In an era of “instant internet experts,” good old-fashioned real life experience still has a place. I claim no special wisdom or insight regarding the 21st century phenomenon that is Donald Trump beyond my good old-fashioned experience with two people very much like him. But the insight gained is a doozy. Those of you who’ve had malignant narcissists in your lives know exactly what I’m talking about.
For example, the mainstream media’s early obsession with Donald Trump finally becoming “presidential” is still good for a laugh. Remember that? It began in earnest shortly after Trump’s first State of the Union speech. Many in the MSM naively noted how that relatively solemn moment in the life of Donald Trump had had some kind of profound, maturing effect on him, as if Trump was a protagonist in some kind of movie and he was going to suddenly and miraculously wake up to the impactful significance of the job. That was good for a hoot.
Then there was the hilarious notion that if we won the 2020 election by a big enough margin, Donald Trump would have no choice but to concede defeat. That one actually made me laugh out loud. I said then (and I said it in print) that no amount of evidence would ever get Donald Trump to admit publicly that he lost, even if he knew for a fact that he did. I also said that he was going to resort to violence in order to hang onto the presidency. I caught a lot of criticism from some very angry Palmer Report readers for that one too.
I knew better, not because I possessed some special percipience others lacked, but from years and years and bloody years of relentless, wearying, crazy-making experience. Firsthand exposure to a narcissist gives you insight into these special kinds of rule breakers that you would not have otherwise believed possible from human beings.
I can tell you now that with narcissists there are no “come to Jesus” moments. Such things may happen with the narcissist’s former acolytes (Michael Cohen and Anthony Scaramucci come immediately to mind), but they never, ever happen with the Donald Trumps of the world.
If Trump lives to see the inside of a jail cell he will do so screaming and whining that he’s innocent and that the justice system is rigged. If you’re waiting for a moment of humility and clarity in his statement-before-sentencing to the court after a conviction I can save you the trouble. It ain’t gonna happen.
It isn’t always the case that narcissists have True Believers, but my two did. My two were popular and charismatic, as narcissists very often are. That is also frustrating. Convincing a narcissist’s fans that they’re dealing with a poisoned human being entirely beyond redemption is difficult, and almost always futile. They will have to find out for themselves. Many of them never do.
I am not among the head-scratchers who wonder how it’s possible that someone like Trump can continue to attract more loyal adherents despite the wreckage of devoted but betrayed former fans he’s left in his wake. There is no shortage of suckers who think that they will somehow be different, that they will be the ones that the narcissist truly loves. Narcissists love no one but themselves, and the pitiful messages of blind devotion that Don Jr tweets out hourly is a pathetic, textbook example of just that.
So wait for justice, but forget about redemption. Trump will drag millions of unredeemable fools down with him, and we’re all just going to have to get used to that.
To be sure there were many January 6 insurrectionists who saw the light and repudiated Trump and his abandonment of them. There were just as many who did not. One such insurrectionist who I follow on Twitter, Alexander Sheppard, was recently sentenced to one year and seven months in federal prison. When asked if he still supports Trump he replied, “Now more than ever.” Now MORE than ever? What on earth for?
Such is the world of the narcissist and their followers. Don’t expect his devoted fans to turn on Trump en masse, and don’t expect Trump to ever confess his mistakes. We are going to have to learn to accept justice without rehabilitation. I learned that lesson a long time ago — and it’s good enough for me. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.