It is the paradox of ego, or, more specifically in Donald Trump’s case, the paradox of narcissism, that in the presence of the mentally hygienic, narcissism poisons its own efforts. The narcissist desperately needs worshippers. The trouble is, of course, that to many people the acute desire to be loved is as obvious as the means that the desire employs. Too often the narcissist is a braggart, and, even in cases where he is intelligent – an advantage Trump lacks – he still doesn’t fully understand how he’s subverting his own need. In order to understand the dynamics of his own subversion, the narcissist needs to have empathy. That is, he needs to be able to see himself as others do. That’s a near impossible task for the narcissist.
Few people warm to an endless self-promoter, of course, so Trump’s bragging about the crowds he drew the last time he visited El Paso didn’t go over well – with the mentally stable. One gets a very real sense, even among his defenders, that they’d just as soon he didn’t do it. But since he does, they must defend him, just as assuredly as a Republican Congressman must vote down a gun control bill. It is in their DNA never to criticize the most heinous actions of their own, and always criticize the most innocent actions of the opposition.
Thus are Trump’s supporters called upon to defend Donald Trump every day, typically many times a day, so many times, in fact, that I imagine they are beginning to resent us for noticing when Trump says another imbecilic thing. One can imagine them wishing for a holiday from having to explain, rationalize and justify the many bigotries, solecisms and boneheadisms of Donald J Trump. It must be exhausting and I’ll bet, on their planet, we are somehow to blame. Or maybe “crooked Hillary” is.
Trump never shuts up about himself. He can’t. The spate of tragic murders over the last ten days will always be about him. It’s why most of the victims of the El Paso shootings won’t have anything to do with him. They know he’s going to make them triply his victims, in the first case because he refuses to do anything about the proliferation of assault weapons, in the second case because his hate speech got them shot, and in the third case because Trump intended to use them as a photo opportunity to get him reelected in 2020. They are no fools.
One cannot help but wonder, what does Trump have to do to get his base to turn against him? Fall down in a rage and start chewing the carpet, as Hitler was once spuriously alleged to have done? Shoot the now proverbial man on Fifth Avenue? I’ve often thought that, a video emerging from the archives of Jeffrey Epstein, of Donald Trump raping a 13 year old girl, then striking her repeatedly in the face and screaming that he will murder her and her entire family if she talks, would do it. Now I’m beginning to wonder if it would. Donald Trump is a man of limitless evil, and it takes a fanbase of limitless evil to enable him. I’m beginning to suspect they are equal to their task.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.