and constant mockery of those who disagree with him, as much as he enjoys spreading fake news and patent falsehoods.
Now that he has lost the US presidency to Joe Biden, Trump is more dangerous than ever before. He has refused to concede his defeat, instead filing lawsuits to void the election results in several key states, all of which have been thrown out by the judges for sheer lack of evidence. He has ordered the head of his General Services Administration not to issue the invitation to Biden and his teams which is required for the peaceful transition of power. He is actively trying to cement military, economic and social policies that would prevent Biden from rolling back Trump’s ill-conceived programs to their Obama-era state. Trump is sowing doubt, chaos, and dissension among his followers, which is inciting them to further riots. Many of them truly believe his false statements that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” by the Democrats. They do not trust the legislature or the judiciary. They believe in Trump’s false allegations about the “deep state” conspiracy.
Trump’s Evangelist supporters produced a film entitled The Trump Prophecy which portrays Trump as a latter-day Cyrus the Great, a savior and messiah. His paranoid QAnon fans have cooked up a far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against Trump, who is fighting the cabal. QAnon also commonly asserts that Trump is planning a day of reckoning known as the “Storm,” when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested.
Trump’s destructive (and self-destructive) behavior is part of his “malignant” narcissistic personality disorder. Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sado-masochism. Trump has a grandiose sense of himself, thinking of himself as “a very stable genius,” and is always ready to raise hostility levels with his opponents. The malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which he is involved, and dehumanizes and humiliates the people with whom he associates. Malignant narcissism includes the narcissistic personality disorder along with traits of the antisocial, paranoid and sadistic personality and “borderline” personality disorder. The major unconscious defenses are denial and projection, and Trump is vulnerable to malignant narcissistic psychic regression.
An equally important aspect of Trump’s dangerous behavior is his inability to bear the feelings of shame and humiliation. Trump’s self-esteem is based on his lifelong image of himself as a “winner,” a “fighter” and a “killer.” He took the place of his elder brother Freddy in the family, alongside his father, because Freddy was not a “killer” in business, and the father preferred Donald. Freddy was berated and mocked by his father and brother. He became an alcoholic and died in his early forties. Trump has unconscious guilt feelings over having displaced his elder brother and robbed him of his “birthright.”
Being defeated, for Trump, means the shame and humiliation of being a “loser.” His response is to withdraw into his narcissistic rage and lash out at the Democrats. Dr. Lee has stated that “he easily enters into rage attacks, especially when he feels that the world has not supplied him with the adulation and approval he feels entitled to, which it inevitably never does. But when there is an all-encompassing loss such as this, which takes away everything he has been depending on for the last four years, it can trigger a vengeful rampage of destruction against a whole nation that has failed him.” Indeed, right now Trump is engaged in some of the most destructive and dangerous acts of his presidency, trying to cement bad policies that divide rather than heal and refusing to accept reality, and there is no obvious way in which normal and sane Americans can stop him from wreaking more havoc with their country.
Some seventy million Americans voted for Trump in 2020, several millions less than for Biden, but still a very large number. During the four years of his tenure his abnormal, destructive and dangerous behavior had come to be accepted by many as normal. For his more extremist supporters, losing their revered “leader” is traumatic. Trump’s emotional illness has infected them. They will keep fighting to keep Trump in office, and to deny Biden the presidency that he has lawfully won.
Just before the recent election Dr. Lee had published a book entitled Profile of a Nation: Trump’s Mind, America’s Soul, in which she described the current situation in the US as a national emergency that requires urgent intervention. One major problem she sees is that the mass-communication media have “enabled” Trump’s pathology and that no single part of the body politic can easily intervene.
Trump is an habitual and pathological liar who can lie dozens of times every day. Winning by lying is fine with him: the end justifies the means. At times he convinces himself of the truth of his own lies, at other times he can hardly tell reality from fantasy. He lives in his own “reality” and has no inner barriers to stop him from acting out his narcissistic rage. This is one reason why Trump so badly wanted to build a great wall between the the US and Mexico: those who do not have firm inner boundaries need external ones. In Trump’s unconscious mind, he is America, and “Make America Great Again” means “Make Trump Great Again.” His defeat by Biden is a mortal blow to his inflated (and shaky) self-esteem. One can picture Trump as a predatory animal which as been wounded and cornered, and which lashes out at its attackers. His entire being is based on him being the “killer.”
How much more havoc will Trump still wreak in the last two months of his presidency? How much more will he still damage? Is there any way to heal his supporters, and American society as a whole, by separating them from Trump, as Dr. Lee wishes? Alongside the issues of global warming and climate change, and of the danger of a nuclear war that could wipe out our species, these are the questions that seem to ring out at this time. The Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is at 100 seconds to Midnight. We shall have to wait and see if Trump lets Biden assume the presidency and try to move it back.