Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been described as a sociopath by his ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz (Register Guard, July 19), and as a narcissist by professor of psychology Dan P. McAdams in the June issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine.
McAdams quotes Trump several times: “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” Regarding foreign policy: “Everything begins with a strong military. Everything… . Members of ISIS are medieval barbarians who must be pursued relentlessly wherever they are, without stopping, until every one of them is dead.”
My research in political psychology (see my book, “Party Time!” for details) documents positive correlations between warmongering endorsement and the conservative worldview and negative correlations between warmongering endorsement and liberalism. Paradoxically, my research also documents that strong conservatives, as a group, disavow warmongering as overt national policy. Liberals disavow it more strongly. Thus, a political candidate who strongly endorses warmongering is an anomaly.
Research also shows that under threat, citizens tend toward the conservative worldview, which is associated with authoritarianism, xenophobia, in-group protectionism, religious fundamentalism and militarism. In recent years we have experienced terrorist attacks, civilian mass murders, assassinations of police officers, and police killings of minority group members, all vividly broadcast by the media. This might make us reflexively endorse leaders of a violent, militaristic disposition.
May we be careful not to follow too easily in the footsteps of Germans in the 1930s. We all know where that led.
Bill McConochie is a contributing writer for Our Times. Holding a Ph.D. in psychology, Bill is in private practice in Eugene, OR and specializes in clinical, industrial/organizational and political psychology. His most recent book, Party Time! How you can create common good democracy right now, is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.