The president’s photo op outside St. John’s Church was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right.
He wielded the Bible like a foreign object, awkwardly adjusting his grip as though trying to get comfortable. He examined its cover. He held it up over his right shoulder like a crossing guard presenting a stop sign. He did not open it.
“Is that your Bible?” a reporter asked.
“It’s a Bible,” the president replied.
Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s religious photo ops, the dissonance was striking. Moments earlier, he had stood in the Rose Garden and threatened to unleash the military on unruly protesters. He used words such as anarchy and domestic terror, and vowed to “dominate the streets.” To clear the way for his planned post-speech trip to St. John’s Church, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.
A few hours after the dystopian spectacle, I spoke on the phone with Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor and indefatigable Trump ally. He sounded almost gleeful.
Twitter said early Friday that a post by President Donald Trump about the protests overnight in Minneapolis glorified violence because of the historical context of his last line: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase was used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a UPI article from the time.
The Covid-19 epidemic saw the rapid and almost unprecedented erasure of the United States on the international scene in a matter of months. Dedicated since the election of Donald Trump to a transactional vision of international relations, their institutions paralyzed by a deep political divide, the Americans had revived for a few years with their old isolationist tendencies. This trend suddenly accelerated and accentuated with the coronavirus health crisis. The glaring absence of the United States from all attempts to coordinate a global response to the greatest contemporary pandemic already appears to be a turning point of historic magnitude [ . . . ]
It’s quite impossible to watch president Trump for any length of time and remain unperturbed. He possesses what psychoanalysts call “high transference valence.” The ability to provoke strong reactions in others. In fact, this appears to be a big part of his appeal. Love him or hate him, you have to look.
You may argue that Trump elicits such strong reactions because he embodies a great threat in the mind of some and an attractive promise in the minds of others. We respond strongly to both threatening and attractive objects. Yet, given the basic ideological divide in contemporary American politics, this duality holds true for practically every president. Nothing there to explain the unique reaction Trump generates.
A better guess is that it’s the high degree of Donald Trump’s novelty that attracts attention across the board. Novelty is innately arousing to us regardless of its valence. People who slow down on the highway to rubberneck at the scene of an accident do not enjoy seeing mutilated bodies. They are compelled to look at something not ordinary.
But what is it that’s truly novel about Trump? Some argue that his uniqueness resides in his ‘outsider’ status as a novice politician, a businessman who has beaten the professional politicos at their own game. But this argument is weak. After all, we’ve seen political novices win elections before, and we’ve seen businesspeople succeed in politics, both in the US and abroad.
Moreover, the concepts of “business leader” and “political leader” are not that far apart in the cultural imagination. The fact that a rich, white Chief Executive Officer becomes Commander in Chief does not violate cultural expectations. There’s no genuine surprise in this narrative twist, other than, perhaps, that it took so long to materialize. Continue reading “Psychology Today: Trump Is a Four-Year-Old”→
Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq has again raised eyebrows with a quasi defense of the US president. Under Donald Trump, “America is no longer the world’s leading power,” he said, adding: This is “good news for the rest of the world”.
Despite commending Trump for his first two years in office, Houellebecq admitted he also empathized “with the shame many Americans (and not only ‘New York intellectuals’) feel.”
“On the personal level, he is, of course, pretty repulsive.” [ . . . ]