Close readers of my 2018 book, Trump on the Couch, reached out to me in the 24-hours before January 6, 2022, urging that the book’s core premise needs to be aired yet again. So here it is: Donald Trump is a damaged person who in turn damages everything and everyone he touches. This is not a diagnosis. It’s an historical fact.
But my concern one year after the violent coup attempt is not simply about Trump. He is alone and unloved by those who actually know him. His courageous niece, Mary, understands this better than anyone and has bravely exposed the truth about her damaged family and the sad shred of a father who terrorized Donald and his siblings instead of being a genuine father. Fred Trump not only ruled his family with an iron fist, but he also wore his mother into resigned submission. He and Donald eventually pushed first-born Fred Jr. into a tragic alcohol-driven existence. But worse than his father Fred is our 45th President. I believe Donald Trump is irredeemable, that no human kindness, or skilled physician, can resuscitate any soul he may have once possessed.
My concern, and our national concern, must turn to the Americans he has damaged most: his blind followers, some of whom are now imprisoned for acting on his command that they storm the Capitol to appease his wounded ego.
Mental health professionals who study the effects of bullying and psychological brutality during childhood instantly recognize Trump’s unwavering loyalists as victims. Untreated, such individuals grow up to repeat the cycle of abuse, making others responsible for their unrealized hopes and dreams and their never-good-enough existences. They mistake Trump for a strong leader who stands up to their tormentors, when in fact he is the sadistic bully who actually despises them and sees them only as useful tools for his own completely self-interested agenda
Trump gives them permission to express their hatred, and to act on it. He understands how to twist their pain and resentment. He just might just throw them a scrap of affection or praise when they accept and embrace his cruelty. They need to identify with him and don’t cross him because they know the consequences.
I also extend my concerns to Republican senators and members of Congress. Most seem to have been terrorized into believing that Trump has the power to ruin their careers, making the GOP a party of sycophants who are afraid of their own shadows. They are too frightened to see that their careers are already in ruins. In identifying with the former president, they’ve become an ensemble of emperors with no clothes scurrying behind Trump’s giant, naked posterior.
Like the rest of those in thrall to Trump, their shared psychology is dominated by the need to project onto others the unwanted or disavowed aspects of themselves. For decades they’ve called Democrats weak and “soft on crime” Yet they are too weak to notice they’re following a loser and ignoring the laundry list of crimes he has committed for decades. And treason tops the list.